On the other hand, because private chefs know the exact number they are cooking for, they can afford to serve dishes that are more perishable.
Lloyd Matthew Tan, a cookbook author running a Peranakan private dining experience, Perot Rumah, points me towards tauhu masak titek, a close-to-forgotten dish on his menu.
“Because of the soft tofu in it, this soup goes bad easily, [so] restaurants do not tend to serve it. This is why, when my Peranakan guests taste the soup, it brings back a nostalgic yearning, as they have not eaten this dish since their grandmothers passed away,” he said.
AN IMMERSIVE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
But food makes up only half of the private dining experience. Just like entering a friend’s home, the moment shoes are removed and set aside, one is immersed fully in the world of another.
“The dining plate and the etiquette of eating … all these play a part in translating and transmitting heritage,” says Ramasamy. “As a person from a minority group, it is a great way to introduce people of all walks of life to both my food and my culture.”
Given the intimate nature of the sessions, cooks are able to introduce each dish in detail, with cultural tidbits and personal anecdotes. Bowls of tauhu masak titek at Perot Rumah, for example, are accompanied with stories of how a local-born wife decided to add a robust rempah (spice paste) to the bland tofu that her China-hailing husband was craving for.