Nyonya Night - 5th Jan 2011

Post date: 21-Dec-2010 22:26:45

I've been travelling the length and breadth of Malaysia and Singapore for the last 3 weeks and spending much time with my family there, cooking away and copying family heirloom recipes down!! So forget the turkey leftovers, and start the New Year as you mean to go on with a spicy Nyonya night!

Nyonya is the name for the women of the Peranakan, or Straits Chinese. These are the Chinese immigrants that came to Malaysia to work on the tin mines and rubber plantations, and stayed, absorbing the local culture and foods into their diet. My mother is Nyonya so although we are Chinese by origin, I am the 7th generation born out of the country. We have Chinese traditions but these have been subtly, and in some cases not so subtly, altered by the other cultures around us, the Malays, the Indians, and even the British. My family speak a dialect of Chinese, but my grandmother wore a sarong kebaya, an item of dress that no Chinese would recognise, and made out of local batik fabric. We have a family curry powder - obviously adopted from the Indians. Every few months the family get several kilos of cardamom, cloves, cumin and other spices, and take them to the miller. The resulting family curry powder is distributed throughout the branches of the family in any container, usually old squash bottles, that they can find. I was just in KL a couple of weeks ago and they had a fresh batch just in, which I have brought back.

Come and have a taste of Nyonya cuisine. Its origins are Chinese but it is altered by alien ingredients which are native to Malaysia like coconut and local herbs.

The menu will be:

Loh Bak - Five Spice pork roll - this is classic Nyonya and you are not likely to find it in Malaysian restaurants, as the Chinese eat a lot of pork but of course the majority Malay muslims do not. The origins can be clearly seen in Chinese cooking

Otak-Otak - another classic Nyonya dish originating from the northern island of Penang, it's spiced fish grilled in banana leaves. Obviously the banana leaf cooking method is adopted and you can see the influence of local herbs that you may recognise from Thai cuisine


Singapore Laksa - it's noodles, but not as you know them. In a spicy coconut gravy using local herbs unknown in China.

Our family's Chicken Curry - using the family's own curry powder!


Nyonya Kuih - these are local sweet snacks (there is not much concept of a "dessert" in Asia). Onde Onde has clear origins in a Cantonese dessert known as "Tong Yuen", traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year, but it's subtly altered by rolling it in freshly grated coconut and using local palm sugar. Kuih Talam is a pandan-flavoured cake with a coconut cream topping, and is my favourite of all the Nyonya Kuihs. I doubt very much Pandan could grow in China.

As usual please e-mail me with any bookings. Cost will be the usual £25 of which £20 will go to charity. Perhaps you'd like to bring your friends as a Christmas present?!