Peranakan dishes, also known as Nonya cuisines are widely popular in the Southeast Asian region, especially in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Its unique and mouth-watering flavours go way back to when the Chinese emigrated to the region in the 15th century.
This allows for a blend of culture and tradition that ultimately influence their style of cooking. Along with rich food traditions, Peranakan dishes offer a taste of the region’s celebrated history. Before we dive deeper into the dishes, here’s a brief meaning of the terms associated with the Peranakan Chinese.
The Peranakan Chinese often refer to themselves as Baba-Nonya. The term Baba is the honorific for Straits-Chinese men. Initially borrowed by the Malays from the Hindustani language, it slowly became part of the common language. Meanwhile, the term Nonya refers to Straits-Chinese women. It was borrowed from the old Portuguese word for lady, donha.
As these terms gradually became part of the Peranakan’s identity, their cuisine too became a part of it with an array of dishes named after the term Nonya. If you haven’t tried any of the Peranakan cuisines in your lifetime, you’re missing out on one of the most unique food combination, one that’s tangy, spicy, herbal, and aromatic.
Bear in mind that no two dishes are the same as the cuisine varies according to town and region. The Nonya food that you get in Singapore may taste different from the ones you get in Malaysia or Indonesia. If you’re looking to try some of the Peranakan dishes but you’re not sure where to start, don’t fret. We’re here to help you out.
Here are the five dishes you should try for your first taste of Peranakan food.
1. Signature Kampong Dry Laksa
Normally, we have clear broth noodle soup with additional meat or seafood. The Peranakans however, have tweaked the recipe to create a dish, known as laksa, that’s not only beloved by Singaporeans but also Malaysians. This fusion dish is a result of the Peranakan’s innovative way to create a dish that’s tangy and spicy.
The dish is a blend of regional influence with coconut milk from Indonesia and Assam from Malaysia, which makes it a spicy and filling dish. As most of the laksa we know comes with gravy, Chilli Manis has switched up the recipe to create a Signature Kampong Dry Laksa. It’s worth a try if you haven’t tried dry laksa before.
2. Signature Ayam Buah Keluak
As one of the supreme Peranakan dishes, cooking the Ayam Buah Keluak is a tricky feat. The rich taste comes from the seeds of the kepayang tree, a tall tree that’s now a heritage in Singapore. Preparing the seeds can take more than a month as the seed is poisonous if uncooked.
The seeds undergo several processes to remove the hydrogen cyanide. Luckily, modern developments have made things easier and you can find ready-to-cook seeds at the market. Besides, you’ll need to simmer the chicken and kepayang seeds with tamarind and some spices to create a flavourful dish.
3. Udang Masak Nenas
This signature Peranakan dish is a must-try if you love eating foods that are sweet and sour. The sauce has a unique combination which results from the sheer sweetness and sourness of the tamarind and pineapple, pungency from the belacan (shrimp paste) along with the creaminess of the coconut milk and heat from the chillies.
These ingredients may seem incompatible with each other but can create a dish that’s both flavorful and tasty. It’s similar to the sweet and sour fish but has more flavours. If you haven’t tried this dish, you ought to give it a try. If you never try, you’ll never know.
4. Nonya Chap Chye with Mushroom
Chap chye is Hokkien for mixed vegetables. This dish is a simple stir-fried vegetable which originates from China. Along with the use of taucheo and prawn stock, the Peranakans have switched the dish up a notch to give it the spicy and flavourful taste.
The ingredients consist of sweet cabbage, cloud fungus, woodsy lily bud, tofu skin, and vermicelli. These ingredients then absorb the rich sauce flavours to give you a satisfying yet tasty vegetable dish.
5. Pulut Hitam with Coconut Milk
As one of the most popular desserts in this region and also for the high tea catering, Pulut Hitam with Coconut Milk is a Peranakan dessert that shouldn’t be missed. Made of black glutinous rice and coconut milk, this equivalent of a rice porridge can relief your tastebuds after trying all the dishes above.
The glutinous rice is first sweetened with either palm sugar or rock sugar to give it a rich flavour. Depends on how you like to have it, you can also mix the coconut milk into the glutinous rice for a more creamy texture.
If you’re keen to try these dishes, Chilli Manis offers a catering service for you to try along with your family or friends.
As a halal-certified caterer, we seek to present the most authentic Peranakan cuisine to all in Singapore. You will savour nothing less than a delectable array of Peranakan fare. Contact us at 6250 1112 or email email@example.com.