Malacca, Malaysia - Good Nyonya lunch at Nancy's Kitchen
Nancy's Kitchen has two things going for it:
1) A great location on Jalan Hang Lekir, which links Malacca's main commercial thoroughfare, Jalan Hang Jebat (formerly Jonker Street) and the museum/hotel-lined Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (formerly Heeren Street) in the heart of Bandar Hilir, Malacca's historic district.
2) Good, no-holds-barred traditional Peranakan-Nyonya cooking. Nancy's Kitchen is also one of the rare Nyonya restaurants which continue to serve pork, a common ingredient in Peranakan/Straits-born Chinese cuisine, whereas many of its contemporaries (e.g. Big Nyonya, Kochi) and older stalwarts (e.g. Nyonya Makko, Ole Sayang) have turned halal to cater to Muslim-Malay and Arab tourists.
What we had for our Sunday lunch:
- Kueh pie tee: crisp pastry shells filled with shredded jicama and pork, topped with julienned egg and crisp shallots, and sweet chilli sauce.
- Otak-otak: steamed then baked spicy fish mousse. I loved this - it was *exactly* like the version served in Singapore's Nyonya restaurants, but hard to find in Malaysia where otak-otak from different states/cities vary significantly.
- Kerabu jantong pisang: my fave dish for this meal - a spicy, milky, coconut-enriched banana flower-blossom salad. I can detect the intoxicating scent of sambal belachan (chilli-fermented shrimp paste) and the sourish tinge from fresh kalamansi lime juice in the dressing.
- Ayam buah keluak: the classic Nyonya chicken stew, heavily-spiced with (lots of) chillis, galangal, turmeric, candlenuts, onions, ginger, garlic, fermented shrimp paste, tamarind juice and, of course, the irreplaceable "buah keluak" nuts from Indonesia. These nuts are toxic in their natural state, and needed to be wrapped in volcanic ash and preserved before use. Before cooking, the nuts needed to be soaked for 3 days, water to be changed/refreshed every day, then scrubbed clean before being cracked open. The insides of the buah keluak have an addictive, intoxicating, truffle-like fragrance and taste.
- Nyonya "lor bak" (or "Ngoh hiang"): didn't quite like the Malaccan version, which incorporated fish paste into the filling (I prefer Penang or Singapore's Hokkien-influenced filling which uses minced pork, scented with Chinese 5-spice)
- Babi pongteh: another Nyonya classic - this pork stew uses fatty batons of pork belly, flavoured with coriander and "taucheo" (fermented brown bean paste). Also included potatoes and Chinese shitake mushrooms.
- Chenchalok omelette: fermented shrimp paste ("chenchalok") incorporated into this egg omelette, giving it a bold, assertive flavour.
- Apom balek. The Nyonya version is more akin to Javanese "serabi" than Penang-style apom balek, which would be closer to sweet Indian pancakes.
- Chendol: very good version here due to the use of good quality Gula Melaka (palm sugar) which lent to a sweet fragrance to the shaved ice dessert. Squiggly green, pandan-infused chendol noodles and sweet, stewed red beans were topped with finely-shaved ice, then drenched in coconut milk and drizzled with melted Gula Melaka to complete the dessert.
There's also a huge array of Nyonya sweetmeats and snacks to takeaway:
- Kueh chang, the Nyonya version of Chinese rice dumplings(bakchang). The Nyonya version is sweet-savoury, with candied wintermelon mixed with pork and other ingredients, then heavily-flavoured with coriander, compared to Chinese versions which would not mix sweet and savoury ingredients.
- Rempah udang (banana leaf-wrapped, barbecued glutinous rice with spiced grated coconut filling) and Kueh kochi (glutinous rice flour dumplings with Gula Melaka filling)