HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >

Discussion

Nonyas and Babas

  • t
  • 3

Julie said -----
Baba?? I've never heard of Baba, except as GAELIC slang for "grandmother".
As I said, I am no expert in Malay or even Chinese regions/ethnicities/dialects. I was just using "Sindomal"-or "Simalindo"-as a generic term for the region. Usually it's used in other contexts-"Sindomal relations improved", "Clinton to consider Sindomal defense pact", "Euro marketers target Sindomal"....

------- Reply --------
I tried to look up "Sindomal" on the Internet using a couple of well-known search engines. It came back with zero references. Then you seem to equate this exotic word with the word "Nonya" -which I am familiar with and which many fans of Singaporean food know well.

For those not in the know - Nonyas are the racially mixed Chinese and Malay females -the Babas are the males. Grouped together these people are called Peranakan. The Malay in the mix has been toned down by subsequent matings with Chinese and other Peranakan rather than Malays. Chinese people who have arrived in Singapore only two or three generations ago are called Sinkehs.

Anyway -the point about Nonyas and Babas is that men tend to dominate the formation and expression of cuisines. In this case the female element -the nonyas -- had their name attached to the cuisine instead of the babas -the males. Perhaps the nonyas are culturally obligated to do the cooking -which is why I made the joke about the condemned Singaporean woman cooking her own last meal. That might have been equally true of America back when I was a kid.

So - Nonya food is a mixture of Chinese and Malay -with Indian and Thai influences. It is a unique cuisine that is one of Singapore's great gifts to the world of food. The only problem is that the Babas of Singapore have carried this cuisine into the larger world and most cooks in Singaporean restaurants are males - so, rightfully, out here it should be called "Baba cuisine". :- )

I have no idea if you are joking when you claim that you don't recognize the word "Baba" and are, at the same time, using very exotic terms like "Sindomal" for Asian peoples.

Tord

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Tord, you've explained the gist of Nonya and Baba pretty well. I was about to post something about it, but you saved me the trouble.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gary cheong

      Thanks Gary -- Are you a baba?
      Tord

      1. re: Tord

        Yes, sure am.