Asian Nyonya Food Recipes

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Ngoh Hiang (meat rolls) Spicy Prawn Rolls
Luak Chye (mixed vegetable pickle in mustard dressing) Poh Pia (fresh spring rolls)
Kuih Pie Tee (shredded bamboo shoots in patty cases) Assam Gulai (fish in spicy tamarind gravy)
Sambal Lengkong (crispy fish granules) Egg Poh Pia Skin
Otak-Otak panggang (spicy fish grilled in banana leaves) Itik Tim (salted chinese mustard duck soup)
Acar Timun (cucumber pickle) Pong Tauhu (bean curd with meatball soup)
Ayam Kleo (chicken in rich spicy gravy) Peanut Sauce
Enche Kebin (crispy curried chicken) Babi Chin (pork braised in dark soy sauce)
Dry Beef Rendang Kari Ayam (chicken curry)
Ayam Sioh (chicken in thick spicy tamarind sauce) Babi Pong lay (stewed pork)
Tow Yew Bak (streaky belly pork in soy sauce) Hati Babi Bungkus (meat and liver balls)
Rebung Masak Lemak (bamboo shoots in spicy coconut gravy) Chap Chye Masak Titik (stewed vegetables nyonya style)
Char Bak (fried pork, kidney and liver in yellow bean paste) Nyonya Salad
Spicy Sambal Kangkung Beef Serondeng (beef with grated coconut)
Penang Acar (mixed vegetable pickle penang style) Sambal Belimbing
Spicy Fried Brinjals Stuffing for Chili
Sayur Nangka Masak lemak (jackfruit and chicken in rich spicy coconut gravy) Bak Wan Kepiting (minced pork with crab and bamboo shoot soup)
Fried Bean Curd with Prawn and Minced Pork Nyonya Style Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice)
Nyonya Mahmee Laksa Lemak
Chili Paste Birthday Noodles Nyonya Style
Kuih Ko Chee (Steamed Glutinous Rice Paste With Coconut Filling) Kuih Lompang (Steamed Rice Cakes With Coconut Topping)
Kuih Bolu (Nyonya Sponge Small Cake) Kuih Bangkit
Kuih Ko Swee (Rice Cup Cakes) Coconut Filling
Kuih Bingka Ubi Kayu (Nyonya Tapioca Cake) Sweet Chili Sauce
Hot Chili Sauce Seri Kaya (Rich Egg Custard)
Pineapple Tarts Pineapple Filling
Garam Assam Paste Dried Chili Paste
Sambal Tumis (BASIC SAMBAL) Chili Garam Paste
Rempah Titik Salted Fish Sambal
Rendang Rempah for Seafood Sambal for Crispy Anchovies
Sambal Belacan Curry Rempah
Kurma Powder Basic Rempah Rendang
Rempah Tumis for Fish Curry Curry Powder for Fish Curry
Rempah Gulai Curry Powder for Meat Curry
Tauhu Masak Titik (spicy bean curd and salted fish soup) Buah Paya Masak Titik (papaya soup)
Sambal Udang Kering Goreng (fried dried prawns) Stuffed Cuttlefish Soup
Goreng Ikan Terubuk (fish in screwpine leaves) Prawn Salad
Ayam Buah Keluak (chicken in black nut curry) Hee Peow Soup (fish maw soup)
Ikan Masak Assam Pekat (fish in tamarind juice) Ayam Goreng Assam (fried tamarind chicken)
Kuih Chang Babi (glutinous rice dumpling with pork filling) Sambal Sotong (hot spicy cuttlefish)
Udang Kuah Pedas Nanas (prawns in pineapple gravy) Sambal Udang (prawn sambal)
Babi Assam (pork braised in tamarind sauce) Ayam Merah (chicken in red spicy sauce)
Satay Babi (grilled spicy pork skewers and peanut sauce) Ayam Tempra (spicy chicken)




In nyonya households, mealtimes were of grand affairs, with cuisine that delighted the palate with varying tastes, flavors and textures. While tea-time meant more of melt-in-the-mouth treats. Food was cooked with an exacting skill.

Northern nyonya cooking is heavily influenced by Thai cuisine because of Thailandís close proximity. The cooking mostly use of chilies, lime juice and tamarind pulp. The unmistakable sour, searing, hot sensation is evidence of this. Generally, northern nyonya cooking is hot, spicy and lemak (rich). A lot of pungent roots (lengkuas, serai, turmeric, halia), aromatic leaves (daun pandan, daun kaduk, daun pudina, daun kesum) and other ingredients like shrimp paste (belacan), dried prawns (heh bee), fresh and dried chilies, limes and tamarind paste are used in its cooking.

The richness of the dishes comes from the generous use of coconut milk (santan) and spices. To counteract the cloy feeling there are sour dishes which make use of tamarind paste or lime juice. This gives a good balance of tastes in meals. Though most homes cook similar dishes, they are prepared with great variations to suit individual family tastes. This accounts for why one family's acars (pickles) are more crunchy and spicy than another's or why gulais (curries) are not as fiery hot or tangy as the others.

However, preparation was always meticulous and results delicious, Whether it was a kuih, sambal, gulai or acar, a nyonya kitchen always turned out impeccable, perfect concoctions. Today, a lot of these foods are rarely prepared, let alone served at family meals. Our modern, hurried pace of life and lack of willing hands have led to the commercially prepared variety of nyonya food.

Most of the recipes have been in the family for generations and generations. It is the result of collection of daily nyonya staples of generations. A lot of these recipes are family secrets; tried, tested and retested till near-perfect. Two of such special dishes are Salt-fish Acar and Limau Acar. They have undergone 30 years of experimentation and adaptation who lifted the recipes from the family's old cookery files. Also included are quite a few less well-known recipes. These are no longer prepared regularly either because the recipes have become obscure or the ingredients are no longer readily available, Heh Kian Taugeh and Salt-fish Branda are cases in point. Some of the recipes that are not strictly nyonya in origin but are regular food in nyonya households. Mee Rebus is one of these.

The recipes in this collection show up the differences between northern (Penang) and southern (Malacca and Singapore) nyonya cooking. Aside from the wide variety of sambals and acars that dominate northern nyonya cooking, there are also certain dishes peculiar to, and synonymous with, this cuisine, Among them are Purut Ikan (a delicacy made from fish stomach), Bosomboh (a crispy salad tossed in a thick gravy sauce), Egg Branda, Penang Rojak and Prawn Congee to name a few.

Traditional northern nyonya cooking was difficult to master in the past because standard measurements were seldom used in the kitchen. Everything was done through estimation method, where a pinch of this or a toss of that, a handful of this and a thumbful of that were the only cooking measurements at hand. Thankfully, we do not have to resort to this instinctive method of cooking today, but we do have to convert from imperial to metric.

The round bottomed kuali or iron wok is the most useful utensil when cooking in a nyonya kitchen. This large, wide-mouthed, deep pan is ideal because it can accommodate all kinds of cooking, whether it be deep-frying, stir-frying, steaming or stewing.

A thinner version of the kuali is recommended for frying rice, kuih teow, mee and vegetables. This is what gives that special taste found in foods prepared by hawkers, The secret lies in heat coming faster through the thinner kuali and thus the ingredients do not hove the tendency to stick to the sides (as it does in the thicker, regular kuali), The taste and the finish of the dish therefore, comes out better,

While gulais (curries) are usually cooked in an Indian cloy pot, those with a steady hand can use the regular kuali for the same purpose without sacrificing taste, For soups, the traditional nyonya cook used a gnah phoh (enamel pot) for both boiling and simmering.

For pounding and grinding of spices and roots, the traditional way was to use the batu lesong (mortar and pestle) and the batu giling (grinding stone and roller).

The batu lesong is used for pounding sambal belacan, dried prawns, groundnuts, onions, chilies, dried chilies and serai, The batu giling is used when the rempah includes spices like ketumbar (coriander), jintan putih (fennel seeds) and jintan manis (cumin seeds), Grinding this way is easier and quicker than pounding with pestle and mortar and you also get a finer paste. In the modern kitchen, the blender or grinder is, of course, the handiest way to prepare sambals or spices. The cooks of the old school, however, swear that taste is sacrificed for convenience.

Another indispensible utensil in a nyonya kitchen is the parut. Used for grating coconut, tapioca, fresh ginger, carrot, potato and the like, it is usually a metal sheet perforated with holes of various sizes. To parut, therefore, means to grate or shred.

An Indian claypot or belanga is ideal for frying a rempah. A kuali can be used to good effect as well, provided heat is well controlled and low, If care is not taken, the rempah will either dry out, get stuck to the bottom of the pan or get burnt.

Oil for frying should always be hot before any ingredients are added, It is always important that rempah is well stirred, fragrant and bubbling in enough oil before other ingredients ore added. If It shows a tendency to dry up, add a little extra oil or coconut milk and stir well. In nyonya cooking, the way a rempah is fried is what counts most as it contributes directly to a well cooked dish,

The nyonya hold their own cooking terms such as tumis, kembang and wajek-wajek.

Tumis: To fry till fragrant.
Kembang: To expand in volume or size.
Wajek-wajek: To cut or slice at a slant Popularly employed in cutting vegetables.
Rempah: Mixture of ground or pounded ingredients,

To the nyonya of old, cooking was an accomplishment, an art to be proud of. It was with pride that she applied her skills in the never-ending daily task of preparing food. Her efforts were not in vain, for northern nyonya cuisine can boast of dishes exclusive to it.

As always, it was the nyonya cook's innovative experimentation that cooked up winners like Bosomboh, Penang Rojak, Nyonya Chang, Lobak, Stuffed Taukua, Purut Ikan and Egg Branda.

In their own right, these dishes have become very special, for they are so versatile that they can be eaten as an appetizer, a snack, a side dish or even as a meal by themselves. The nyonya have their own terms for such dishes; chia thit tho, literally meaning eating for the sheer enjoyment or pleasure derived from it, whatever the time of day, whatever the occasion or time of year.

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