Peranakan cuisine, also called Nonya/Nyonya food (Nonya being the term for a Peranakan woman), is the product of the melding of Chinese and Malay (and also Indonesian) cuisines. It can seem more Malay than Chinese thanks to its use of spices – except that pork is widely used.

Nonya popiah (spring rolls) is a standard dish: rather than being fried, the rolls are assembled by coating a steamed wrap with a sweet sauce made of palm sugar, then stuffed mainly with stir-fried bangkwang, a crunchy turnip-like vegetable. Another classic is laksa, noodles in a spicy soup flavoured in part by daun kesom – a herb with a distinctive taste and fittingly referred to in English as the laksa leaf. Other well-known Nonya dishes include asam fish, a spicy, tangy fish stew featuring tamarind (the asam of the name); otak-otak, fish mashed with coconut milk and chilli paste, then put in a narrow banana-leaf envelope and steamed or barbecued; and ayam buah keluak, chicken cooked with “black nuts” which are actually the large, creamy seeds of a local plant.


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