In Part 3 of Malaysian Cuisine, I’ll be talking about a culinary experience I had at Kocik Kitchen – Nyonya Restaurant, Peranakan restaurant in Malacca. Perenakans are descendants of Chinese traders who married Malay women, and settled in Malaysia, developing their own style of cooking, language, and dress code. They are also known as Straits Chinese.
When you see the word “Nyonya” next to the name of a restaurant or on a menu, know that it is Peranakan, meaning fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines.
Here is what I tried that day:
Buah Keluak are seeds that come from a large fruit of Pangium Edule, tree native to the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia. The raw fruit and seeds contain hydrogen cyanide and can be deadly if consumed without prior preparation. The seeds can be made edible by washing, boiling, and then burying them in ash, banana leaves, and earth for forty days. During this process the seeds turn from a creamy white color to dark brown or black, and hydrogen cyanide is released from them.
Before adding Buah Keluak to a dish, the seeds must be soaked in water for days before they can be cracked open, after which the flesh is scooped out and ground into paste, and then refilled back in. This black tar like creamy flesh has rich and earthy flavors, which some associate with the taste of strong mushrooms or truffles.
Ayam Buah Keluak, Chicken in Black Nut Curry, is a staple of Peranakan cuisine. It is made with chicken pieces and Buah Keluak, which are cooked in gravy made with tamarind juice and freshly ground spices. (The dish is in the red bowl in the picture below.)
Sambal Sotong is basically squid and onions cooked in Sambal sauce (spicy chili sauce) and topped with chopped scallions.
Ngo Hiang, Five Spicy Meat Rolls, are a delicious appetizer usually prepared during festivities in Chinese households of Malaysia and neighboring countries. The dish originated from China, and “Ngo Hiang” translates from Chinese as “five spice powder”. To prepare the rolls, the filling consisting of ground pork, ground shrimp or fish, a variety of vegetables (like onions and water chestnuts), and five spice powder is rolled into a shell made from bean curd. After that the rolls are steamed then deep fried. These crispy rolls are usually served with Sambal or sweet sauce.
Kocik Otak-Otak is another popular appetizer, which is made with fish-cake paste and spices. As Ngo Hiang, it is steamed and then fried and served with the same kind of sauce. Before serving though it is wrapped into a strip of a banana leaf. (Kochik Otak-Otak is above Ngo Hiang in the picture below.)
Kuih Pie Tee, Top Hats, are deep-fried thin pastry tart shells filled with a mixture of julienned vegetables (yum beans, carrots, radishes and/or turnips), shrimp, and chili sauce. They are then topped with fresh herbs like cilantro or scallions.
Cendol is a popular Malaysian dessert which comes in many varieties, but the one in the picture below is the most popular in Malacca. The shaved ice is topped with coconut milk, gula melaka ( click on the link at the end of the post to read about it), worm-like jelly noodles (made from colored rice flour), and red beans. It is an interesting combination of ingredients for sure.
A peculiar addition to a vegetarian menu 🙂
Click on Jonker Walk – Malacca to read about the most popular street in Malacca.
More to come in Malaysian Cuisine – Part 4.