Nasi Ayam Goreng

In Search of Peranakan

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What’s with Peranakan or Nyonya that I can’t live without? For those of you who are clueless, this cuisine combines Chinese and Malay resulting into a unique and distinct blend. As they say, this food culture is produced from inter-racial marriages – Chinese cooking style + Chinese ingredients + Malay spices. And yes, our craving is just too much sometimes. Well, blame it on 9 years living in Southeast Asia.

In Beijing, there were 2 particular restaurants that we frequent when the craving comes. One is Lau Pa Sak opposite the Canadian Embassy on the corner of Donzhimenwai and Xindong Lu. A Singaporean friend introduced us to the place. Food is great in humongous servings with reasonable prices. Parating puno ito lalo na ng Singaporeans. You get greeted right away with its gracious owner. Very simple decor but you just can’t say no to hawker style street food. (Dito ko rin naharbat ang Beijing Magazine kung saan lumabas ang pagmumukha ng anak ko….)

We also discovered Kafe Peranakan located behind Kuntai Hotel, few minutes walk from Landao on its east and the Russian Market (Yabalou) on its south. Successful discovery! We were walking along the streets and saw it… “wow, peranakan! kain tayo!.” And it was always good.

Below are few food photos taken from these places. Of course, eaten on separate occasions.

Sup Tulang (Beef Bone Soup)

Nasi Lemak (A platter of coconut rice cucumber, anchovies, peanuts, egg and sambal sauce)
Nasi Goreng

Nasi Ayam Goreng (Fried Rice/Chicken)

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Chicken Curry

Buttered Prawn

Beef Rendang (Beef cooked in coconut milk and spices)

Kangkong Belacan (River spinach with spicy shrimp paste)

Mi Goreng (Fried Noodles)

Ayir Batu Campur (Dessert ala-Halo-Halo)

Cafe SambalAh, I remember Cafe Sambal that used to be along the streets of old inner Gulou. Nandun pa kaya sya? Food is A-yummy. Hutong-atmospehere, good place for expats to chill out. Food comes in tiny portions with big prices though. Pwede na din mapapatawad ko na dahil uber-sarap naman. Besides, it is more like a bar than a restaurant anyway.

Lasang Pinoy, Sundays. RESTO-rant. Lemme find our peranakan choice in Auckland and I will let you know next time.

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I am not a professional cook. My only claim to having a culinary background is a short stint as my dad’s teen ‘sous chef’ in his carinderia ages ago. Dad ran small eateries since I was a young kid - serving standard ‘turo-turo’ food ranging from the likes of menudo, adobo, pritong isda, dinuguan, binagoongan, bopis, munggo, pinakbet and giniling to merienda fares like goto, ginataan, pancit bihon, halu-halo and saging con yelo.

My father, a farmer in his hometown before working his way to becoming an accountant, definitely influenced my cooking in a lot of ways than I thought. My siblings and I were raised in a backyard full of fruit trees and vegetable garden. We spent weekends and the summer breaks running around with ducks, chickens, goats and pigs. I had wonderful memories of gathering eggs, butchering chickens, selling vegetables and the sweet aroma of preserved fruits. But my love for art led me to a degree in Architecture. Just few months after getting my license, I went abroad and lived independently at age 23. Definitely no maid, no cook, and a totally different food culture. Along the way I met lots of friends and spent what seemed a lifetime learning new tricks and recipes.

Now living in Auckland, I am a work-from-home mum who juggles time between work, fun and family - in pursuit of work-life balance. No matter how busy I am, I love the idea of cooking for my family. My blog chronicles home cooking greatly influenced by life outside my home country from Southeast Asia to Beijing and Auckland. And most of the time, being busy also means easy (sometimes quick), affordable meals.

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