Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine can be considered one of the original fusion foods in Malaysia. The marriage of Chinese traders with local Malays in the colonial days produced a unique and vibrant culture and cuisine where both Chinese and Malay cooking techniques and ingredients are used.
1. Pai Tee
A pai tee may be small but it’s packed with lots of flavour. It is a thin and crispy pastry tart shell that is filled with a sweet and spicy mixture of vegetables and prawns. Often served with a side of chilli sauce, don’t let its tiny build fool you because it can be quite filling.
2. Kari Kapitan
Inspired by the traditional Indian Chicken Curry, the Kari Kapitan is a dry curry with a thorough nyonya makeover. Kari Kapitan doesn’t require curry powder at all but instead uses a paste made out of onion, chillies, lemongrass and other spices. What makes it truly nyonya is the use of belacan in the dish.
3. Laksa Lemak
Laksa lemak can be considered a hybrid between asam laksa and curry laksa. The gravy is usually made with fish broth and is heavily spiced with a touch of sweetness. Laksa lemak has a rich, slightly sweet and strongly spiced gravy. What makes it unique from other types of laksa is the usage of coconut milk in its gravy. This adds a distinct richness to the dish.
A classic nyonya dish, the otak-otak is a type of fish cake. Its main ingredients includes mackerel fish, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and a spice blend that consists of chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, turmeric and lemongrass. Unlike other versions, this otak-otak is steamed instead of grilled.
5. Inchi Kabin
Inchi Kabin is a nyonya style marinated deep-fried chicken. The inchi kabin marinade is a mix of coconut milk with tons of spices like coriander, chili, cumin and turmeric. The trick to making it super juicy is making sure that the chicken meat is marinated long enough for the spices to be infused.
The chicken is also fried twice; once at a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes and afterwards on high heat until it looks crispy. It is usually served with a side of chilli sauce or even belacan sauce.
6. Gerang Asam
Don’t mistake this for the good ol’ asam pedas. In fact, gerang asam and asam pedas have two very different and distinct flavours. Not to mention that gerang asam has a much thicker gravy as compared to the asam pedas.
7. Ayam Buah Keluak
A staple dish of the Peranakans in both Singapore and Malaysia. The main ingredient of this dish is the keluak nut and spicy tamarind gravy. Making ayam buah keluak may be time consuming but the results are worth it.
A blend of spices including candlenuts, turmeric, chili, galangai and belacan is what gives the gravy that unique and rich taste.
Ayam buah keluak is usually served with rice. Some diners who thoroughly enjoy this dish will not only eat the chicken and gravy but also the mixture that got stuck in the keluak nuts (which they scoop out or simply knock out onto their plates).