MELBOURNE | Bababoi Kitchen & Bar is a Malaysian Nyonya restaurant located in Docklands, overlooking the riverside. Presenting modern Nyonyan cuisine through indigenous ingredients and Chinese cooking techniques, Bababoi offers a cultural experience unlike any other. For those who haven’t heard of Nyonyan cuisine, it is a fusion cuisine combining Chinese and Malaysian food, unifying different provinces and cultures. “Nyonya” is also used as a term of endearment for women. This double meaning potentially draws from the traditional roles that women have played in the preparation of food for their families and loved ones.
The layout of Bababoi’s restaurant is quite reminiscent of the hawker street food stalls you find in Malaysia. Décor is minimal and rustic, with a small, open kitchen decked out with bar stools. Designed for warmer weather, much like in Malaysia, the seating area spills out onto the footpath in the open-aired venue. The authenticity of this restaurant is not only highlighted in the venue, but also the food, drinks and staff (who hail from Malaysia).
A variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available, including the imported Yeo’s brand drinks, which include a cold herbal tea flavours such as grass jelly, sugar cane and winter melon. They are the perfect subtly sweet accompaniment to the spicy flavours in Nyonyan dishes and very popular in Malyasia.
Spices and flavours are paramount in Nyonyan cuisine, almost always involving the use of ‘rempah’, which is a spice paste used as a base in Nyonyan food. Each person has their own variation of rempah, depending on the amount of spice and ingredients they prefer to use. Bababoi openly display the ingredients used in their rempah, which consists of lemon grass, garlic, shallot, ginger, galangal, turmeric and chilies.
Based on the staff’s recommendations, we decided to try the Lobak, which is a spiced pork mince wrapped in bean curd skin and steamed then fried, served with a side of sweet chili sauce for added punchiness. A bit more modern, the Chicken Lollipop includes 4 fried chicken drumlets with a complimentary sauce (spicy, beetroot mayo or sweet chili) – perfect as a starter to accompany some drinks. Beef Rendang arrived as a caramelized beef curry cooked with scented rempah, coconut cream and toasted dessicated coconut. Ayam Buah Keluak is a Nyonan chicken stew combining the unique earthy taste of The Mangrove Tree’s black nut with rempah. All dishes exhibited a good control of spice and well-balanced flavours, tasting rich, gutsy, aromatic, sweet and sour all at the same time.
Definitely visit Bababoi if you’re looking for a cultural escape to experience another cuisine. It’s a great addition to a part of town historically lacking in good food options.
Bababoi Kitchen & Bar
2/60 Siddeley Street
Telephone: (03) 9621 2473
Mon – Fri: 11:30am to 2:00pm; 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Sat – Sun: 5:30pm to 9:00pm