Toward the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, there were Chinese traders who settled in Malacca, Penang and Singapore. Many of these men married Malay women, and their community came to be known as the Peranakans, or the Straits Chinese. Its men are known as ‘Babas’, and the womenfolk, ‘Nonyas’.
The language, customs and cuisine of this community are a fascinating combination of Chinese and Malay. Straits Chinese cuisine has become a favourite in the region and gained recognition around the world. It is known for blending Chinese and Malay cooking techniques, and the deft use of spices, coconut milk, aromatic roots and leaves in the Malay and Indonesian tradition. Many dishes are built on the flavourful foundation of a rempah, or spice paste.
Some Peranakan must-tries: ayam buah ke!uak (chicken and a hard-shelled nut, stewed in a spicy sour gravy); babi pongteh (pork stewed in soy sauce and spices); bakwan kepiting (pork and crabmeat balls with bamboo shoots soup); chap chye (stewed mixed vegetables) and itek tim (salted vegetable and duck soup).
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