Peranakan cuisine has got to be one of the best fusions to come out of Malaysia.
Its heady blend of Chinese and Malay flavours with subtle hints of Thai and Indian spices make it one of Malaysia’s most treasured cuisines.
What are the origins of Peranakan cuisine?
Peranakan or popularly known as Nyonya cuisine is the food of the Straits Chinese people. Having migrated from different provinces in China centuries ago, they've inter-married with local Malays over the years - giving birth to the Nyonya cuisine as it is known today.
Perfected over the centuries, Nyonya food draws its unique flavour by combining ingredients used commonly in traditional Chinese cooking like five spice, soy sauce, and fermented soybeans with explosive Southeast Asian essentials like coriander, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime.
The dishes are prepared with recipes passed down from years ago and takes precision and patience to ensure that the flavours are just right. One of the signature Nyonya dishes is ayam buah keluak. Cooked with the nuts from the Kepayang tree that is unique to Malaysia and Indonesia, this rich chicken dish requires the nuts to be leached off its poison for about a month first before it is ready to be used.
If all that talk about dishes made with creamy coconut, fragrant lemongrass, and more explosive local flavours has got you craving for Nyonya cuisine, check out these 7 restaurants in town that we think offers some of the best Peranakan food:
1. Precious Old China @ Central Market
Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Precious Old China is the embodiment of old world charm. Its interiors boast the golden splendour of the yesteryears with magnificent wooden furnishings to beautiful marble tables, old Chinese paintings and chandelier, transporting you back to the olden days. Precious Old China is the sister restaurant of Old China Cafe and both restaurants are located in central KL with a pretty similar selection of food.
MUST TRY: It'll be a sin if you head to Precious Old China and not try their Lemak Nenas Prawn dish. It's cooked and simmered down to a thick concoction of coconut milk, slices of pineapple, and laksa gravy with the freshest seafood. If you're in the mood for something sweet, dig into their luscious Santan Durian, which is the perfect marriage between durian pulp and coconut cream.
Location: Precious Old China, Lot 2, Mezzanine Floor, Central Market, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur.
Opening Hours: Open daily from 12pm till 10pm.
Contact Details: +603-2273 7372 | +6016-413 7028 | Facebook
Precious Old China is pork-free.
2. Limapulo: Baba Can Cook @ Jalan Doraisamy
Located snugly in a stretch of re-purposed and renovated 1940s shophouses, Limapulo can easily be every hispter/Instagram enthusiast's dream cafe. The motley of carefully selected old school furniture and posters serve as the perfect backdrop to the bright, colourful Nyonya cuisine served at Limapulo. The kitchen is run by Chef Tan Kim Chye, or fondly known as Uncle John, who uses secret recipes that are said to be handed down from his mother.
MUST TRY: Uncle John's signature dish is his Nyonya Laksa. It's so special to the point that it is only served on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays due to its lengthy preparation time. The creamy orange broth is made by simmering ground chilies, turmeric, galangal, candlenuts, lemongrass, and other "secret" ingredients with coconut milk for hours to achieve the perfect thickness.
Location: LIMAPULO: Baba Can Cook, 26 Jalan Doraisamy, 50300 Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours: Monday - Saturday from 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm.
Contact details: +603-2698-3268 | Facebook
Limapulo is pork-free.
3. The Tranquerah @ Glo Damansara
The Tranquerah not only provides authentic Nyonya dishes, but is also keeping the elements that make up the Peranakan houses alive at its restaurant. Beautifully designed with wooden windowpanes, batik chops, oil lamps, and cement flooring to best reflect old Peranakan houses, Tranquerah pays attention to every last detail by even replacing the light switches to the old, traditional ones. The food is lovingly made with only the best and freshest ingredients and old recipes, serving a selection of some of the best Nyonya dishes in town.
MUST TRY: Tranquerah is one of the very few Nyonya restaurants in KL that serves Ayam Buah Keluak. A Nyonya delicacy, made with the unique flavoured buah keluak with stewed aromatic, chicken curry.
Location: The Tranquerah, LG09, Lower Ground Floor, Glo Damansara, Jalan Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Opening Hours: Open daily from 10am till 10pm.
Contact Details: +603-7732-5633 | Facebook
The Tranquerah is pork-free.
4. Little Heritage House @ Section 17, Petaling Jaya
Located away from the hustle and bustle of the town, Little Heritage House is situated in a quaint neighbourhood in Section 17. Its perfectly placed heavy wooden furniture, terracotta tile floor, and cabinets filled with old, colourful tiffin carries will make you feel like you're having dinner or lunch in an old Malaccan house instead of the commercialised feel of a restaurant.
MUST TRY: Kiam Chye Arc, a classic Peranakan soup dish that's enriched with the warming flavours of ginger, duck, tomatoes, and salted vegetables is a must-try but add the Assam Tamarind Prawns to your order for a dish that'll truly tickle your taste buds. Think juicy prawns coated in a thick gravy of tamarind and aromatic spices.
Location: Little Heritage House, No. 23, Ground & First Floor,, Jalan 17/56, 46400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Opening Hours: Open daily from 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm.
Contact Details: +603 – 79321810 | Facebook
Little Heritage House is pork-free.
5. Lima Blas @ Jalan Mesui
Lima Blas is fuss free. As you walk into the restaurant, you'll realise that it looks more like an old kedai runcit than a fancy, hipster cafe. Located along Jalan Mesui, off Jalan Nagasari, it's close to the touristy watering holes stretch, Changkat. It's run by an elderly couple, Uncle John and his wife, Chef Florence Tan.
MUST TRY: Chili Fried Fish - Freshwater Talapia or Pomfret marinated with rich spices, fried to perfection and served with a spicy, fiery sambal sauce.
Location: 15, Jalan Mesui, Off Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur.
Contact Details: +603 2110 1289 | Facebook
Lima Blas is a pork-free.
6. Baba Low's @ Bangsar
Dubbed as a 'hidden gem' by many, Baba Low's is a small Nyonya restaurant that's like a kopitiam. It's open for breakfast and the Nyonya food here is probably one of the most affordable in town.
MUST TRY: Baba Low's Mee Siam spins the good old fried bee hun with a special sambal, shredded cucumber, boiled egg and a touch of lime juice.
Location: Baba Low’s 486, Lorong Kurau, 59100 Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday, 7am till 10pm.
Contact Details: +603-2284 8486 | Facebook
Baba Low's is halal.
7. Shelly Yu's @ Jalan Telawi 3
Shelly Yu's is perfect for a relaxing family dinner or for a Friday night dinner and drinks setting. Its cosy, eclectic charm, mouthwatering Nyonya cuisine, and bold decor makes it a perfect spot for both great food and artisanal cocktails.
MUST TRY: Ikan goreng cili - A meticulously prepared fried fish dish topped with a fiery sambal paste and wedge of lime.
Location: Shelley Yu's, 49, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
Opening Hours: Monday till Sunday - 12pm-3.30pm, 5pm-2am.
Contact Details: +603-22014139 | Faceook