Singapore's Best-Loved Penang Peranakan Buffet

International buffets at hotels have become rather uninspiring, if not boring, as they mostly offer safe and fool-proof International menu. True, some try to make things more exciting by having Garden Barbecue, Rotisserie evenings, Mediterranean month, etc. But so far, I have yet encountered anything quite like the Penang Peranakan Buffet that is the trademark of Princess Terrace Cafe at Copthorne King's Hotel.

The Penang Peranakan Buffet dated back since the 1970s, when the hotel was still named the King's Hotel. Even until this very day, the key staff & chefs of Princess Terrace are flown in directly from Penang. With such great care to maintain the quality, no wonder Princess Terrace Cafe is dubbed as the oldest and best-loved Penang Buffet in Singapore.

Talk about Peranakan, I recalled watching a Singaporean drama-series sometime ago. Never has any 30+ episodes series absorbed my attention and engaged my emotion as much as The Little Nyonya had. The plot is set at the time when the nyonyas (the title used to address a lady of Peranakan heritage) had to learn to cook and elaborate beading to get married into a respectable family. Love was not an option. It was something you hope would develop only after you get married. I am grateful that those days were long gone. As a culinary enthusiast, I particularly enjoyed the cooking scenes when the nyonyas prepare the elaborate and laborious Peranakan delicacies.

I find the Peranakan dishes at Princess Terrace slightly dissimilar to those found in Indonesia. After digging for some information, turns out that Penang & northern Peninsular Malaysia acquired influences from the Thai region, which is distinct in the generous usage of tamarind (assam). Whereas Singapore & other regions further south are greatly influenced by Indonesia's profuse usage of savoury coconut milk (santan).

For starters or dessert: Feast on These Nyonya Kuehs
I'm going backwards here. Firstly, you MUST try the delightful (and colourful!) Nyonya Kuehs. I know, the Nyonya dishes are so good, rich and savoury, but please practice restrain on yourself and spare some space in your tummy to savour the delicate and elaborately prepared kuehs. Just in case you're wondering what each cakes are, here are the short descriptions for each:
- Abuk-Abuk: Grated coconut with sago
- Apom Bokwa: Fermented rice pancake with banana sauce
- Seri Muka: Glutinous rice with pandan flavoured kaya topping
- Kueh Bengkah: Tapioca cake
- Kueh Talam: Rice flour & pandan cake
- Kueh Lapis: 9 layers coconut flavoured cake
- Ang Ku Kueh: Red rice flour cake stuffed with mung bean paste
- Pulut Ta Tai: Glutinous rice cake topped with signature home made kaya spread

Some classic Penang specialties:
1. Penang Assam Laksa
The most basic example is Laksa which is a coconut milk-based thick rice-noodles dish that are found virtually anywhere in Singapore. Unlike the common Singaporean version, the Penang Assam Laksa had murky (but not milky) broth soup, which tasted sweet and sour with a strong seafood aroma that might be overwhelming to some (it was, for me). The sour tang was the result of processing pineapple, tamarind, calamansi, heated together with the rempah (fine paste mode from hand-pounding a carefully measured mixture of tropical spices and herbs). Rempah is the core of Peranakan cuisine, just like butter-cheese-milk trio is to French cooking.




2. Penang Rojak
Tropical fruits (water chestnut, cucumber, green mangoes, pineapples) salad with sticky palm-sugar & prawn paste topped with coarsely-ground nuts. This makes a refreshing and light appetizer to kick-start your feast.













3. Penang Popiah & Kueh Pai Tee.
Popiah uses very thin and elastic turnip-based skin, stuffed with braised minced pork, shrimps and stir-fried water chestnut.
The Kueh Pai Tee reminds me of the Krathong Thong I had at Baan Khanitha in Bangkok couple of months ago. This further proves the presence of Thai influences in Penang Peranakan cooking. I don't really like the Kueh Pai Tee here as it was absurdly too oily! The oil didn't seem to ooze out only from the fried flour cup, but also from the seafood and vegetables filling. I still prefer the Krathong Thong from Baan Khanitha.







4. Nasi Lemak
Help yourself to as much fragrant & creamy coconut rice as you like, then top it with the Kay Satay, Otak-Otak, Ikan Bilis, Roasted Peanuts, Cucumber, and certainly a must: the Sambal. I must mention the Otak-Otak, which was exquisitely well done! It tasted nothing like any Otak-Otak I have eaten before in Indonesia, Singapore, nor anywhere else. This one had mousse-like texture, very soft, almost to the point of creamy and densely foamy, that I had mistaken it as silken tofu! I couldn't resist such an exquisite treat that I returned for 2nd and 3rd helping of the Otak-Otak.

There are some self-serving stations where you can mix your the items to your own preferences, like:
- Jiu Hu Eng Chye (read: jeew-hoo-aing-chai): cuttlefish and water spinach with sweet sauce
- Too Thor Thng: pig's stomach soup
- Lor Bak: no, it's not 'lobak', the Indonesian word for turnip. It is fried pork and ngoh hiang marinated in spiced 'lor'.
- Ice Kachang - slushed ice dessert with various toppings, etc

As for the manned-stations, you could place your orders with the chefs to get the Char Kway Teow, Duck Thigh Mee Shua, Penang Assam Laksa, Prawn Mee, Penang Popiah, Kueh Pai Tee, Ban Chang Kueh, etc.

Western for starters
Char Moey: Wok-fried porridge with seafood & pork. It was too oily for babies
Indian fares
DIY own coffee using this Boncafe  espresso machine
Behind the manned-station: Penang Popiah and Kueh Pai Tee
The place was empty just before lunch-time. But in 45 minutes, the crowd suddenly appeared out-of-nowhere!
Buffet prices
Monday - Thursday
- Buffet Lunch: Adult: $38.80  |  Child: $25.80
- Buffet Dinner: Adult: $40.80  |  Child: $25.80

Friday - Sunday & Public Holiday
- Buffet Lunch: Adult: $40.80  | Child: $25.80
- Buffet Dinner: Adult: $43.80  |  Child: $25.80

Operating Hours:
- International Buffet Breakfast 6.00am - 10.30am
- Lunch 12.00pm - 2.30pm (to 3.00pm on weekends and public holidays)
- Dinner 6.30pm - 10.00pm (6.00pm to 10.00pm on weekends and public holidays)
- Supper 10.00pm – 11.00pm (Special A La Carte Menu)

*) Exchange rate: 1 SGD ≈ IDR 7,650

**) Child pricing is for children between the ages of 5 - 12 | Prices are subject to 10% Service Charge and 7% GST | Smoking area is available

Copthorne King's Hotel Singapore, Lobby Level
403 Havelock Road
Ph: +65 63183168

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