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Chef Salil Mehta unveils Kebaya in Union Square

Kebaya, is a partnership with New-York-based food consultant, Margaret Goh, a 2nd generation Peranakan-Singaporean, and is a restaurant and bar devoted solely to Peranakan cuisine

Mehta, one of New York’s most prominent chefs and advocates for Asian food culture in New York has been raising the profile of Singaporean cuisine in New York with his popular bars and restaurants such as Singlish in Union Square; and Singapura in Gramercy. With *Kebaya and as the name suggests, this latest culinary concept by Mehta will focus on the vibrant Peranakan food culture which is unique to Singapore, Malaysia and the coastal areas of Indonesia's Java and Sumatra islands (*kebaya is an intricate, vibrant garment traditionally worn by women in Southeast Asia, and is an ethnic costume synonymous with the Peranakan and Malay communities). Kebaya also features oft-forgotten dishes from the Chitty Peranakan, a distinctive group of Tamil people found mainly and originally in Melaka, Malaysia, and in Singapore where they migrated to in the 18th and 19th centuries (this community is also known as the Indian Peranakans).

About Peranakan culture and cuisine: The Peranakans are an ethnic group unique to Malaysia, Singapore and parts of the Indonesian archipelago. They are defined by their genealogical descent from the first waves of Southern Chinese settlers to maritime Southeast Asia, in what was then the British Colonial ruled ports in the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago as well as Singapore. Peranakan culture, especially in the dominant Peranakan centres of Malacca, Singapore, Penang, and Medan, is characterized by its unique hybridization of ancient Chinese culture with the local cultures of the Nusantara region, the result of a centuries-long history of transculturation and interracial marriage.

Intermarriage between these Chinese settlers and their Malay, Thai, Javanese or other predecessors in the region contributed to the emergence of a distinctive hybrid culture.

The Chitty, also known as the Chetty or Chetti Melaka, are a distinctive and dwindling group of Tamil people found mainly in Melaka in Malaysia and Singapore, who are also known as the Indian Peranakans and have adopted Malay (mostly) and Chinese cultural practices whilst also retaining their Hindu faith and heritage. In the 21st century, their population stands at 2,000.

Peranakan food represents Malaysian, Singapore and Indonesia’s rich history and blend of vibrant cultures as well as a myriad of flavors inspired by the Nyonya, Chinese, Indian and Malay communities.

Like its language, Peranakan fashion, design, art, and cuisine also borrow freely from multiple cultures that successively settled in the region including Malay, Chinese, as well as Portuguese, Dutch, English, and Indian communities.

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