Kapitan Peranakan cuisine - Chicago
Ever had Peranakan cuisine? Probably not, but now you can eat this distinctive Asian food at Kapitan, which opened at the very end of 2020.
The Peranakans are a unique ethnic group. Chinese settlers who found a home in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Peranakans prepare foods that bring together Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian culinary traditions. Kapitan serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the proud Peranakan tradition and if you’re looking for new flavors and flavor combinations, Kapitan is a restaurant you want to visit.
On Kapitan’s Peranakan menu, you will find dishes you’ve likely never had before, many of which are sure to become favorites.
For breakfast, sample bak kwa, a sandwich of Malaysian-style pork jerky, tender threads of pork. and house-made sauce. You may never again settle for an Egg McMuffin after a breakfast bite this full of flavor. Nasi Lemak, another traditional Peranakan breakfast item and Malaysia’s national dish, is chicken or shrimp (or probably both, if you ask) served on coconut rice with fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, and hard-boiled egg; if you can find a more delicious breakfast, let us know.
During the lunch hour, it’s traditional to have a Javanese-style murtabak, a pastry stuffed with egg and beef, or the satay of beef, chicken, or tofu (you can, if you prefer, build a largely vegetarian meal at Kapitan with dishes like Buddha’s Delight and Curry Vegetables). Rojak Merah, the menu tells us, is “held very close to the heart of every Malaysian’: it’s composed of crunchy fruits and vegetables, coated in a fermented shrimp sauce; a beautiful blend of sweet, salty, sour, crunchiness, and spice.
Many entrees, most served throughout the day and all suitable for the dinner hour, are prepared in the traditional Peranakan style. A standout dish is the Chili Shrimp, a tangy combination of the stir-fried crustacean with ginger, shallots, garlic and, of course (!) chilies in a sweet and savory egg and tomato sauce (don’t worry, the menu advises, “Despite its name, the dish is not very spicy”). Also, for dinner, Hainanese Chicken, which showcases the juicy bird with crisp, golden skin and just a touch of sweetness.
Soup and noodle dishes are available most of the day. You may want to check out Nyonya Curry Laksa Lemak, a spicy soup of thick rice noodle and chicken, prawn, fish balls and fish cake, all nestled into a rich and flavorful curried coconut milk. You may also enjoy the Mee Siam; especially popular at breakfast time, it’s a stir-fried rice vermicelli garnished with shredded omelet, chicken, scallions, and lime wedges.
For dessert, there are other delicacies you’ve probably never had before, including Kuih, bite-sized cakes or biscuits frequently of glutinous rice, sometimes, sweet or savory, sometimes sweet *and* savory. Cendol is an iced dessert, sweet with coconut and palm sugar syrup.
At Kapitan, you can journey to Southeast Asia without leaving Chicago; it’s a trip.