Photo from http://www.peranakannetworks.com/blog/
Nyonya heritage or Peranakan is unique in Malaysia* (and Singapore), their diaspora can be found mainly in settlements along the Straits of Malacca, mainly Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The unique blend of heritage comes from the marrying of culture between the Chinese settlements in Malaysia and the local Malay culture. Through the decades, they have slowly infused the local customs from fashion to food into their lifes in their new home country. They are sometimes also known as the Baba Nyonyas (Baba – the men and Nyonya – the women). Most of the Peranakans have Hokkien ancestry like myself being 1/4 Peranakan through my maternal grandmother.
The very close ties between China and the Malay Peninsula were further fostered particularly in the early 15th century between Parameswara and Laksamana Cheng Ho.
* On a side note, I am not sure if there exists a similar marrying of cultures in Indonesia which may be called differently over there.
Fashion: The nyonya kebaya is beautiful from the sarongs to the laced bodice for tops with kerongsang (chained brooches) as their accessories. The shoes (kasut manik) are traditionally hand beaded.
Food: Nyonya or Peranakan food is experiencing a revival these days with many restaurants sprouting out showcasing the once home style cooking to now a finer dining experience in some cases. Examples of their food is Inchi Kabin (fried chicken), Curry Kapitan, Jiu Hoo Char (cuttlefish and turnip dish), Lor Bak (pork rolls), Perut Ikan, etc. while Buah Keluak is being predominantly used in Singapore due to the main influence from Indonesia. The Nyonya dishes use a lot of local herbs – daun kadok, pandan, lime leaves , tumeric, chillies..fusion at its best! Not to be missed are the nyonya kuihs (sweet cakes) like onde onde, pulut inti, kuih bengka ubi kayu, many are made from rice flour, coconut milk and tapioca.
Some recipes to share:
Language: A blend of the malay/ chinese hokkien words in their daily conversations. Also known as Bahasa Melayu Baba
Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum
48-50 Jl Tun Tan Cheng Lock Melaka
Restaurants (Penang) :
Hainan Town (halal)
Penang Jetty (Tanjung Marina)
17 Jalan Kelawei Road, Penang
50 Lorong Abu Siti, Penang
31 D, Lorong Abu Siti, Penang
Variety of nyonya kuihs (sweetcakes)*
* photos from rasamalaysia site and the gastronomic diary blog