Keeping Nyonya cuisine alive

PENANG food ambassador and fifth-generation Nyonya Pearly Kee has produced her first cookbook called ‘A Nyonya Inheritance’.

The 98-page hardcover book features 35 traditional Penang Nyonya recipes for dishes like assam laksa, nasi ulam, tau eu bak, sambal udang, otak-otak and chun pneah.

But what sets it apart from other culinary tomes is its attention to tiny details, with lots of tips and techniques provided, to ensure eager home cooks will have no problems recreating the classic dishes.

Speaking at the launching ceremony at China Tiger, a restored heritage house along China Street on Saturday, the passionate Kee said the book was a dream come true.

“Nyonya cuisine is slowly dying, and nowadays, it’s hard to find the authentic tastes I enjoyed in my younger days.

“By sharing these recipes, all of which have been with me for the past 40 or 50 years, I hope the younger generation will learn how to cook the items themselves, and keep the cuisine alive,” she said.

Kee learnt the recipes after spending countless enjoyable hours in the kitchen with her mother and aunts.

Formerly a corporate manager, she has been teaching Nyonya cooking classes for the past six years from her home in Pulau Tikus, and the Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang.

Her students come from all over the world, and include professional chefs and restauranters.

The 35 recipes she chose are the most popular ones among her proteges.

“Nyonya cuisine is so important because it tells the unique story of the assimilation among three races. When the Chinese first came to (then) Malaya, they ate their own food.

“But over time, they began to incorporate elements of Malay and Indian cuisine like certain herbs and spices.

“Penang is probably the only place where you find that each race has their own version of Curry Kapitan,” enthused Kee.

She confesses a liking for jew hoo char, too tor thng and kerabu chicken, amongst others.

Besides reviving interest in Nyonya cuisine, she also hopes her book will inculcate healthier eating habits amongst locals.

She pointed out that Nyonya dishes were healthy as they incorporated lots of fresh ingredients.

Rosalind Chua, the book’s editor, said: “Kee really wants to share the knowledge she’s accumulated over the years.

“She wants keep Nyonya culinary traditions alive.

“She has included plenty of tips and cooking secrets, so that even complete beginners can try out the recipes and come up with delicious dishes.”

The book is published by Clarity Publishing and retails for RM60.

It is available at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, E&O Hotel, Tropical Spice Garden, Areca Books, Leo Books (Island Plaza) and Bon Ton - The Shop.

It is also available as an e-book for Kindle and Kobo readers, and online at

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 0
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Lifestyle , cook book