Sunday, February 01, 2015

PERANAKAN PALATE-PLEASERS AT SERI NYONYA



No visit to the historical state of Melaka is complete without a typical Nyonya meal. Hence it is only befitting that a 5-star international business class hotel like Hotel Equatorial Melaka has its very own Peranakan restaurant inhouse.
Known as Seri Nyonya, local and foreign visitors can enjoy delicious homely Straits Chinese specialities in charmingly rustic surroundings. The fa├žade resembles the ornate entrance of a Peranakan home; the interior dominated by earthy wood and tile accents within the spacious dining area.
Framed sepia-toned photographs, floral batik table runners and traditional cooking implements serve as adornments; creating a homely setting for the Peranakan dining experience that awaits.

An unusual drink that's perfect for our tropical weather is Lychee Asam Boi (RM7 per glass). Its sweet-salty taste from the mixture of preserved salted plums with tinned lychee fruits should set your tastebuds tingling but it's a fab thirst-quencher.
Communal dining is the norm here so it’s best to order several dishes to share. A nourishing curtain-raiser to warm things up is Hee Peow Soup (RM15.80-small, RM24.80-medium, RM38.80-large) – spongy fish blubber in clear broth with housemade fish balls.
According to chef Rubayah Md Zin, the Malay version of Otak Otak (RM5.50) – steamed spiced fish mousse topped with some coconut cream in banana leaf parcels tends to be spicier than the Portuguese inspired ones. The complex spice blend (including lemongrass, turmeric and galangal) that goes into the making of the custard-soft creation studded with chunky sweet fish meat is lush and tantalising; teasing the tastebuds with bright, slightly herbaceous nuances with the use of daun kadok or wild pepper leaf as well as turmeric leaf.
Traditionalists would enjoy the hearty flavours of Ayam Pongteh (RM15.80-S, RM21.80-M, RM41.80-L) – chicken cooked with taucheo (fermented soybean paste), garlic, shallots, potatoes and shiitake mushroom. Lightly sweetened with a tinge of Melaka’s famous gula Melaka (palm sugar), the resultant dish boasts a unique savoury-sweet gravy that begs to be drenched over plain white rice. Add some sambal belacan for a hot match made in heaven. 

"In the old days, pongteh is a customary dish for important occasions and festivals especially in wealthy Peranakan households," says Chef Rubayah.
Ikan Goreng Chilli Garam (RM24.50-S, RM34.30-M, RM49-L) is a familiar and much cherished way of preparing hardtail fish in our household when I was growing up. Relishing the delectable dish again certainly took me down memory lane. The only difference is chef’s take features sauteed pounded fresh and dried chilli with a squeeze of fresh lime juice to lend it that sparkling citrusy finish.
Malay influences are noticeable in the sublime Udang Lemak Nenas (RM25.80-S, RM38.80-M, RM54.80-L). Chef emphasises that ripe Sarawak pineapple is preferred for the dish as its nectar sweetness bestow distinct characteristic to the sunny yellow curry. Dried tamarind pieces are added for tartness, to balance the overall taste profile. The inherent sweetness of crustaceans also cannot be discounted.
Briny dimension of the Nyonya meal is drawn from Telur Dadar Cincaluk (RM9.80-S, RM14.80-M, RM20.80-L). The simple but irresistibly yummy omelette is enlivened with cincaluk – Melaka’s pungent condiment of brined pink krill that could be an acquired taste. You either love it or hate it, no two ways about it.
Another down home offering is Nyonya Chap Chai (RM12.80-S, RM20.80-M, RM28.80-L) which comprises chopped cabbage, sliced carrot, glass noodles and mushroom cooked with sweet bean paste. It reminds me of Chinese New Year as this dish is a festive staple at home.
Bring sweet closure to your meal with Nyonya Cendol (RM6 per bowl). The most popular belief stated in Wikipedia is that the dessert got its name from the Javanese word jendol which means bump or bulge - supposedly in reference to the plump, short noodle-like strands that's made from cooked mung bean flour stained jade-green with pandan juice. Served with diluted coconut milk, liquid palm sugar and shaved ice, it's a mildly rich treat that has firmly gained its own multi-racial following.
For those who are interested, special cooking classes for guests to experience what goes into the preparation of Melaka’s Peranakan Cuisine is available daily at Seri Nyonya until 28 February. Priced at RM115 nett per person, the 1st Session is from 1o am – 12 noon and the 2nd Session: 2 pm – 4 pm. Attendees will learn about exotic local ingredients, cooking techniques as well as the history behind the Peranakan dishes, with some recipes handed down from generations.

HEM also has a Nyonya Culinary and Historical Journey priced at RM150 nett per person which includes :
  • A personalised Nyonya cuisine recipe book
  • A hands-on culinary journey you assisted by HEM Chefs
  • A relaxing and leisurely trishaw ride to the historical Baba Nyonya Museum 
For information and enquiries, please call Hotel Equatorial Melaka - tel: 06-282 8333.

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