The 50 Things You Must Do in Asia

By Hanya Yanagihara - 2013-07-23T16:27:10Z

Photograph by Igor/Alamy

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Discover Peranakan Culture: Singapore

An ethnic group specific to this part of Asia—created by the mostly Hokkien Chinese merchants and traders who arrived here and married Malay women—the Peranakans flourished from the fifteenth through the early twentieth centuries. They developed their own language, a kind of Malay-Hokkien creole; their own dress; their own religion (a sort of Taoist Catholicism, if you can imagine such a thing); and their own cuisine, which married Chinese flavors and spices with the sugar and coconut of Malay cooking. Your menu at Peranakan restaurant True Blue might include simmered beef, gently seasoned with cardamom (a kind of Peranakan version of short ribs), or banana blossom salad with star fruit, or chicken stew with Indonesian black nuts. Just hope your meal ends with the addictive glutinous black rice porridge, which is gently sweet and pairs well with the longan tea that'll be served alongside it. As colorful as the food is the restaurant's decor, which features artwork, objets d'art, and furniture from chef-owner Benjamin Seck's collection. If you ask, you'll even get to go upstairs to see a Peranakan Catholic altar. Although it's Chinese in style and color, you'll note that at its center is a depiction of the Virgin Mary, though rendered as a Qing dynasty–era ­figure. For more on the culture, you can check out the small ­Peranakan Museum (pictured), next door.

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