07 April 2014: Feasts of Penang

Jawi Peranakan women are masters at the art of fusion cooking.

Feasts of PenangJawi Peranakan cuisine is similar in many ways to a sublime jazz improvisation, where ingenuity in variation and harmony are crucial to the end product. One is either in throes of rapture, or simply bored stiff.  Jawi Peranakan cuisine, created from the ‘cross-pollination’ of different cultures using Malay herbs with Indian and South-East Asian spices, confidently belongs to the former. Feasts of Penang, by noted anthropologist and culinary expert Wazir Jahan Karim, celebrates the cuisine that has tantalized taste buds for centuries.

According to the author,  the Jawi Peranakan community comprised families descended from Indian Muslim, Arab or other Muslim patrilineages where men married local Malay women. Jawi Peranakan cuisine is thus a mirror of its heritage.

Feasts of Penangfeasts-2 is more than ‘just another cookbook’.

Peppered among its pages are fascinating historical and anthropological anecdotes, explanations behind the recipes as well as photographs of culinary events. More importantly, we learn that when it comes to Jawi Peranakans, food is more than just filling the stomach, as it involves an entire ritual embodying guest comfort, table settings, colour themes, the right china and the perfect ambience.

From the exotic to the commonplace, the recipes appear simple enough and should not discourage amateur and hopeful gourmets. The accompanying food photographs and descriptions are gorgeously tempting – if you’re not convinced by now, a taste of sublime bamieh at the author’s Jawi House bistro at 85 Armenian Street will convert you! Get your copy today from Areca Books.