Guan Chua’s Nyonya Supper Club
Since I was a young’un, Mum and Dad have always been warning me about ‘stranger danger’, and specifically that even if the stranger offered me the most delicious treat, do not get in his van. Suddenly the internet was born, and it became cautions about ‘online stranger danger’. Fast forward about 15 years, and here I am making my parents proud with a public food blog showing the world my life!
I can’t tell you guys just how great it is to meet such lovely and different people through the blog, who have now become lifelong friends! These are the people who have happily travelled across London just for an instagrammable brunch with me, a fellow blogger who smoked beef ribs for over 10 hours for our iftar, and in particular, one who invited me to this supper club! You see, I hadn’t ever met SM before (don’t worry Mum), but she knew I was a hardcore halal foodie so she invited me out (chill, Dad) to my first proper supper club, at Guan Chua’s place, who I also had not met before (I’m calling you guys now to explain).
Guan Chua, a finance-city-worker-turned-cordon-bleu-trained-chef, runs his Malaysian Nyonya supper club from his own home. Nyonya cuisine, as I have learned, has been influenced by the 15th century immigration of the Chinese into Malaysia, and combines ingredients and cooking techniques from both cultures to give you some of the most delicious dishes that you can only imagine. Since there is literally zero halal presence of this cross-hybrid cuisine in London, I jumped at the chance to attend his supper club and see what the rave was all about.
Once we got to Guan’s place, off came our shoes and coats, and introductions were made with homemade cocktails or cocktails in hand. After a little mingling, Guan informed us that dinner was ready – woohoo!
Crispy wings that had been coated in a zingy and punchy lemongrass marinade and topped with sesame seeds. A great way to start the evening.
A noodle salad filled with chicken, chillies, and other vegetable goodies, and was a light, refreshing start to the meal ahead of us.
The prawns were smothered in a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce, and served with chillies. They were good, but even better were their crispy head that came with their brains, eyes, and alllllll in tact. It was quite fun (probably borderline barbaric) sucking the juicy and flavourful brains out.
Melt-in-the-mouth beef curry that had been made using beef shank, brisket, and mushrooms, plus there were some lovely little globs of bone marrow floating around from the shank. As hard as it was to choose from everything I had eaten, this was my favourite dish of the night. The meat was dark, rich, and tender, and the fermented soya bean paste that the beef had been braised in added a slight sweetness. It was the type of dish that hit every spot, and made the table go quiet as they hungrily tucked in.
I have to admit, as a secret lover of pineapple on pizza (don’t judge), I was really looking forward to trying out this mackerel and pineapple curry once I saw it on the menu. Of course, this isn’t your usual flavour combination – fruit and fish? – but the sweetness and acidity of the pineapple helped to offset the strong, spicy flavour of the sambal and the mackerel’s fishiness. The occasional chilli would give the curry a good kick without being too spicy. It all really worked well together, and was a firm favourite of the table’s.
A lovely side dish made using cavolo nero, brussel sprouts, and other green goodness. It had been cooked with some spicy shrimp paste to give it a good kick and for once, the shrimp was not overpowering in the dish, making it a great accompaniment to the main dishes, especially the braised beef.
A milo parfait topped with a caramelised banana and Nestum crumb. The parfait (made using a healthy amount of cream, sugar, and eggs) was so light with a slight malty, chocolate taste that it just slowly melted away in your mouth. The crispy crumb, made using Nestum (a popular Asian wheat cereal) added a good textural and sweet contrast to the creamy parfait, and the caramelised banana rounded off the dessert really nicely. Each and every ingredient used added more to the comfort factor of this simple parfait, and even BW, an avid dessert-avoider, was quick to polish his plate clean.
And just when we thought we were done with our final course, these off-menu buns filled with Horlicks infused cream arrived on the table. The bun was delightfully crisp and the cream had a very subtle flavour of the malt-based Horlicks; simple but tasty.
How cute are these little green madeleines. Made with pandan leaves, a green tropical plant used frequently in South-East Asian cooking, these madeleines were served straight from the oven, meaning they were hot, fluffy, and had a distinctive coconut flavour.
The total came to £35 each, which I thought was great considering the food was in ample supply and tasted better than most restaurants I’ve eaten at. Guan managed to balance cooking, taking care of his guests, and socialising with everyone which really helped to break the ice between all of us.
I’ll put it out there and say it was one of my best dining experiences this year. It was fun, spontaneous, and a great way to meet different people and make friends. The food was comforting, and just really hit the spot, and the best part was that this was all from someone’s home! The only caveat is that Guan usually serves a non-halal menu at his supper clubs, and so if you do want to visit, you would have to book the entire table for 12 and request halal meat. Not a problem though, just grab a bunch of your closest friends and make a fun birthday/catch-up dinner out of it!