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Penang Peranakan Cuisine

The Peranakan were mainly Chinese, predominantly Hokkiens from the Fujian Province of southern China, who settled In Indonesia, Thailand, Melaka, Penang and Singapore a few centuries ago, integrating into South East Asian life and adopting many aspects of the local culture.

This resulted into a duly unique fusion of language, dress and lifestyle which exists to this day.

The men were called babas and the women пуоnas; as recipes were handed down through womenfolk, this type of food is known as 'пуопуа' cooking. It is a measure of how important food was to them when the kitchen was referred to as perut rumah, the stomach of the house.

Many dishes were labour-intensive it was all hands on deck each and every day. Girls were commandeered to help In the kitchen under the watchful eye of the matriarch almost as soon as they could walk starting with simple chores, graduating to the actual preparation of the various rempahs (chilli pastes) which can make or break a dish before finally being allowed to do the cooking herself, under strict supervision of course. In olden days prospective in-laws would closely inspect, amongst other things, a girls culinary skills, for this was surely an indication of how well she had been brought up.

Each region had Its own specialities which incorporated locally-available ingredients, as Penang is so close to the northern border, there are distinct Thai influences. Much use is made of stronq flavours like chillies, coconut, tamarind Iocally grown herbs and spices, and the 'aгоmatic" belacan. Many are eaten with plain white rice to do Justice to the delicious flavours.


Nyonyas are very fond of their condiments, and you will typically find at least one or two small side dishes a table:

Sambal Belacan
A chilli paste using grilled belancan with fresh chillis.
Acar Awak
A spicy relish of crunchy pickled vegetables, it is eaten hot or cold, as an appetiser or a condiment.

Nyonya Food

Nyonya Asam Laksa

Simply called Laksa hеге, spicy, sour fish soup redolent with local spices is ladled over thick white rice noodles and served with a garnish of julienned fresh vegetables and a spoonful of black gooey hey ко (prawn paste).

Тau Еu Bak

There are several versions of this meat (chicken or pork) braised In soya sauce. Often tau kua [firm bean curd), Chinese mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs are added. Tu Ka Chor (trotters) is a sweet variation using black vinegar.

Asam Tumis

This is a popular fish gulai (curry) made with fried (tumis) rempah paste of lemon grass, belacan and chillir to which a light solution of tamarind juice is added.

Kari Kapitan

A popular Curry usually made with chicken, its perfect for those , who don't like their food too spicy.

Perut Ikan

Literally translated to “fish stomach” because it is traditionilly made with pickled fish innards, Perut Ikan is a true conglomeration of local vegetables and herbs. The pickles add a fishy taste which goes beautifully with the myriad od flavours that the herbs impart.

Otak Otak

Like (the previous dish, the name might be slightly off-putting as it means "brains” but now the main Ingredients are prawns and/or fish meat, which is steamed with a fairly stiff spicy rempah santan and egg mixture. The curried custard is delicious cold or hot.

Jiu Hoo Char

A delicacy or julienned bangkuang (yam bean) fried with dried octopus strips, this Is a local salad eaten at festive times. A tablespoon of the mixture is wrapped in a lettuce leaf and topped with a dollop of sambal belacan.

Nasi Ulam

Cooked rice tossed in at least ten different local herbs and spices, given an extra savoury twist with pounded dried shrimp.

Where to get Nyonya Food

Nyonya is usually home cooked, although you'II find local variations all over Penang and in the northern states. In economic rice stalls, "Chu Char (literally cook/fry) places, kopi tiams (coffee shops) and markets. A few of the more specialised diishes may only be availtable in nyonya restaurants which tend to be famly run.

Nyonya Restaurants

Hot Wok Restaurant
124 E&F Jalan Burmah, GeorgeTown, 1005O Penang 604-227 3368
MAMA’S Nyonya Cuisine
31-D Lorong Abu Siti Lane, George Town. 10400 Реnang 604-229 1318
Nyonya Baba Cuisine
44 Jalan Nagore. GeorgeTown, 1 050O Penang 604-227 8035
Nyonya Breeze
50 Lorong Abu Siti 10400 GeorgeTown, 10400 Penang 604 227 9646
Perut Rumah
17 Jalan Kelawei Georgetown. 10250 Penang 604-2279917
Sri Batik Nyonya Cafe
102-E-2 New World Park Jalan Burmah. Georgc Тоwп, Penang 604-228 8919