Peranakan cuisine came around when interracial marriages first began in the 15th century. Nowadays, Nyonya food is widely popular among Malaysians for its rich and complex flavours. Often times, multiple spices are used in one dish that is cooked for hours. Here, we’ve got you covered from north to south with eateries offering dishes that are made with recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Located in Ipoh town centre, Yum Yum Restaurant has been around since 1991 and is among the locals’ many favourite spots to dine at. Owned by a Chinese couple, they offer an interesting medley of Nyonya and Thai food with Chinese influences that make them stand out. They have a sister outlet in Kuala Lumpur called Little Yum and both outlets are pork-free. Start with a refreshing appetizer like the mango kerabu before moving on to their classic dishes like sambal petai prawns, assam fish head and Yum Yum egg. It can get crowded here, so it’d be best to head there early or call ahead for reservations.
Take a step back into the past at Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine. The interior is quaintly decorated with rows of tin teapots, tiffins, and old irons on display in a pre-war shophouse-turned-restaurant at Georgetown. Perut Rumah serves up flavourful classic Peranakan dishes that will have you feeling satisfied at the end of the meal. Start with some appetizers like pie tee or kerabu kacang botol (a type of salad). Their classics include enche kabin (Nyonya-spiced fried chicken), Nyonya fried rice, cincaluk pork, assam pedas (spicy tamarind soup with pineapple and fish), and otak-otak.
Nyonya food is a labour of love. It takes detailed preparation, from marinating to preparing the spices and hours of labour-intensive cooking. Auntie Gaik Lean, the matron of this restaurant which is named after her, is particular about how the dishes are prepared. You will find traditional Nyonya dishes like popiah (deep-fried spring rolls), lor bak (five-spiced meat spring rolls), curry fish, assam prawns, and chicken curry kapitan — the much loved Nyonya dish. Auntie Gaik Lean’s is popular among locals, so you’ll see a large crowd during lunch and dinner-hours. If you are unsure of what to have, ask for recommendations and you are all set for a good feast.
Shelley Yu’s, located in Bangsar, made a bold move of challenging traditions by adding a modern flair into Nyonya food and offering one-of-a-kind Nyonya-inspired cocktails in an eclectic, charming setting. Like many Peranakan eateries, recipes at Shelley Yu are family secrets passed down for many generations. The extensive menu offers popular dishes like pie tee, pongteh, Nyonya curry, udang sambal petai (prawns with stinky beans), sotong masak hitam (squid braised in ink, soy and chili), Nyonya laksa, and telur dadar (Nyonya omelette). To end your meal, order one of the many Nyonya-inspired cocktails. Local flavours like galangal, assam boi, coriander, laksa milk, gula melaka, and sambal are carefully balanced to complement the spirits.
Nothing brings more comfort than mom’s cooking. With recipes inspired by the owners’ mother, this restaurant brings you homey and halal Nyonya dishes that are truly Malaysian. Located in Damansara Perdana, Mum’s Place is a neighbourhood gem with its main clientele from residents nearby. However, good food knows no boundaries. The restaurant is full of pictures taken with famous people, including local artists and international stars, who have come here for the food. Some of the best dishes include cencaru fish, devil curry chicken, beef rendang, sambal prawns, and assam pedas. The food tends to be spicy, so order a bowl of cendol to help cool things down.
Glimpse into the past at Old China Cafe, one of the oldest restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. As you step into the restaurant, you’ll notice many of its architectural structure is still in its original pre-war state. This charming restaurant has also adopted both Malacca and Penang’s style of Nyonya cooking and many of the recipes here have been passed down for generations. You will find classic Nyonya dishes here. Start with some appetizers: Spring rolls, pie eee, or lobak are light snacks to get your tummy ready for more good food. The one-dish meals like Nyonya laksa and Nyonya fried rice are some of the favourites here. Other highlights include Nyonya rendang chicken, beef rendang, and siu yook devil curry.
Sri Nyonya is all about no fusion, no adaptations, and no shortcuts. A family-run Penang Nyonya restaurant since 1986, Sri Nyonya’s recipes have been passed down in the family over four generations. Located in Section 22, Petaling Jaya, the restaurant gives off a really homey vibe, much like the dining room of a Chinese family: photo frames on the walls, an antique piano, and some out-of-place office furniture. Some of the highlights here include the assam fish, sambal petai udang, fern shoot, otak-otak, beef rendang, enche kabin, and the homemade ice-cream.
Nyonya Delights is not your usual Peranakan restaurant. Located about 20 minutes from downtown Malacca, it is a home-based hawker-style eatery with about 10 tables manned by four operators. Unlike most restaurants, food is self-service here, with dishes placed on catering pans for patrons to choose from. The menu for breakfast and lunch remains the same. You will find nasi lemak, Nyonya laksa, Nyonya rice dumplings, mee siam, and chicken rendang among the offerings. Mostly patronised by locals in the area, their dishes sell out fast, so it’d be best to head there before lunch time.
Located near Dataran Pahlawan, Cottage Spices is a quaint homey restaurant that serves delicious Nyonya food. The dishes are prepared the traditional way, flavoured with a lot of spices like star anise, nutmeg, lemongrass, peppercorn, and ginger. Case in point, the popular assam pedas and curry fish are both cooked with at least 10 different types of spices, just the way they used to do it. There are few tables at the restaurants and lines tend to get long. If you’re bogged down by having too many choices, just follow the recommended dishes and you’ll definitely have a good time here.
Nancy’s recipes have been passed down for three generations, and her family continues to serve delicious Peranakan food that strictly follows these recipes. The layout of the restaurant is simple and cozy. Reservations should be made in advance, especially during lunch, as Nancy’s is widely popular. Start with the pie tee — the shells are handmade and stuffed with fresh ingredients — or the spring roll that goes with the homemade chilli and sweet sauce. Some of the must-tries at Nancy’s include chicken rendang, pork ribs with keluak nut, babi cincalok, and chicken pongteh.
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