PHOTOS: An Ode to Nyonya Cuisine

Otak otak! Fish mousse paste steamed in a banana leaf.

Otak otak! Fish mousse paste steamed in a banana leaf.

I had so many tasty meals in Malaysia, I couldn’t fit them all in one post. So here’s my ode to Nyonya food.

Nyonya cuisine is a mix of Chinese and Malay cooking. Technically, nyonya refers to descendants of ethnic Chinese who immigrated to Malaysia and parts of Indonesia long ago, in the 15th to 17th centuries. At that time, Malaysia, called “Malaya”, was still a British colony.

Nyonya cuisine has its roots in China, but has evolved into a regional cuisine using traditional Malay spices. Nyonya food in Penang is it’s own subcategory. For example, laksa in Penang is made with tamarind and lime juice, giving it a distinctly sour taste. The Kuala Lumpur and Singapore versions use just coconut milk.

Typical nyonya foods include Curry Kapitan (a pungent curry made with a paste made of shallots, hot chilies, fresh turmeric, coriander and roasted shrimp paste), Jiew Hu Char (minced pork stir fried with shredded veggie assortment, chiefly  jicama!), Otak otak (light fish mousse flavored with lemon grass and other spices, steamed in a banana leaf), and Tau Eu Bak (slow cooked pork).

Here are some pictures of the things we ate:




2 responses to “PHOTOS: An Ode to Nyonya Cuisine

  1. Yong tau foo and bak kua (BBQ meat), two things that are not the same outside of Malaysia. Well, two of many things, chendol included.
    I had yong tau foo at Penang restaurant in Philly and they put theirs in a curry broth, while I’m used to the clear broth in KL. But was good enough for someone hungry for it. Oh, the popiah there was not bad either.
    Too bad customs does not allow anyone to bring me some bak kua. How could it possibly upset agriculture here?! Grrrr……

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