Nyonya cuisine, also referred to as Peranakan, is tangy, aromatic, spicy, and herbal due to a depth of strong flavours and aromas derived from Malay and Fujian cooking methods, with regional variations blending the ingredients and wok cooking of the Chinese with the spices used by Malays. In Singapore and Melaka, greater use of coconut milk is evident, whiles in Penang the sour tamarind is used more liberally.
Nyonya cuisines delicious flavours rise from the time-consuming pounding of spices on a flat stone slab to make a paste. The key ingredients are chilies, ganangal, ginger, candlenuts, pandan leaves, tamarind, and shrimp paste.
Peranaksans, created customs, cuisine, and an entire lifestyle all very much still evident among the Straits Chinese or Baba Nyonya communities.
Dr. Lee Su Kim
Dr. Lee Su Kim is a sixth generation Nyonya with roots in both Penang and Malacca Peranakan communities. She has written ten books of fiction and non-fiction, including the bestselling ‘Malaysian Flavours: Insights into Things Malaysian’ based on her column in the ‘The Star’ and ‘Manglish: Malaysian English at its Wackiest’. Her first work of fiction explores the life-stories of the Babas and Nyonyas famed for their cuisine and flamboyant material culture in ‘Kebaya Tales: Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers’.
It was awarded the national Popular-Star Readers’ Choice Awards, 2011.This was followed by ‘Sarong Secrets: Of Love, Loss and Longing’ in 2014. Her book ‘A Nyonya in Texas: A Straits Chinese Woman in the Lone Star State’ explores with humour, cross cultural encounters between East and West.
Dr. Lee is a writer, speaker, language consultant and cultural activist. Previously Professor Madya at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, she has more than thirty years of teaching and researching experience. She was an invited speaker to the Ubud Writers & Readers festival, Bali 2009 and the Singapore Writers festival in 2014. She is the founder member and first woman president of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Melissa Chan is the Housekeeper for the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, Melaka. The museum is a house where four generations of the Peranakan Chinese Chan family lived since 1861. Visitors to the house are taken back in time on a journey as they walk through this late 19th Century and early 20th Century house.
The museum was open to the public by Chan Kim Lay who is the fourth generation of the family, in 1985. Melissa is the fifth generation of the Chan family. She left her career running an advertising business in Kuala Lumpur when her uncle Kim Lay passed away, to be a part of this family endeavour. Today she focuses her time on developing creative ways to share the story of the Peranakan Chinese in Malacca with visitors. She is working on an illustrative book which she hopes will inspire the younger generation to appreciate their own heritage. She will be reading one story from this book for Sharpened Word. The book will be launched later this year.
Sharpened Word Literary Happening
Date : Saturday, 16th July 2016,
Time : 2:00pm–5:00 pm
Venue: Old Andersonians’ Club, 932 Jalan Hospital, Ipoh.