Monday, April 13, 2009

A Breeze at Nyonya Food

After a long list of Western food reviews, I have decided to turn to some unique local cuisines symbolic of our country; and specifically in Penang.

Peranakan is a unique ethnicity which originates from the mixed marriages of the Chinese immigrants and the local Malays during the period of our ties with China. This community is unique in the sense they have blended and influenced the culture of both the Chinese and the Malays to form their own identity.
The Peranakan is commonly found particularly along the states of the straits, namely; Singapore, Melaka and Penang.
We often refer to them as Baba and Nyonya; where Baba refers to the men and Nyonya, the women.

Uniquely enough, perhaps due to the influence of the environment and the local culture, the Peranakan food/cuisine found in different states are actually different.
Also at the same time, notice how we always refer to the cuisine as either Peranakan or Nyonya food, but never Baba food?

If you are looking for true authentic food native to a state, you must try Nyonya food in Penang, Melaka and Singapore, as these will be the states where Peranakan food is the native and the most local food you can find.
(Of course, in Penang, there is still the Penang hokkien food:)

I often found it interesting that Penang seems to sport more of Japanese or Italian food compared to their own native food as there does not seem to be a lot of Nyonya or Hokkien restaurants around.
Anyway, if you happen to be in the famous Abu Siti lane (where the famous coconut and the Thai food resides), you will not miss this unique and amazingly low-roofed building on your left when you turn into the road from Macalister Road.

Nyonya Breeze, it is named and they have a brightly lit place with a bright green signboard as well.
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If you are there for dinner, they start from 6.30pm onwards although when we went in sharp on time, they were already serving 3 tables.
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Baffled, but we still chose our table and sat on the hard and dark wooden stools they have
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The ancient pictures of the wall of the typical Peranakan costume/appearances is evident of the cuisine they serve here
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Now for a peek into the Nyonya food offered and tried
Fish Fillet served with tamarind sauce, onions and crisps of fried shallots (RM14)
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Pricing was a little steep for this small sized serving of the fish fillet, and the fish was overly fried to the point that it tasted so dry and a little hard.
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The gravy, on the other hand, was appetizing as it was slightly sourish and Tamarind scented that it was a great complement for the fish.
Too bad the fish was too hard!

Assam Prawns (RM16) was a pretty reasonable serving and the prawns served were medium in size.
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The prawns were not too fresh or succulent, which was also again, the downside of this dish. At the same time, they did not marinate it fully and according to my friend, authentic Assam prawns are meant to be eaten wholly; inclusive of the shells as well.
Oh really, in that case, the prawns here can't be bitten or swallowed as they were not cooked to that point where the shell and the flesh are as one.Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Their recommended Kacang Botol which we chose to serve with Sambal (RM8)
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It was rather oily but since I am always a fan of this four angler beans, I will give it a pass.
They also included 2-3 shrimps served along with the dish, and the sambal was quite fragrant although, did I mention it was oily?

Finally, the Kerabu Beehoon (RM7)
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Now personally, this would be my pick for the best and favorite dish here.
It was good; and the taste and scent of Kerabu was just so appetizing.
In fact, you find yourself taking more of the Kerabu Beehoon which was slightly sourish and spicy and the best thing is, it's not too dry.
I recommend this dish if you were there!
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It was not a bad place for Nyonya food; and the environment is nice.
They have been featured in the news as well; and that's how I ended up ordering their Kacang Botol and Assam prawns (besides my love for the former). why there is never a Baba food?
Perhaps Nyonyas were the ones who came up with the recipes?
After all, women used to be the one stuck in kitchen during the olden days, right?
Just my thought...


  1. Hey didn't this place close down at one time? We had a couple of good visits there and then abruptly earlier this year, it was closed when we went a few times in a row, with no notice or sign. I remember the assam fish curry they had with cod... would love to go back!

  2. Oh really? Come to think of it, ya, coz I remembered at one point shortly after their opening, it seemed isolated for a short while, and I was thinking,"Wah, so fast shut down dy?" =P

    Oooo, I was planning to try their assam fish next round...anything else you recommend?

  3. hahahaha I also wonder why no Baba food? hehehehe

  4. Hehehe BBO, Baba don't cook...they EAT! LOL =P