When it comes to matters of food and cooking, everyone knows how the Peranakan matriarch -- or “Bibik” as she’s called -- can be as touchy and ultra-territorial as a bull in mating season. Her recipe, she imperiously declares to all and sundry, is “the most authentic” (and everyone else’s is not worth a SH*T!)
It’s funny that every Peranakan household I’ve eaten at (and I’ve eaten at quite a few in my time) always makes that claim. Therefore if every family’s “version” of a particular dish is the “correct, authentic, and ONLY one”…. You get the picture?
Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying that most older Peranakans – female and male – are superb, passionate cooks. And for any food lover, the Peranakan kitchen is true paradise; just don’t EVER step on the culinary toes of a Bibik!
My own exposure to Peranankan cuisine came late in life; but it was near-instant love. With its heady mix of Malay, Chinese -- particularly Hokkien -- and even Western influence, how could an adventurous, liberal glutton like myself resist that food? In fact, every dish I tasted reminded me of something I ate from another cuisine in Singapore.
And I realized a few other things: that every home’s “version” of a dish varied from other homes, in style, ingredient and taste. And that there were a few standard or “must-have” dishes for formal Peranakan meals. Over the years, I’ve managed to “steal” recipes and cooking tips from some of the Peranakans I’ve known -- matriarchs, chefs, and so-called “authorities” on the culture. And this pilfered information has served me well in the kitchen.
This particular Nonya dish, for instance, is very similar to Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles, except that it uses an additional key ingredient in the paste -- taucheo. The garnishing is also far more elaborate.
Nonya Fried Noodle
Prawns 200 g, boiled, then peeled and set aside the prawn heads and shells
Water 2 cups
Pork belly 200 g
Squid 150 g
Chinese sausage 1, steamed for 10 mins and cut into strips
Oil/lard 3 tbsp
Yellow flat noodle 400 g, washed and drained
Garlic 1 tsp, minced
Bean sprouts 100 g
Salt 1½ tsp
Sugar 1 tsp
Light soy sauce 1 tsp
Dark soy sauce ½ tbsp
Preserved beans 1 tbsp, mashed
Garlic 1 clove, minced
Cucumber 1, cut into thin strips
Egg 1, fried into omelette and cut into thin strips
Red chillies 2, large and cut into thin strips
Fried shallots 1 tbsp
Fried garlic 1 tbsp
Fried lard crisps 1 tbsp
Pepper to taste
- Saute preserved bean paste, garlic and prawn shells for 3 minutes. Add water, pork belly and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add squid and cook until it turns pink. Remove and set aside.
- Remove pork belly and set aside till it cools. Cut squid and pork belly into thin strips.
- Drain the prawn broth and set aside for later.
- Boil the prawn broth and season with salt and sugar.
- In a clean wok, fry noodle and minced garlic for 3 minutes under high flame. Add stock and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add prawns, pork belly, squid and Chinese sausage and continue to simmer for another 1 minute.
- Add bean sprouts and season with both light and dark soy sauce.
- Serve it on a plate and top with all the garnishing.