One of Southeast Asia’s most diverse cuisines, Peranakan food marries Chinese, Malay, and Indian ingredients and cooking techniques. Peranakan culture dates back to the 15th century when Chinese men migrated south to build new lives, later marrying the local Malay women. Being “Peranakan” means to be “locally born,” a term coined by the community to set themselves apart from the newer Chinese immigrants who arrived in Singapore and Malaysia in the 19th and early-20th centuries. Men were called “Babas” and women “Nonyas.” Let’s explore some Peranakan or Nonya food.

Ayam buah keluak (chicken stewed with black nuts)
©PixHound/Adobe Stock via CNN

http___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_220303175308-01-peranakan-food-galleryNothing says Peranakan cuisine more than Ayam buah Keluak. This stew is made with chicken, tamarind, spices, and buah keluak nuts that are needed to be fermented for a few months to reduce their toxicity.

Hee pio soup (fish maw soup)

©Sharon Wee and Marshall via CNN

http___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_220307005458-03-peranakan-food-gallery-dupeEaten during Lunar New Year feasts, this hearty soup contains meatballs, fishballs, chicken, cabbage, and egg rolls.

Sambal belachan (shrimp paste chili)

©Huang Yuetao/Adobe Stock via CNN

http___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_220303180059-06-peranakan-food-galleryThis versatile paste adds a kick to any dish. It is made by blending belachan (dried shrimp paste), red chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and a pinch of sugar.

Kueh ko sui (palm sugar cake)

©chee siong teh/Adobe Stock via CNN

http___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_220303175918-04-peranakan-food-galleryFor dessert, Nyonyas offer a chewy cake called Kueh Ko sui. It is made by combining gula melaka (palm sugar), rice flour, tapioca flour, and lye water. The mixture is steamed, cut into cubes, and rolled in freshly grated coconut.

The Peranakans’ age-old cuisine and culture are still thriving in many Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They can be experienced in restaurants, neighborhoods, and museums.