Now what is nyonya food?
Nyonya food is also known as the Straits Chinese food which is an interesting amalgamation of Chinese and Malay dishes thought to have originated from the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) of Malacca. Besides Malacca, Nyonya food is also native to Penang and Singapore. However, over the years, distinct differences have evolved in the Nyonya recipes found in Penang than that in Malacca and Singapore due to the proximity of Malacca and Singapore to Indonesia and Penang to Thailand.
Influences aside, Nyonya recipes are complicated affairs, often requiring many hours of preparation and is about the blending of spices, using pungent roots like galangal, tumeric and ginger; aromatic leaves like pandan leaf and fragrant lime leaf together with other ingredients like candlenuts, shallots, shrimps paste and chilies. Lemon, tamarind, carambola and green mangoes are used to add a tangy taste to many dishes. For dessert, fruits are seldom served but instead colorful cakes are served. Nyonya cakes are rich and varied, often made from ingredients like sweet potato, glutinous rice, palm sugar and coconut milk.
Here's a simple recipe to introduce you to nyonya food and it doesn't require hours of preparation and stirring the pot. Serve with white rice.
Udang Nenas Masak Lemak
16 big tiger prawns or 20-24 small prawns
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup thin coconut milk
2 rice bowls of water
1 whole small pineapple,cubed
Grind into a Paste:
1 piece of belachan (2x2inch)
fresh tumeric root (2x2inch)
fresh galangal root (2x2inch)
2 garlic cloves
1) Heat a pot, kuali or wok. Add 1 cup thick coconut milk to dry paste and cook on medium heat until fragrant.
2) Add water and turn heat to high until mixture reaches a rolling boil.
3) Turn back down to medium heat and add pineapple. After mixture heats up to near boil again, add the 1 cup of thin coconut milk.
4) Add prawns. When prawns are pink and float to the top they are ready to serve.