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TV Preview of The Ways of the Matriarch

The Ways of The Matriarch

Preserving Peranakan culture in a modern world is never easy, especially when you’re a Nyonya [Straits-born Chinese] matriarch struggling to maintain traditional values in a constantly changing environment.

Such is the life of Mrs Pearlyn Chew (Shirley Tay) of the drama/cooking show The Ways Of The Matriarch. Last season, the show’s 2nd, she had to convince her daughter-in-law, Fern (Corinne Adrienne) to stick with the old cooking methods of authentic Peranakan [Chinese-Malay fusion] cuisine.

Cooking delicious meals usually requires lots of patience, and this is one virtue Pearlyn definitely needs in the 3rd season as her household goes through some major changes. She’s now a grandmother, as Fern recently gave birth. Unfortunately, the confinement maid [meant to help the new mother recover her health and cope with the baby] had resigned, and a new one is needed to help Fern recover from her pregnancy.

A new replacement does arrive, but she’s not exactly the typical one Pearlyn had in mind. Instead, Ruth Neo (Debra Teng) is a modern confinement maid who is young, beautiful, and spiritual.

Ruth introduces Pearlyn to Penang Nonya cuisine, which is starkly different from the one the Matriarch is so familiar with. Though slightly apprehensive, the elderly lady has to accept this brand-new cuisine while still sticking to her cooking style. This new fusion of cuisines means more mouth-watering recipes for viewers and comedy as she tries to maintain control of her kitchen with the intrusion of this new arrival.

The new faces include Pearlyn’s 2nd son, Brian (Garrett Hoo), and Ruth’s aunt from Penang, Lorelai Lee (veteran actress Koh Chieng Mun). The new additions to the cast promise to add new flavor and more twists to the show. There are also special guest appearances on the show, including director/producer Glen Goei and musician/composer/Singapore Idol judge Dick Lee.

Spicing it Up

During a meet-the-cast session at Tiong Bahru Plaza on July 11, UrbanWire chatted with a few cast members, who were obliging enough to share their personal experiences on the show.

Matriarch newcomer Debra Teng enthusiastically told UrbanWire that she had “a fantastic time working with the cast” and that the Matriarch set was “the happiest set [she]’s been on.” Though she is a new arrival to the show, the cast welcomed her with open arms. She loves acting on the show and “enjoyed the food the most, especially with buffets from morning to night.”

The Matriarch Speaks

Shirley Tay is a full-time chef specializing in Peranakan cuisine at Furama Hotel. For about 20 years, the chef has had to juggle her job and filming the series, but Shirley told UrbanWire that she has managed to “balance both well” as she loves both professions. Being on the show has introduced her to more recipes and helped her learn from seasoned actresses like Koh Chieng Mun. She also loves the crew, as moments with them contain “nothing but laughter and makan [food].”

Shirley Tay as Pearlyn Chew

When asked if the show mirrors real life, Shirley firmly agrees. “What you see [on the show] is what happens in a traditional Peranakan home and how a Peranakan matriarch reacts in her kitchen. There are no shortcuts in food,” says Shirley.

UrbanWire also asked Shirley for a few gentle tips for The Ways of the Matriarch fans who wish to try the recipes from the show.

“In cooking, it’s important to remember 3 things – sense of smell, eyes to see the colour of the food, and taste buds. The ‘agak-agak‘ or experimental method is very important and it takes experience to be able to perfect the taste of a particular dish. However, there is no right or wrong in cooking. You’re the cook, add whatever you like, and you may be surprised at the end result.”

The Ways of The Matriarch airs on Mediacorp Arts Central on Sundays at 9 pm.

Suruchi Lohani
Suruchi Lohani
suruchi lohani is a content editor who love playing with words to make stories come alive. Besides editing the content she loves reading books and writing.


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