According to Legend, Princess Hang Li Po of the Ming Dynasty married Melaka’s Sultan Mansur Shah in order to strengthen ties with the rich and strategic port of Malacca. Her entourage of over 500 formed the first permanent settlements, where they integrated with the locals and formed a new generation called the Peranakan (local born). The males in this society were called Babas, females Nyonyas and the older ladies Bibiks.
With the mixture of cultures came about a fusion of food, where every recipe was carefully handed down from generation to generation and held dear to the heart. The Nyonya culture’s most outstanding feature is their cuisine and here are a few gastronomical delights to feast on.
1. Otak Otak
This is a moist fish cake appetizer that should not be missed. Its tender and delicate mousse-like texture is spicy, and its flavours contain a mix of aromatic spices, shallots, lemongrass, eggs and coconut milk. It can be eaten grilled or steamed and comes wrapped up in banana leaves.
2. Lum Mee
Photo credit: Alpha, Flickr
This is pure soul food, with its perfect blend of noodles, prawns, chicken, pork, shallots, eggs, and a whole lot of goodness. This dish is served and shared even on celebratory days by the Peranakans.
Accompanying it is the must-have sambal belacan to ensure that every mouthful is an explosion of flavours.
3. Lor Bak
This delicious Nyonya meat roll, marinated mainly in five spice powder and then rolled up in bean curd skin, is mouth-wateringly flavourful. This irresistible appetizer, accompanied with a dipping sauce, is popular with everyone. It is only mildly spicy and is often served at festivals and family gatherings.
4. Ayam Buah Keluak
Photo credit: benhosg, Flickr
This unique and robust Peranakan chicken dish’s anchor ingredient is the Indonesian black nut better known as Buah Keluak. The paste from this fruit makes the gravy fragrant and indulgent, especially when cooked with tamarind and a combination of spices.
5. Bubur Chacha
Bubur, also known as porridge, congee and chacha refers to dancing. Take a look at your bowl of bubur and you can see a sort of dance between the sago, yam, sweet potato and fresh coconut milk.
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