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PENANG’S NYONYA CUISINE FROM PEARLY KEE

My Nyonya dinner plate at  Pearly Kee's home
One of my Saturday dinner plates prepared by Ms. Pearly Kee. Yes, that’s blue rice on my plate. 🙂

“Peranakan or Nonya cuisine combines Chinese, Malay and other influences into a unique blend.

Peranakans are descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Indonesia and Singapore, inter-marrying with local Malays. The old Malay word nonya (also spelled nyonya), a term of respect and affection for women of prominent social standing (part “madame” and part “auntie”), has come to refer to the cuisine of the Perakanans.” via Wiki

As a Filipino living and working in Penang for almost three years now, I always feel privileged and pleased whenever my family and I are invited and welcomed by Malaysian friends to spend memorable moments with them. It’s priceless when local people make us feel at ease, more so, when they offer and share something about their own culture, tradition and lifestyle.

Last Saturday, 6th April 2013, in her very own abode tucked in a quiet corner of Pulau Tikus, Ms. Pearly Kee greeted us with warmest smile, together with her equally admirable husband, Mr. Chandra who voluntarily picked us up and drove us back to the bus station near their place. Generosity, although rarity nowadays, is always appreciated!

Tina, Gabby and I were invited by Ms. Pearly via email several weeks ago to partake in the Nyonya Dinner at her humble home where she also conducts Penang Nyonya Cooking Classes. Despite the almost entire-day-of-non-stop-raining which is a bit unusual in Penang and in spite of the fact that my lovely wife failed to join us for some weekend chores and other things to be done at our own apartment, Gabby and I managed to arrived few minutes over the 7:30PM call time and enjoyed what Aunty Pearly prepared that led our Filipino palates’ to an official introduction to Nyonya cuisine.

Pearly Kee, Chandra & Gabby
Gabby with Aunty Pearly Kee and  husband, Uncle Chandra. Thank you for inviting us!

I read that Ms. Pearly learned her Nyonya cooking expertise from her grandmother and she’s actively passing it on to anyone interested in joining her culinary sessions. Famous and respected as one of Penang’s food ambassadors, we first met Ms. Pearly during one of her Penang Home Cooking classes when we visited Tropical Spice Garden (blog post Here!). She was even thoughtful to include the link of my blog post about Tropical Spice Garden when she sent her invitation to us. That was a nice gesture of her. Thank you, Ms. Pearly!

Here’s a rundown of the Nyonya dishes that Ms. Pearly Kee prepared for her guests.
Blue Rice by Pearly Kee
Blue Rice : Aromatic, fascinating and uniquely flavorful as it looks!

If you must know, my family and I forgot to sample a similar Malaysian rice dish, Nasi Kerabu (blue rice) when we visited Kota Bharu in Kelantan back in 2011. Tina got to taste it recently when one of her colleagues in the clinic brought her a bungkus; she liked and craved for it after, even raving about it to me. Imagine my excitement when Gabby and I saw that Aunty Pearly included Blue Rice side by side with the common boiled white rice on her spread that evening. I was a happy man when I got a chance to taste it finally! Lucky me!

With its interesting color and aroma, this Blue Rice was made as such, according to Ms. Pearly, because of the use of the blue flower called Bunga Telang, which in English sounds cheeky, clitoria. Tee hee!  😛

Sambal Goreng by  Pearly Kee
Sambal Goreng. I loved this, not only because I’m a sucker for prawns but this one’s textured, rich and delicious.

Prawns cooked in white sauce, cashews, lemon grass, tamarind and coconut cream served with chili sauce and cucumber, Sambal Goreng stimulated my palates so well. I loved, loved, loved it!

Kerabu Vegetables (Thai Influence) by Pearly Kee
Kerabu Vegetable (Thai Influence). Another favorite from what we savored.

I have no word to explain why Gabby and I were not seduced by the soup in the spread, not because it didn’t look interesting to us, of course not, but probably there were a number of  dishes on the spread to try that were all very new to us. One of them was the Kerabu Vegetable or Veggie Salad with Thai Influence.

What made this salad so fascinating? Ms. Pearly creatively used seromi, instead of the usual greens that are frequently tossed in commercially available salads. She even informed us during the friendly chat over dinner that she brings a volume of seromi that’s commonly grown near rice paddies in Penang, whenever she visits her friends in Singapore. She combined seromi  Sayur Rumi or Pigwort Watercress with four angle beans or kacang botol, shallots and bunga kantan or torch ginger finely shredded with sweet thai sauce. The addition of pineapple tidbits also gave flare on this Kerabu Vegetable! It was so flavorful, I had to go back to the buffet spread for another serving! 🙂

Curry Kapitan by Pearly Kee
Curry Kapitan. Surprisingly, not spicy. Just tasteful with a fascinating story behind its name. Ask Pearly!

Chicken cooked with lemon grass, fresh tumeric, galangal and fresh red chillies, Curry Kapitan is as wonderful as the story behind its name.

Surprisingly, Gabby, who as I mentioned as a little picky eater, liked Curry Kapitan. I wasn’t expecting my boy to favor it as we both thought that it’s hot and spicy with its red orange thick sauce but we were wrong. The chicken was perfectly cooked in a mildly spiced sauce. Tolerable flavor for our tastebuds. Gabby and I had two servings of this dish too! Need I say more? 😉

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Of all Nyonya dishes, I regret I forgot to sample this. We all need to be prosperous, right? 😀

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Ju Hu Char. Best eaten wrapped in leaves. I liked this too!

Ju hu char is a perfect appetizer made up of mixed stir-fried vegetables eaten with lettuce leaves and a bit of ‘sambal’ or chilli paste. I had two servings as well. Burp!

5 Spiced Pork Roll by Pearly Kee
5 Spiced Pork Roll. Even the picky-eater in Gabby liked this!

Gabby and I also gave our thumbs-up to this pork rolls. It reminded me of our very own longganisa or our local sausages that have a lot of varieties in the Philippines. I only wished it tasted smoked and more garlicky but I guess it’s not its flavor. We liked it, nontheless.

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Spices and more at Pearly’s kitchen cum cooking class area.

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Who’s excited to sample Nyonya cakes and tropical fruits? 🙂

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Jackfruit and Rose Apple also known as Jambu Air.

Nyonya Kuih and Jackfruit Slices
Nyonya Kuihs and Jackfruit Slices.

Dessert spread may be simple but also a must-try. Although it wasn’t my first time to try Nyonya Kuihs or Nyonya cakes in colorful slices, we didn’t pass it up. We had it with jackfruit slices which is one of our favorite fibrous fruits, and we washed down everything with a refreshing drink prepared by Ms. Pearly made of pineapples and passion fruits (grown in her lawn) garnished with strawberry slices (not in photo). It was so good, again I had two servings, err, glasses! 🙂

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Yes, that’s Durian made into a sweetened dessert with tiny tapioca.

God knows my family and I are not fond of Durian as Malaysians and other Filipinos do; still Gabby and I tried to taste this Durian made into a sweet puree by Ms. Pearly. No force or coercion was done in tasting it, we did it freely, hehehe!

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At this point, Gabby and I were already satiated and satisfied! Thank you, Ms. Pearly & Mr. Chandra!

The other guests of Ms. Pearly, both expatriates and local friends who made it that evening….
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Ms. Pearly Kee and her invited guests in her home in Penang.

It was another family-food-fun occasion for us! Thank you, Ms. Pearly Kee for everything! It was a pleasure meeting one of the gems of Penang! Hope to see you again in the near future!
At Pearly Kee's Home
Articles from broadsheets, magazines & online are remarkable proofs that Pearly is loved and respected in Penang.

Get to know more of Ms. Pearly Kee and her Penang Home Cooking Classes via the following links :

Websites : Penang-Homecooking-Class  via  Packages of Penang Nyonya Cooking : My Island Penang.Com | Twitter : @PgHomecooking | Facebook : Pearly Homecooks and Pearly Kee on fb.  You may also register HERE! and state your preferred date and number of guests.

Should you feel interested in contacting Ms. Pearly Kee, kindly give my regards to her & tell her you read about her and her expertise in Nyonya Cooking on this blog. Thank you! 🙂

>><<

25 Comments

  1. Yvette Yvette

    I am drooling over the pictures and can imagine the divine smell of the dishes. Hope Gabby got to take some kuih for the trip home. I am sure we have seen Aunty Pearl on television.

    • Hello Yvette,

      So nice to hear from you again. Yes, those Nyonya dishes that were authentically done by Pearly Kee were really divine! They taste even better than they look on my photos!

  2. It’s dishes like the ones you described here that make me miss my maternal grandparents and all those childhood trips to Malaysia. 🙁

    • i know, as you experienced living in malaysia for years, right?
      your appreciation for cooking and food itself must have been incomparable.

  3. Oh gosh! I always end up hungry, if not drooling, with your food posts. Now I really want to go back to Penang just to eat! hehehe

    • Let me know when you find a chance to revisit Penang, Kat. We’ll have food tripping if that happens! 😀

  4. I like all the photos of the food! But I would like to taste all of them, too! Especially the blue rice! and the desserts. Yes, you are one blessed man to finally taste the blue rice. Haha, the name really is cheeky. 🙂

    • Hi Beth, welcome to my site!

      The blue rice is unique, isn’t it?

      Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Amazingly colorful post and meal – I have never seen Blue Rice before!!

    • the blue rice really kicked the curious foodie in me.
      as mentioned, i liked it.
      i’m not sure if it’s unique to malaysia, though.

  6. It looks like you’re getting really known and embraced by the Penang community doc. What a blessing. The dishes all look yummy, I am more taken by the blue rice. It’s fascinating and I really wanted to get a taste of it.

    • the blue rice is really interesting! imagine, it was made blue not of an artificial color but from a blue flower! amazing, isn’t it? 🙂

  7. Nisha Nisha

    I couldn’t resist from commenting here. I am a great fan of Malaysia & its cuisine. Have been going there every 5-6 months for last so many years. The blue rice is really interesting. I have to admit here, I have never seen Blue Rice before.

    • hi nisha, thank you for leaving a comment on my blog! really appreciate it.

      blue rice, although usually found in some pasar malam or night markets here and in few hawker stalls, are more common in kota bahru in kelantan; they prepare and call it there as nasi kerabu.

      despite it was not nasi kerabu, i’m happy to sampled it over pearly kee’s invitational dinner.
      truly fascinating! the fragrance or its aroma had me too! a must-try when you (re)visit malaysia!

  8. The blue rice really caught my attention, looks weird hehehe. I think there are some Malay words that are similar to Filipinos like “bunga” although they use it as “flower” and we use that as the fruit which is also flower of the tree di ba? hehehe and nasi as rice in kapampangan and I think bawang is the same as ours too. Ttheir dish is similar to Thai like the chicken red curry, the ingredients are almost the same. Vietnamese and Thai love jackfruits. Doc di na kita maabot, bigatin ka na talaga…..mga popular people na ang mga friends mo ngayon hehehe, congrats and more power to your blog

    • hello missy! yes, that blue rice looks uniquely fascinating!
      you’re also right in stating that a lot of words in bahasa melayu (or bahasa malaysia) are similar to our very own tagalog, or our other dialects in the philippines. polis, balay, kanan, payong, sakit, and many more (naubusan ako! hehehe!).

      thai influence? because the northern border of malaysia is thailand! there are a number of thai also found in penang, being at the northwestern state.

      bigatin? ako? oo, nanaba lalo e, sarap kumain! hehehe! 😛

  9. u8mypinkcookies u8mypinkcookies

    just went to malaysia for vacation. food trip to the max 😀

    • hmm, where did you go? i’ll swing to your blog soon! 🙂

  10. Blue rice? That looks interesting. I have also seen “blue” rice before in the Philippines: kanin na may amag! 🙂

    • yikes, wala naman pong amag doc iyong blue rice na iyan, hehehe!
      yup, it looks interesting indeed! eye-candy ang pagka-bughaw! 😀

  11. Oh my, your post made me really hungry! The dishes all look delicious!

    • delicious, indeed! 😀

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