The soul of every culture can be found in its cuisine. One can identify the Peranakans’ unique origin by the food they cook, the style of cooking, and the ingredients they use.
The Peranakan culture came about from early 15th – 17th century Chinese settlers in the Malay archipelago who adopted the local culture and assimilated into the communities. This blend of two distinct cultures, together with Straits of Malacca’s status as a major shipping lane and hub of trade, was key to Peranakan cuisine’s rich and varied flavours.
Thanks to the cosmopolitan mix of goods and people in the region, the local Peranakan cuisine adopted a combination of ingredients more commonly used in Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian traditional food, whilst prepared with native Chinese cooking techniques . The ingredients often used in Peranakan cuisine are coconut milk, laksa leaf, galangal, candlenuts, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaf, rice, and noodles.
This fusion of Malay and Chinese cuisine is also popularly known as Nyonya cuisine, which also bears influences from Indonesian cuisine.
One unique characteristic of Peranakan cuisine is the distinctive rich texture of their sauces and gravy. Made from carefully selected spices that are pound using a pestle and mortar, many Peranakan descendants say its texture cannot be achieved with a modern day blender.
One such sauce is the Cincaluk, a popular shrimp-based sauce that is rich in flavour. Its salty and sour sauce is often eaten with rice and noodles along with lime juice, chillies, and onions. The thick and creamy soup of popular Penang Nyonya delicacies, the Nyonya laksa and Asam Laksa, is a native characteristic to Peranakan cooking.
Another characteristic of Peranakan food is the marination of meat. Be it seafood or any other meat, they are all marinated with salt and selected spices before being cooked. Some of the most popular Peranakan dishes are ayam buah keluak, inche kabin, and telur kesum.
Where a variety of spices are used in Peranakan dishes, its desserts are mostly made with pandan leaves, which lends a sweet, vanilla-like fragrance. Some of the more popular desserts are Kuih Keria, kuih bakul – steamed or fried ones, and angku kuih.
So, on your next trip to Malaysia, do not miss on the rich, fusion delicacies of the Peranakan and Nyonya cuisine.
To know more about the Peranakans read All You Wanted to Know About the Peranakans.
Find your nearest Asian Store