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Bibi & Baba, the quirky Peranakan restaurant by JIA Group, has recently welcomed Chef Ho Wai-Kong to head up its kitchen. The Malaysian chef, who has worked extensively in Singapore, brings with him a mouth-watering line-up of new dishes to entice loyal diners.
Peranakan society, also known as Baba Nyonya, refers to the ethnic whirlpool that resulted from the intermarriages of Chinese settlers with locals from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago. Peranakan cuisine is an exotic bouquet of Chinese and Southeast Asian flavours.
To cool down from our walk up Ship Street, we sipped on glasses of tangy, cold-pressed calamansi juice ($48) crowned with preserved plum. This tart concoction is a refreshing thirst quencher, with thankfully just a hint of sweetness.
New to the menu, the ngor hiang ($78) is a crispy log of five-spice minced pork, candied winter melon and crunchy water chestnut, rolled in crispy bean-curd sheets. We thoroughly enjoyed the flavourful mince and textural contrast of the filling.
The grilled satay ($88) is a mix of chicken and pork, served with a rich, peanutty homemade satay sauce. The juicy meat, with a blush of caramelisation, pairs deliciously with the satay sauce, especially with the addition of some tangy yet sweet pineapple purée.
Another new addition to the menu, the fried carrot cake ($78) – which, ironically, contains no carrot but instead is made with turnip – is comfort in a bowl. Fried with an egg bathed in sweet soy sauce, the gooey turnip chunks encased in crispy egg are addictively moreish.
You can’t have a Malaysian or Singaporean menu without laksa, and the Nyonya laksa lemak ($102) is a rich mix of prawns, fish cakes, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts and tofu puffs in a creamy, coconut-based broth. The rich coconut milk gives the broth a sweet undertone while keeping the spice levels in check, and we especially liked the textural contrast between the crunchy, fresh bean sprouts and the thick rice noodles. Freshly chopped laksa leaves add an extra layer of aromatics.
Another new item is the Hainanese chicken ($168 for ½ or $280 for full), paired with chicken-oil rice ($28). The poached yellow chicken was succulent and tender on our visit, served alongside three types of dipping sauce and a plate of blanched bean sprouts. Greedy by nature, we had to dip each piece of chicken into all three sauces in order to fully immerse ourselves in the aromatic blend of dark soy, ginger-scallion and fiery chilli.
It’s not going to win any beauty pageants, but Bibi & Baba’s beef rendang ($148) might be the best one we’ve tasted thus far (and that includes all our eating escapades to Singapore and Malaysia in the times before COVID). Beef shin is broken down through loads of TLC slow-cooking to create a meaty, sticky and gelatinous blend of deliciousness that is also thoroughly infused with aromatic spices. We are literally drooling as we relive the experience while writing this review!
The sayur lodeh ($88), also new to the menu, is a vegetarian yellow curry. But don’t underestimate the power of vegetables; this dish, with its variations in crunch and yielding bites, is a worthy contender to any of the meat-based dishes on offer.
The prawn sambal petai ($158) smelled pungent owing to the stink beans, which were also extremely bitter. Not our favourite dish, although the plump prawns fried in sambal were a slight atonement for the astringent, exceedingly bitter beans. We’ve had stink beans before, but they have never been this bitter.
Bibi & Baba’s Nyonya fish-head curry ($388) features not just the fish head, but the entire fish! Stewed in a rich turmeric curry, this flavourful dish also has plenty of vegetables, making it a complete meal in one pot.
We are huge fans of shaved ice (SHARI SHARI Kakigori House, we’re looking at you!), and the chendol ($58) at Bibi & Baba does not disappoint. Infused with palm sugar and drizzled with coconut cream and pandan mung-bean jelly, we can see why some diners make a special trip here just to eat this shaved ice.
The bubur cha cha ($58) is a comforting hot soup of sweet potato and taro steeped in coconut milk along with sago, homemade tapioca jelly and palm sugar. We can foresee this being very popular during the cooler months, but it’s a bit too heavy in the midst of a HK summer.
Chef changes are always dicey; they can completely flip the image of a restaurant and leave regulars feeling confused. Thankfully, this isn’t the case at Bibi & Baba, and we feel that the new dishes add to the restaurant’s repertoire instead of detracting from it. We’re already planning our next visit to indulge in that beef rending and finish off with individual bowls of chendol, because it’s way too good to be shared.
1–7 Ship Street, Wanchai, 2555 0628, book online (for groups of 6 or more)
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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