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Nonya Flavours

by: Julie, editor Wong

Selangor Malaysia: Star Publications 2004, Paperback
ISBN: 983-9512-17-X

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(3) page(s): 21 and 22

This reprint of a 2003 original published with The State Chinese Association of Penang in Malaysia is subtitled: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine. It has more than one hundred fifty mother-to-daughter or to-another relative recipes. Many have never been published before, all are guardians of Peranakan/Straits Chinese culinary culture. See and savor them, each with a gorgeous color photograph taken by Bonnie Yap.

The book has ten pages of history and discusses the Fujianese who ventured to Amoy, now called Xiamen, during the late Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE) and then went on to Malaysia and the Philippines. Their exodus, seeking additional land for cultivation is the reason they left. Their travels reached a zenith during the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1378 CE).

Well-documented historical beginnings are followed by a discussion of Nonyaware, plates and serving pieces, kitchens, cooking methods, and ingredients. These twenty-five pages offer some of the best background ever. The photographs that accompany them are the best, too.

Fourteen recipe chapters follow, two dedicated to New Year foods and those for women’s confinement that use only allowed foods not considered taboo during pregnancy, the one-month pantang, or restrictions the month following child-birth. These and every recipe is titled in Malaysian and English, ingredients given in metric weights with an occasional nod to volume. Every one sparkles and offers Penang/Malaccan/Nonya flavors.
Nonya Fried Chicken
Ingredients for the chicken:
4 shallots, pounded
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, or more to taste
3 and 1/2 ounces thick coconut milk
1 three-pound chicken cut into sixteen pieces
1 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for the sauce:
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
2 red chilies, sliced
1. In a large bowl, mix the first eleven spice ingredients (shallots through sugar) into the coconut milk. Add chicken, mix well, cover and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
2. Heat oil and deep fry half the chicken pieces until they are almost but not completely cooked. Remove and drain them and fry the second batch, adding the first to reheat and completely cook all the chicken pieces. Then remove and drain them, and put on a platter. Reserve the oil for another purpose.
3. Mix sauce ingredients and serve for dipping.

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