Saturday, 25 April 2015

An Example of Malaysian Nonya Cooking

Nonya or Peranakan Cuisine is a tasty part of Malaysian Cuisine. Historically, it derives from the intermarriage of Chinese and Malay men and women, bringing their Chinese ancestral cooking skills and ingredients and combining these with the spices and techniques of the Malay (and Indonesian) communities, creating a range of unique aromatic and spicy dishes.

About the chef? She has lived abroad for longer than she has lived in Malaysia. For many years she had to improvise with ingredients which were simply unavailable. However, she has fond memories of the culinary lessons of her Nonya grandmother. Our Sydney garden allows her the opportunity to relearn past skills and experiment with the ingredients available here.

Below is an example of home-style Nonya Cooking which we regularly enjoy. Asam means 'sour' but refers to the use of tamarind. This dish also contains calamari (sotong), prawns (udang) and lemon basil (kemangi). For a different flavour, leave out the lemon basil.

Our version of Asam. 
Asam Sotong Udang Kemangi

For four people, you will need..

      Calamari, 300 gms
      Prawns, 500 gms

      Belachan (Prawn Paste), ½ tsp
      Garlic, 4 cloves crushed
      Chillies, 10 chopped (or to taste)

      Lemon Grass, 2 stems crushed
      Tamarind Puree, 2 tsp
      Turmeric, 1 tsp

      Cherry tomatoes, 10 halved 
      Kemangi (Lemon Basil) leaves, 1 cup

      Limau kasturi (Calamondin), juice from 2 limes
      Sugar, 1 tsp

   1. Fry in some oil the garlic, chillies and belachan.
   2. Add the water. Then add the lemon grass, tamarind and turmeric. Cook these until fragrant.
   3. Add the calamari, prawns and tomatoes. Cook very briefly because the seafood will cook quickly.
   4. Finally, add the lemon basil, and balance the flavours with the lime juice, sugar and salt.

   Notes... You may have noticed in the photograph that potatoes have been used as a filler.
                The chef in this house always talks of 'agak-agak' when cooking. These are Malay words for 'educated guess'. Therefore, every 'asam' dish will vary naturally from the next, including the use of vegetables and herbs.

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