Experience this interesting heritage for yourself
Singapore is home to a myriad of communities including a unique group which resulted from a hybrid of local Malay and Chinese cultures.
And there’s no other community in the world quite like the Peranakans. Here’s how you can experience this vibrant culture in Singapore for yourself.
Housed in a historic school built in 1912, the Peranakan Museum (pictured) spans three levels. Each section interprets the ethnic groups most distinct aspects, including a recreated traditional matrimonial chamber, and a tablecloth featuring more than a million glass beads – the largest known example of Peranakan beadwork.
If you want to own a piece of Peranakan culture, Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle is a great place to get Peranakan ceramics.
NEXT: Family →
The family unit is the most important facet of the Straits Chinese community of Babas (Peranakan men) and Nyonyas (Peranakan women), and their homes are their pride and joy. Stucco dragons and other exotic creatures are splayed across facades, flanked by glazed tiles, stained glass, family emblems and ornately carved doors; intricate mosaics are laid out across the floors.
NEXT: Food →
Peranakan cuisine involves painstaking preparations – from the pounding of rempah (chillies, garlic, shallots and other ingredients blended into pastes) to the slow simmering of stews and curries. The result? Dishes imbued with Malay, Chinese and Portuguese flavours.
NEXT: Pastries →
If it’s the sweet stuff you want, pick up classic Peranakan kueh (pastries) at Peranakan Khek. Its kueh putugal ($2 per piece) – steamed tapioca fudge rolled in coconut with a banana filling – is to die for. Still don’t quite know what you’re eating? Consult this beginner’s guide to kueh that even locals love.
NEXT: Fashion →
Female Peranakan wear is a dazzling fashion parade, woven with intricate embroidery and dripping with elaborate beadwork. Nyonyas cut arresting silhouettes in sarong kebayas – their signature three-piece outfit consists of a sheer fitted blouse over a camisole and a batik sarong (cloth adorned with patterns using wax and dye).
Pick up your very own at Rumah Kim Choo, which specialises in designing and custom-tailoring Peranakan fashion.
NEXT: Architecture →
To see more Peranakan architecture, head over to Katong or Joo Chiat area to marvel at the heritage shophouses and terrace houses. Sometimes referred to Straits Eclectic architecture, they are often decorated with bright and colourful tiles and intricate carvings and motifs.
NEXT: Art and festivals →
Did you know Singapore has its very own Peranakan Arts Festival with theatre productions, events and exhibitions? Keep a look out for it on their Facebook page.
And we can’t forget to mention the famous Singapore play, Emily of Emerald Hill, which tells the story of Peranakan matriarch Emily Gan.
NEXT: Museums →
Did You Know…
Although the term “Peranakan” usually refers to Peranakan Chinese, there are also other smaller Peranakan communities, such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (Jawi Pekan) and Eurasian Peranakans.
By Desiree Koh, Hazel Joanne Vincent De Paul & Muneerah Bee, July 2017
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