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I have travelled extensively across Malaysia over the period of the last twenty years and visited some of the best cities popular for food. I came across Nyonya food also known as Peranakan food which is quite a popular form of cooking in Penang as well as in Melaka. Nyonya food captures the essence of the rich culinary history of Malaysia.

What is Pernakakan food?


 Peranakan culture dates back to some early 20th century when rich Chinese migrated to various parts of Malaysia and inter-married affluent Malay people. This intermixing brought about a new style of cooking called Baba Nyonya. The cultural change did not only confine to food but is evident in unique architecture, furniture and lifestyle which is still very popular in some parts of Malaysia.



Georgetown Penang is the culinary capital of Malaysia with a deep-rooted Nyonya culture dating back to settlers coming to Penang in the last century. Therefore, there is a large impact of Peranakan culture on the lifestyle of people living in Penang. 

I met the owner of "Little Kitchen" in Noorudin Alley in Penang and was given the first introduction to the history of Nyonya food, cooking style and serving style. Apparently the women in the family-owned business cook the food and men serve the food. The restaurant is decorated with traditional Baba Nynona style furniture. The back quarters of the restaurant has a lavish living area for the family. 

I started off by drinking some local hazelnut tea served before the meal. The food is served is a small serving based on the choice of meats and vegetables. I ordered a mix of vegetable stir fry and chicken curry prepared in a thick and very tasty sauce.  

The food can be quite pricey as well. Some of the unique dishes like birds nest soup are also served at Nyonya restaurants. I spent over US30 on the meal but thoroughly enjoyed the recommended dishes including vegetarian stir-fried dishes and chicken curry. 


Interior of Little Kitchen
Bird Nests inside the Restaurant
With the owner of Little Kitchen
Hand written menu
Interior of Little Kitchen
Furniture and decor dating back to last century
Food ordered at Little Kitchen
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A second memorable encounter with Nyonya food in Precious Old China Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur Central Market. This restaurant has captured my tastebuds and I make it a point to visit this restaurant every time I visit Kuala Lumpur.

The appetizers are nice cup-cake shaped shells (Kuih Pai Tee). These shells are filled with a mix of fresh and cooked vegetables and sauces. The taste is absolutely amazing and whets your appetite for the main dishes.


Beautiful interior of Restaurant
Top hats appetizer
Devil Chicken Curry
Beef in Sauce
Blue ink dyed rice
Okra in Belachan
Santan Durian dessert
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Melaka has a number of Peranakan restaurants offering a good mix of authentic flavours. With increasing development and population in the last couple of years, quality of food and choice has gone up as well. My first visit to a Melaka restaurant was Nancy's Kitchen in Jonker Walk. In late 2019 I figured out that the restaurant has moved to the suburbs. I visited Nancy's Kitchen in November 2019.
The experience was a memorable one. The menu and quality of food have definitely been maintained all through these years. I ordered Debels Chicken, a chicken curry prepared with potatoes and cooked to perfection. A good mix of seafood dishes including fishhead in sauce and prawns in tamarind sauce is worth trying. 
Iinterior of Nancy's Kitchen Melaka
Devil Chicken Curry with Okra
Eggplant in Belachan Sauce
Nancy's Kitchen
Nyonya food
Deep fried Okra with sauce
Durian Dessert
Nancy's Kitchen interior
Nancy's Kitchen Interior
Entrance to Nancy's Kitchen
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The restaurant has a great ambience and normally stay busy until the late hour of the evening. The desserts include Durian Mochi, Cendol and Air Batu Campur. The experience was great. I plan to return to this interesting restaurant next time I visit Melaka.

 Popular Nyonya Asian Dishes 

  • Nyonya Chap Chai - Nyonya Mixed Vegetables
  • Sayur Goreng Sambal Belacan - Vegetable in Fermented Shrimp Paste
  • Rendang Chicken
  • Peranakan Curry Chicken
  • Laksa Nyonya
  • Chicken with black nut

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