Thinking about the classic Nyonya dishes we eat and enjoy with our family brings back so many super memories. In fact, today it’s getting harder and harder to find some of the real old-school Nyonya classics such as – Laksa Lemak, Char Siput, Too Kwa Kean and Buah Keluak Kay – which you’ll uncover in this cook book. lt’s also becoming more challenging to find certain ingredients because demand has dropped as more people prefer to cook with ready-made pastes and some dishes have simply fallen out of favour (but not flavour!)
This book is an attempt to revisit the author’s childhood favourites and share these with a wider audience. Pearly says that good Nyonya cooking is not complicated, and as long as you can find fresh, quality ingredients there’s nothing to stop you from recreating these wonderful recipes in your own kitchen. To help out the beginner or experienced chef, she has included plenty of photos so they can easily identify must-have Nyonya pantry ingredients. She has also added little snippets on the health benefits, superstitions and traditions associated with these ingredients to encourage you to think about the food you put into your body.
Even if you didn’t grow up eating Nyonya cuisine, your own food heritage is just as rich. Respect it and treasure it. Eating well is the first step to maintaining a healthy body and you can enjoy all the traditional Nyonya recipes you’ll find in this book with a clear conscience! Do take the time to cultivate the various herbs and greens in your garden or planter boxes and don’t worry too much if you live in a cooler climate, many of the fresh herbs will grow in a warm, humid room.
Happy cooking and eating!
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A little bit of history…
When Pearly’s ancestors arrived in Penang from China in the 19th century, they brought along with them their own traditions, customs and their recipes. Over time, as they acclimatised to life in multi-cultural Malaya they learnt to incorporate local produce and cooking techniques to their predominantly southern Chinese cuisine.
As a result of this culinary assimilation and evolution, Penang Nyonya cuisine is famous for its Thai, Malay and lndian influences and has produced such iconic dishes as – Penang Laksa, Khong Assam, Fish Head Curry and Perut lkan. The Straits Chinese in Penang adopted and adapted plenty of traditional Malay ingredients, fashion and superstitions as well as the language into their everyday life while continuing to observe the rituals of their forefathers. The Chinese love of pork is legendary and this super protein features in many classic Penang Nyonya dishes in some shape or form. Penang’s multi-cultural environment is incredibly special and looking back, it’s little wonder that the island is home to some of Asia’s most unforgettable gastronomic experiences.
“Talking about cultural exchanges, when l married Chandra, he initially complained that my curries weren’t as good as his mother’s! By learning more about southern Indian cuisine l came to appreciate its influence on Nyonya recipes, such as the use of coconut milk, tamarind, Gula Melaka, glutinous rice and the various curry pastes. To me, this is the true beauty of Penang and Nyonya food, how a vibrant community made up of different cultures and ethnic groups built trust, became friends and eventually created great food that continues to be enjoyed today.” – Pearly Kee