The Peranakan (or Baba Nonya ) community produce the best cuisine I’ve tasted. Really. I’m no expert so do go to their facebook page for the drum on this facinating culture and cuisine.
I do know that Peranakan refers to the fusion of Chinese and other cultures. The Chinese being the consummate traders and travellers have developed various cultural offshoots as the settled and intermarried in new lands. It’s a similar story to the intensely varied regional cuisine of the Jewish Diaspora.
I am most familiar with the Malaysian/Chinese fusion.
The Perth Peranakan community is holding an all day fair on Sunday 24th Novemeber where you can find out more about this culture and purchase food, clothes and artefacts as well as sharing the experience.
I’m familiar with dishes like Penang Laksa ( more sour and redolent of tamarind than the Singaporean version we are familiar with); and Nonya chicken curry – fragrant, hot and rich with thick coconut milk.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of their functions thanks to my colleague at Murdoch Uni and fellow foodie Christina Tan.
The first was a lunch. Here are my colleagues Erika Wright and Kai-Ti Kao and my daughter Zenna suitably blissed out on the fragrant spiciness of this divine homemade food.
Several women provided their special dishes – as in 200 serves each. We were treated to about 8 main courses. Just imagine the best family meal ever and shared with a couple of hundred strangers. Love was in the air!
One dish I’d not tried before was fish that had been baked into an eggy/fishy loaf. Wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but satisfied my desire for something completely different. It just reminded me of gefilte fish – a festive Jewish dish not widely appreciated.. a bit like vegemite!
Then we attended an afternoon tea which was informal but also great. Held at a now defunct café in the Langford shopping centre, we were happy to be the only non-Nonyas there as our new Nonya pals took us under their wing, carefully explaining and providing critique of all the dishes.
We began by fighting over the Singapore style noodles till we realised we were meant to eat a whole plate each.
But along with this, curry puffs (delicious, not oily, in fact great flakey pastry) and some fine spring rolls. Then the sweets, gorgeous jellies bright green with pandan leaf and rich coconut flavour.
We couldn’t eat it all, we took away.
The Peranakan fair which will be selling lots of these foods. You can buy tickets in advance – $5 tasters and I guarantee value and flavour you won’t find anywhere else in Perth. This is how I see it. When offered food we can sometimes take it or leave it, but when I’m offered something “my mother made”, anyone’s mother, the only answer is yes. The fair will be overflowing with food that someone’s mother cooked – just say yes!