Nyonya Breeze located at Abu Siti Lane is yet another delicious nyonya heritage gourmet that not to be missed if you are in visiting the Penang Island. Upon the invitation of Uncle Lee, we headed to Nyonya Breeze right after our baking class ended.
According to my google search, six centuries ago, China’s Ming Dynasty began courting the kingdoms to the south, dispatching Admiral Zheng He on his seven epic journeys, during which he made port in Malacca and Singapore. To cement budding diplomatic and commercial ties with the kingdom of Malacca, the Imperial Princess Hang Li Po was married to Sultan Mansur Shah, the Sultan of Malacca at that time. Her entourage settled in Bukit Cina, marrying the local Malays and eventually growing and evolving into a class of straits-born Chinese, the ‘Peranakan’. Peranakan communities continue to grow in Malacca and later extended to Penang and Singapore.
Peranakan ladies were called Nyonyas while their male counterparts were labeled Babas. They retained many traditions and beliefs of their Chinese forefathers, and adopted many more from the local Malay community. Hokkien was enriched with Malay words, and the sarong and kebaya became everyday clothes for this emerging class. The Peranakan adapted – to the land and its colonial rulers
Today’s Nyonyas and Babas have largely been assimilated into the Chinese community but the Nyonya art of cooking has been preserved, passed on from mothers to daughters through the centuries. Fusing Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western styles, Nyonya cuisine is prepared meticulously with great attention to detail, balancing aesthetics, aroma and taste. While Malacca and Singapore Nyonya cooking were influenced by their proximity to Indonesia, Penang Nyonya cuisine is laced with Thai secrets, being more sour and spicy. This is most evident in the many Kerabus the Penang Nyonya holds in her recipe book.
The preparation and cooking of Nyonya food can be a laborious, meticulous and time-consuming affair. The grinding, blending, pounding, and marinating of the ingredients can take several hours. Typical Nyonya spices complemented by the subtle fragrance of lemongrass, lengkuas (galangal or wild ginger), kunyit (turmeric root), fresh or dried chillies, candlenuts, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, pandan (screwpine), daun salam (fresh bay leaves), daun kesum(Thai basil leaves),daun kunyit(turmeric leaves) and ginger buds are crucial in the making of authentic Nyonya cuisine. Sauces made from coconut milk, tamarind seeds and curry pastes (freshly pounded with shallots, garlic, lemon grass, ginger and selected curry mix) is a testament of an excellent cooked meal at Nyonya Breeze