As a fan of nonya food, I was delighted to learn about a new Peranakan restaurant in the just-revamped Funan mall downtown. Godmama, which calls itself a ‘Modern Peranakan Kitchen & Bar’, was started by former corporate high flyer Christina Keilthy and fellow Peranakan Derrick Chew. With head chef Fredric Goh, also a Peranakan, at the helm of the kitchen, the restaurant features heirloom recipes and brunch offerings, aiming to make the cuisine approachable and accessible to the masses.
Godmama is a tribute to the recipes of Christine’s godmother and mother who are both octogenarians and whose dishes she enjoyed in her youth. “I wish to celebrate their lives,” she says.
We tasted dishes targeted at weekend brunch-goers. The first, All Star Egg Skin Popiah (S$6.50), is a faithful recreation of Christina’s Godmama Monica’s traditional recipe, which Christina had the fortune of enjoying in her childhood. Turnip and tau cheo (soybean paste) are stewed for four hours and mixed with cucumber strips, lettuce, garlic bits, coriander, sprouts and tiger prawns before being wrapped with egg skin crepes and garnished with a chilli sauce. Where available, popiah is a must order starter for me and I liked how the crepe skin in this version is much softer than the regular ones. Be careful while eating this though, as it falls apart more easily.
A good introduction for young people who are new to nonya cuisine would be the Pulled Pork Pongteh Sunny (S$15.90). The classic Babi Pongteh (pork stew in bean sauce) is recreated as a pulled pork open-faced sandwich and topped with a sunny side-up, with keropok on the side that can be dipped in the addictive house belachan. The sourdough is from Bread & Hearth bakery by the way.
My favourite, and a crowd pleaser – you must learn to appreciate pork belly, because many classic Peranakan pork dishes e.g.Tau Yu Bak feature this cut – is the Babi Assam Baked Eggs (S$16.90). Fredric’s modern update features the pork belly simmered in an aromatic and tangy tamarind stew presented in a round casserole dish with firm tofu for texture. Topped with two half-boiled eggs, the dish becomes a gooey but absolutely delectable mess to go with the accompanying toasted sourdough when the yolks flow. Fills the belly too, may I add.
The Buah Keluak Bolognese Pasta (S$19.90) featured the black nut added for a twist to the classic minced beef pasta that we know. Buah Keluak is the seed of the kepayang tree, and the raw seed notoriously requires immense work before it can be used for the table. This is why dishes featuring this fruit are often priced a notch higher than others for the effort involved.
I felt the dish needed perhaps more Buah Keluak to elevate the nonya touch. Perhaps the pasta portion could also be increased. Or a denser noodle carb, like an egg pasta or wheat noodle could be explored so that what is otherwise a great application of Buah Keluak could be more substantial.
For the sweet-toothed, Godmama does offer a few desserts and great coffee from TAD coffee—my iced mocha was excellent, and I heard good comments from those who tried the teas infused with interesting Asian flavours like pandan and butterfly blue pea. There’s also alcohol as it’s a bar after all.
We tried the Banana Pengat Buttermilk Pancakes (S$17.90). The pancakes, which could be thicker and fluffier, come with a side of vanilla ice cream and a pot of creamy Banana Pengat—a rich traditional Peranakan compote to drizzle over.
Despite teething flaws in the execution, Godmama takes a great mod-Peranakan approach that combines both traditional flavours and fusion flair. We got a taste of the modern brunch items on this day, but let’s not forget there are also the classic dishes on the overall extensive menu our mas and godmas will home in on.
Let’s hope that Godmama’s location and concept will help the restaurant draw those uninitiated, in particular the younger crowd, to try Peranakan cuisine, and not be drowned out in the new Funan’s din.
107 North Bridge Road
Tel: +65 6970 0828