Baba Nyonya delights

Baba Nyonya delights

Words and photos by Harny Abu Khair

For Muslim foodies, sometimes the most frustrating thing is to make sure that the food is halal.

On the other hand, some chefs would want to stay true to their recipes that have been handed down for generations. This means they have to use original ingredients without compromising even on the use of herb what more, the type of meat which would alter the taste of certain dishes.

In Malaysia, there are a lot of restaurants serving other authentic ethnic and traditional dishes that cater specially to their Muslim customers as they know that the demand is there.

In Melaka, we see many Chinese and Indians halal restaurants and more halal Baba Nyonya restaurants serving traditional cuisines cropping up where pork meat is replaced with other meat such as lamb or chicken and alcohol are not used as an ingredient in their cooking.

One restaurant that has received halal certification and serves authentic Melaka Baba Nyonya dishes is the Nyonya Melaka Village Restaurant at Jalan Parameswara near the heart of Melaka city.

The restaurant is open during lunch and dinner, catering to tourists.

Peranakan dishes are mostly invented through hybridised culture in local food preparation.

Originated from China, these communities could not get certain ingredients from their homeland and the local food did not suit their taste buds. So, they had to improvise by using some local herbs and spices in their cooking.

Thus, the Chinese Peranakan dishes were invented with culinary influences from Malay, Indian, Thai, Dutch and English food preparations.

At the Nyonya Melaka Village Restaurant, Nyonya dishes such as Ayam Pongteh, Sambal Sotong Petai, Siakap Masak Nyonya and Sambal Bendi are the favourites among their customers. For dessert, the Nyonya Cendol is a perfect choice to wash down all that spicy food.

Apart from enjoying the food, customers are also entertained with the traditional Peranakan music and dances. Most Peranakan dances are inspired by Chinese dances where handkerchiefs, paper fans, paper umbrellas and even tiffin carriers are used.

Nyonya Melaka Village Restaurant is housed at the old original Dutch house for diners to enjoy the Chinese Peranakan dining experience.

Apart from the main dining hall on the ground floor, there are also smaller dining rooms on the upper floor for those who want to hold private functions.

There is also a separate bigger dining hall for those planning to have big family dinners.