“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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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?
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!