Chinese New Year is observed by many different cultures, including the Peranakan community. Also known as the Baba and Nyonya, it’s a heritage unique to Southeast Asia with a highly-regarded cuisine that has a distinct flavour of its own. With the New Year beckoning, it’s an opportune time to explore some Peranakan-inspired dishes to help you attract a prosperous crowd.
Tamarind Prawns with Okra
This is a simple recipe that provides a burst of flavours, thanks to the boldness and tartness of the tamarind that perfectly complements the sweetness of the fresh prawns. You can experiment with your own fragrant mixture of chillies, onions and curry leaves to create a taste that will leave guests licking their lips and fingers.
Salted Vegetable Duck Soup
There are many versions of this auspicious dish, but the Nyonya version, also known as Itik Tim,is unique in its use of galangal, which gives it a distinctive taste. You can also explore adding ingredients such as nutmeg or tamarind, and vary the amount of sour plums, green mustards and chilli to give it a more flavourful kick.
Braised Chicken with Fermented Bean Paste
This is a typical Peranakan dish that features a mix of exotic ingredients, ranging from fermented bean paste, palm sugar, star anise to cinnamon sticks. It is a combination of salty and sweet that tingles the taste buds. Adding tofu puffs to the mix will result in them soaking up the gravy, which will release a burst of flavours with each bite. Best enjoyed with white rice and fresh sambal belacan on the side.
Cucumber and Pineapple Salad
This dish can either be served as a side dish or on its own. You can mix the base of cucumber pineapples with a sauce consisting of chilli paste, dried shrimp, shrimp paste, salt and crushed peanut brittle – adding and subtracting as you desire. The end result consists of refreshingly spicy notes with a hint of rich nuttiness and caramel sweetness.
Coconut Egg Custard with Glutinous Rice
Also known as Kueh Sarlat, this dish is made with glutinous rice and black-eyed beans, topped off with a layer of steamed coconut egg custard. Preparing it is a labour of love, but it’s well worth the effort. Dried blue pea flowers are a must to give the glutinous rice its blue tinge, but feel free to add different flavourings to create your own colour of custard.
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