One of Southeast Asia’s most diverse cuisines, Peranakan food is a combination of 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”. Men were called “Babas” and women “Nonyas.” Let’s explore some Peranakan or Nonya food.

Ayam buah keluak (chicken stew with black nuts)
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Nothing says Peranakan cuisine more than Ayam buah Keluak. This stew is made with chicken, tamarind, spices, and buah keluak nuts.

Hee pio soup (fish maw soup)

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Eaten during Lunar New Year feasts, this hearty soup contains meatballs, fishballs, chicken, cabbage, and egg rolls.

Sambal belachan (shrimp paste chili)

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This paste can add an exciting flavor 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)

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For 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 alive in many Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They can be experienced in restaurants, neighborhoods, and museums.