Nyonya cuisine at The Mansion, Malacca

majestic hotel

I had a rather enjoyable Nyonya dinner at The Mansion at the Majestic Hotel in Malacca – a historical period building that has been turned into a rather nice inn. It’s not one of them budget lodging houses despite how the exterior looks.

mansion malacca

It’s right in the middle of town and the river that courses through Malacca (or Melaka as it’s spelled here) is just opposite the street, if you fancy a stroll by the waterfront.

pianist

The hotel even had a pianist playing soothing Bach (or was it Chopin?) scores while you’re eating your food. I’m being irreverent, I wouldn’t know one from the other although I had piano lessons till Grade 4.

peranakan food

Dinner was buffet style, with most of the dishes located in a central area – there are classic Peranakan food like udang masak nanas (prawns cooked in pineapple curry).

mansion toilet

The toilets are superbly maintained and clean – I was immediately soothed by the scent of vanilla instead of the usual odor of ammonia assaulting the nostrils. Oops…I probably shouldn’t have had this aside, kinda puts people off after talking about shrimp. smirk

bubur cha cha

Back to the food, I was quite full from lunch so I had several bowls of bubur cha cha – a sweet hot soup-like dessert made with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and yam, tapioca, sweet potatoes, all diced up into miniature cubes instead of the clumsy chunks that’s usually served up. It’s much more refined fare over here.

nyonya cuisine

There’s also classic Nyonya mainstays like pai tee (crispy pastry cups filled with an assortment of ingredients) and of course:

popiah
Popiah
Fresh spring roll made of sauteed sweet turnips wrapped in a wheat flour crepe

nyonya otak otak
Otak Otak with Kerabu Nanas
Spicy mackerel paste wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled, served with a tangy pineapple salad

lemongrass satay
Satay Lilit
Grilled chicken skewered on a lemongrass stalk

nyonya food

I didn’t know that otak otak is *only* made from mackerel! It’s information plagiarized gleaned from the leaflet that was on the table, which describes the unique Nyonya cuisine which is a product of inter-marriage between Chinese immigrants and the local Malays.

wine nyonya food

Fun (unresearched and vaguely remembered) fact: There’s a difference in salutation when a Chinese male marries a Malay female and the other way round. I believe the latter is called Nyonya and the former is Baba but I could be very mistaken since that was textbook stuff I recall from half a lifetime ago when I was studying Form 3 History.

kueh

I also found out Shiraz also goes well with Nyonya food but I’m blasé about Chardonnay. However, the best and arguably most well known product of this cuisine is the kueh (or pastries, but dismiss that mental image of pastries coz these are different) with the complex play of textures and flavors!

Restaurant Peranakan, Aunty Koh Cendol, and the Melaka road trip

peranakan restaurant melaka

Restaurant Peranakan is the aptly named place known for it’s Peranakan cuisine. It’s often been cited as the #1 place to go for Nyonya food in Melaka. Peranakan (or Straits Chinese) is a distinctive racial group in Melaka – it comes from Chinese settlers marrying locals and is an entire culture unto itself, the hotbed of which lies in Melaka.

peranakan restaurant

Nyonya food is conglomeration of Chinese and Malay food, but there are some really unique dishes they call their own. I had lunch here while on a road trip to Melaka.

restaurant peranakan

Peranakan Restaurant has a really nice décor which reflects the heydays of the Baba Nyonya clan.

Ayam Buah Keluak

ayam buah keluak

This is perhaps the most well known Nyonya dish. It’s chicken cooked with kepayang tree nuts. Buah keluak is actually poisonous before being prepared for cooking. It prompted a lot of Googling when I mentioned that coz someone ate the inside of the nut.

buah-keluak

I like this dish – it’s a very rich and flavorful one due to the buah keluak. I ate some of the insides of the nuts too – it’s sourish and contributes to the flavor of the chicken. Peranakan Restaurant makes the best ayam buah keluak I’ve had.

Ayam Pongteh

ayam pongteh

I’ve had this at Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food too but that pales in comparison with Peranakan Restaurant’s version.

Ikan Tenggiri Asam Pedas

ikan tenggiri asam pedas

This is a really good and spicy fish dish that I found worthy of mention – it’s cooked with brinjals, tomatos, and ladyfingers and has a sweet, spicy and sour (more towards the latter) gravy that goes very well with rice.

Udang Lemak Nanas

vivid prawns

This is a very rich dish of shrimp cooked with pineapples and lots of oil. I set the camera to Vivid and it almost hurts my eye to look at it.

udang lemak nanas

Here’s one that’s easier on the ocular devices. ;) It’s also one of the dishes I’ll recommend at Peranakan Restaurant.

Nyonya Chap Choy

nyonya chap choy

It’s mixed vegetables, nothing special here.

Kangkung Belacan

kangkung belacan

This dish has strayed into mainstream Chinese cooking that a lot of people forget it’s Nyonya origins. If you want the most authentic version, I guess here’s where you go.

Taufo Peranakan

taufo peranakan

I’m not a huge fan of tofu but it disappeared pretty quickly so I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s pretty good if you like the stuff. ;)

Fo Yong Tan

fo yong tan

I think this is the egg omelet unless I’ve completely messed up my bearings. Forgettable.

Sambal Bendih

sambal bendih

Okra with a splash of sambal on top. Simple, but good.

peranakan restaurant food

I spent the whole time piling my plate with all the different stuff so I could take a photo. Their flagship dishes are really good, while some are mediocre, but IMHO, Peranakan Restaurant is the place to go for authentic Nyonya food if you’re in Melaka.

nissan almera

I was there on a the Eat, Play, Drive road trip with a bunch of other bloggers. We drove down on several Nissan Alameras. I had the opportunity to drive the IMPUL tuned one (which is my main ride, with a very auspicious plate too – WXN 6330). Simon, Joshua and Kelly (another group) was kind enough to let me drive the stock Nissan Alamara for a stretch.

nissan almera eat play drive

I prefered the Nissan Alamera tuned by IMPUL that was issued to my group – there’s keyless ignition and the specs are pretty decent. I found the acceleration to be a bit lacking, but as they say, it’s not a sports car, but a sedan that’s surprisingly affordable for its class. I was quite impressed by the price of the car for it’s specs.

nissan almera impul

Thanks for the invite Hui Ping! :)

auntie koh cendol

This was also where I had the famous Klebang Original Coconut Shake and while we were driving there, we also stopped by Aunty Koh’s Cendol. This place churns out really good cendol – perfect for a hot day!

auntie koh

It’s primarily manned by a single woman – the aforementioned Aunty Koh. Cendol is a shaved ice dessert with squiggly green jelly and kidney beans (we use red beans in Sarawak).

aunty koh cendol

Gula Melaka (caramelized palm sugar) gives it that distinctive sugary sweet taste, which is tempered by santan (coconut milk).

melaka cendol

You’ll be amazed by how many people come here for the RM 3.50 (large) cendol.

aunty koh

I was tempted to have two (and I think I did have two) but I also heard that this place is famous for it’s taibak (RM 1.50) – which is a very simple shaved ice dessert made with red and white flour squiggles. I found the taste very similar to something we have in Sibu called “wu wei tang” (5 taste soup) which is another shaved ice dessert that has dried apples and other misc ingredients among it.

taibak

It’s simple but refreshing.

cendol melaka

However, I still prefered the cendol at Aunty Koh Cendol. They claim to be Melaka’s best cendol and I’m inclined to agree. I’ve had cendol in lots of places from Penang to Kuantan (click on the tag cendol) and this is among the top ones I’ve had the pleasure of eating. :D

Father’s Day @ Payung Cafe (and the best Father’s Day present)

fathers day dinner

17th of June is Father’s Day for most of the world with some notable exceptions, namely Australia and New Zealand. I guess that’s why my sister was a bit puzzled when I told her that we’re heading out during her usual Skype session with my parents.

payung cafe sibu

I asked my dad where he wanted to go, giving him a couple of suggestions like Tom’s Too. Arthur, being the resident food expert also contributed to the list. My dad wanted to go to an al fresco dining area where people doesn’t smoke and he hasn’t been to Payung Cafe yet so I brought him and my mom there.

payung sibu

Payung Cafe is one of the little known eateries in Sibu – the owners are friendly and the ambiance is great, with little touches like freshly cut flowers on the table and off-the-menu specials written on a chalkboard every single day.

payung cafe

It doesn’t have a large menu but they have an admirable aim of having cuisine from all over the world, with a focus on Asian countries.

myanmar vegetables

Myanmar Sayur (RM 8)
Sayur means vegetable and this dish is a kind of salad that contains an assortment of raw and cooked vegetables mixed together rojak style. The sprinkling of sesame seeds and the raw vegetables provides a nice texture that goes very well with the gravy.

payung jelly pisang

Jelly Pisang (RM 7)
Jelly Pisang is a dessert that used to be very popular in Sibu back in the days. It went the way of dinosaurs when I was born and to the best of my knowledge this is only one of two places that still serves it in Sibu. The other one is at a hotel (see link). Payung Cafe’s interpretation comes with loads of jelly and thinly sliced bananas.

I asked my dad if this seemed authentic enough and he mentioned that back in the days it wasn’t really served like this but…

close enough

Heh.

lamb masala

Lamb Masala (RM 17)
It doesn’t look like much but this one was the first dish to go – the lamb is flavorful and tender with none of the gamey taste usually associated with this particular animal. It was a hit with both my mom and dad. The portion is a bit small and I only had one piece but other than that it’s highly recommended.

payung otak otak

Otak-otak Fish with Rice (RM 13)
This is the most popular dish in Payung Cafe, bar none. It’s one of their signature menu items and it’s hand made otak-otak! One of the proprietors actually does this each evening and it’s fresh and very different from the usual mass produced otak-otak. People with a sensitive palate beware! This is not for the faint-hearted for it’s quite spicy.

turkish milkshake

Turkish Milkshake (RM 8)
It came highly recommended from the proprietor and I have to agree – it’s quite good. It’s one of the specials on the chalkboard so this is a limited time menu item. What is a Turkish milkshake? Well, it’s based on the drink called Salep in Turkey. It has ground dried tubers of the orchid flower (!) with spices topped with cream and chocolate flakes. The owners travel around to add new stuff to the menu.

indian red beef

Indian Red Beef (RM 17)
This is a rather spicy affair which was the special of the day. It was quite spicy and I ended up eating most of it. I didn’t like it as much as the lamb masala.

pineapple ginger soda

Pineapple Ginger Soda (RM 5)
I wanted the Durian Milkshake I had last time I was here but they ran out of durians (it’s not the season anyway). I asked for a recommendation and got this one – it’s apparently one of the most popular drinks and the combination of pineapple and ginger works surprisingly well. I like the sediments at the bottom, which contains a bit of both ingredients. Lovely.

belimbing pasta

Belimbing Prawn with Spaghetti (RM 16)
I also had this dish last time and was quite enthralled by it. Belimbing is starfruit (or carambola) in English and it’s a fusion dish that works very well. The type of starfruit they use is known locally as belimbing asam and it’s a very sour variant of the fruit used in cooking. It’s served with prawns and I wanted everyone to try this. It’s a very different dish that works very well. :D

The total bill came out to RM 99 which is very reasonable for a dinner for three that had us struggling to finish the dishes.

fathers day

However, the best Father’s Day present that I gave my dad (and mom) happened to be a totally random act while I was talking to them the night I came back in the living room. I was showing how swipe typing works on my Android phone and my dad casually asked what app I was using. I didn’t know he’s unfamiliar with Whatsapp since my parents are pretty IT savvy, navigating the maze of social media pretty well.

whatsapp

Anyway, I found out that my sister is on it (coz she was on Skype with my parents at the time) and I gifted the app to my dad’s cell using my iTunes account. I added myself and my sister to the contacts list and showed my parents how to use it. They didn’t know there’s an option for free texting (although they use Viber) with quick photo, video and audio file sharing.

fathers day 2012

The look on my mom’s face when my sister snapped a photo of my newborn nephew and instantly sent it over followed by the smiles on my parents faces was worth the USD 0.99 I used to gift the app a gazillion times over. :)

Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food, Melaka

donald lily nyonya food

Donald & Lily’s Authentic Nyonya Food is an unassuming establishment located inside a residential lot. I wanted to try the ayam ponteh (which is apparently quite good) and called the night we drove into Melaka to see if they have it. They did (at that time) but we only went the next day. Donald & Lily’s only cooks ayam ponteh during public holidays and on weekends so be sure to get there at the right time if you want to sample that.

donald lily melaka

The place is decorated pretty much like a living room – you feel like you’re eating at someone’s house…and that’s exactly what Donald & Lily’s offers – home cooked food. They’re famous for their Nyonya style cendol and laksa. They also have a sign that says “Beware of Dog” – it’s not there for show, Fido really does reside here…

donald lily jonker

…he’s in the kitchen, near the washrooms.

nyonya cendol

Nyonya Cendol
Ahh…now this is one of the best cendol I’ve ever had in Melaka. Yup, it’s better than the one in Jonker Street. They literally douse the entire shaved ice concoction with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and it’s extremely sweet and cold – perfect for the oppressive hot weather in Melaka. I had two bowls of this. Bliss!

mee siam

Mee Siam
This is fried rice vermicelli mixed with some sort of sweet sauce. I didn’t like it, and neither did Mel. Go for the laksa instead.

nyonya rojak

Nyonya Rojak
This is recommended by the proprietor, who I assume is Lily of the restaurant’s namesake. It consists mostly of fish slices and tofu with a heavy sprinkling of chili sauce and sesame seeds on top. It’s an interesting dish and quite different from the rojak we usually have.

nyonya laksa

Nyonya Laksa
This is Donald & Lily’s signature dish. The bowl of piping hot laksa is heavy on the palate, but in a good way. The gravy is so thick that you can float a soup spoon full of rice vermicelli on top and it won’t sink. The secret of a good laksa dish is always in the gravy. I’m not a fan of creamy gravies in laksa – I’m more of an asam laksa person. However, I have to say Donald & Lily’s Nyonya Laksa is really delicious!

laksa

Donald & Lily’s serves up a hearty bowl of authentic Nyonya laksa. This old lady came in with her son to order a bowl but she was told they’ve sold out. The disappointment on her face was palpable – she mentioned that she has walked a very long way just to try their acclaimed laksa…and the kitchen relented and cooked up a batch just for her. That’s how good their laksa is. It comes highly recommended from me too. :)

Familiar Faces Nyonya Food & Noodle House

Familiar Faces Nyonya

I had dinner at Familiar Faces Nyonya Food & Noodle House with Janet last night. She’s also from Sibu and came over to work in KL about a month ago. I picked her up from Cheras and was about to head down to either PJ or KL when the massive Friday night traffic congestion made me decide against it.

Familiar Faces Nyonya restaurant

It was about 8:30 pm and we were still stuck in practically gridlocked conditions so I consulted the GPS for an alternate place for dinner. We were in Sri Petaling at that time and we chose this place due to the proximity to our current location. I’ve never been here before and Janet is new to Nyonya food so I (slowly) inched towards the restaurant.

Familiar Faces Nyonya rice

Familiar Faces Nyonya Food & Noodle House serves a wide range of Nyonya food, which you can order a-la-carte or in a single serving with rice. I asked the waitress for recommendations and she suggested some of their flagship dishes. The place has a healthy portfolio of seafood, meat and vegetable dishes but does not serve pork.

Familiar Faces Nyonya tea

One of their specialties is the home made Chrysanthemum tea with bits of nata de coco at the bottom. It’s surprisingly refreshing and I didn’t even notice the cubes at the bottom until Janet pointed it out to me.

Familiar Faces Nyonya petai

The first dish that came out is the Nyonya Shredded Petai (RM 12). Petai is something you either love or hate. It’s also called “smelly bean” and has a slightly bitter aftertaste. I found this incarnation pretty good though – there are bits of meat and chilli in the sauce, which offsets the less palatable qualities while maintaining the signature crunch of this vegetable.

Familiar Faces Nyonya squid

The squid cooked in Nyonya sauce (RM 13) was a bit of a disappointment. I found it rather bland but the squid was prepared well – it’s tender and moist, with none of the chewiness associated with overcooking.

Familiar Faces Nyonya fish

We also ordered the Nyonya Sambal Fish (RM 12). There was an initial concern over whether it would be too dry, considering it’s fried fish but that dissipated as soon as we dug in.

Familiar Faces Nyonya sambal fish filling

The fish is stuffed with sambal and other assorted fillings and it goes very well with a squeeze of lime. There isn’t too many bones to contend with too, which is always a good thing. Most of the dishes at Familiar Faces Nyonya Food & Noodle House is served on a piece of banana leaf, which is a nice touch.

Familiar Faces Nyonya chicken

However, the best dish that we had was the Nyonya style Sweet Potato Chicken (RM 12). It’s cooked in a savory sauce that seeps all the way into the bed of thinly sliced potatoes under the dish. The gravy saturated potatoes tastes even better than the chicken itself!

Familiar Faces Nyonya us

The total bill came up to RM 56.40 which is very reasonable. The service is friendly and there’s a warm and homely ambiance to the place. I have my doubts about the authenticity of some of the dishes but it’s still a good find. There’s also a very popular steamboat restaurant in the same row which is worth checking out.

Familiar Faces Nyonya food

Familiar Faces Nyonya Food & Noodle House is located at Jalan Radin Anum 1, Taman Sri Petaling with the GPS coordinates N 03°04.031′ E 101°41.423′.

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