Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine: Having Peranakan Dinner in Asia’s Food Capital
Our first day in Penang, Malaysia, was concluded with a wonderful dinner in Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine, hosted by Penang Global Tourism.
Penang is a state in peninsular Malaysia that is famous for its Peranakan or Straits Chinese cuisine which is a combination of Malay, Chinese, and Thai flavors. Peranakan is a taste unique to Penang and is highly sought by foodies, like me.
Peranakan, sometimes called Nyonya cuisine, comes from the ethnic group of Peranakans, Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia after marrying with Malaysian locals. With the foreign settlers came foreign traditions too, that were eventually instilled and incorporated into the Malay culture.
We experienced Peranakan cuisine for ourselves in Perut Rumah, which is located in an antique but well-maintained shop house in rustic Georgetown. The restaurant was small, because it was divided into several sections, but the overall feel, ambiance, and design (entering the dining area was like stepping into an old Chinese house) was top-class.
We were served Kuih Pie Tee for appetizer—a thin and crispy pastry tart shell kuih filled with a sweet and spicy mixture of thinly sliced vegetables and prawns. I preferred a spicier flavoring of the pastry tart, but it did not disappoint me, nevertheless.
We also had Otak Otak for appetizer—a mixture of fish with spices, coconut milk, and egg, steamed in a fragrant banana leaf. I remember a similar dish being served as a bread spread in my travels in Indonesia and Singapore.
For our main dishes, we were served Inchi Kabin, a Nyonya cuisine version of deep-friend chicken marinated in a variety of spices and coconut milk.
We also had Loh Bak or the restaurants Five-Spice Pork Roll special, which was very similar to the local kikiam, a traditional street food in Penang that’s served with different types of Peranakan sauces.
Another served dish that gave a striking resemblance to a local food was the Hong Bak. Hong Bak is very, very similar to our Pork Adobo. However, the Nyonya braised pork was full of aromatic spices I couldn’t name. Hong Bak is truly a must try, but nobody can ever beat my hometown’s Pork Adobo!
Speaking of favorites, we were also served Asam Prawn, my new Peranakan cuisine favorite. The dish was made of tiger prawns cooked with tamarind, sugar, salt, and some spices I can probably find in the markets at home. I will definitely try to cook it at home.
Lastly, we had Jiu Har Char, or Fried Cuttlefish Floss. It’s the most famous local dish in Penang, and I understood why they served it to us last—save the best for last, after all, so they say! The dish comprised of a mixture of shredded cuttlefish with generous amounts of cabbage, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Each bite was a wonderful Peranakan culture immersion.
To tame the flavors frolicking about in our tummies, we were served Lek Tau or Nyonya Green Beans Soup. A lot of people would think that having a soup for dessert is odd, but it was a wonderful, light soup that was a perfect tamer for all the flavors we tasted that night. Lek Tau is like a Peranakan version of ginataang monggo, but without the roasted sticky rice.
Lastly, we had Bee Koh Moy, a Peranakan version of the Filipino champorado without the chocolate. Bee Koh Moy is a popular local snack made from black sticky rice, brown sugar, and coconut milk.
Our Peranakan dinner was a wonderful conclusion to our wonderful first day in Penang, Malaysia. I immediately fell asleep the moment we returned to our hotel (due to the fatigue from all the adventure earlier that day), but I will never forget to return to Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine again in my future travels. And yes, I definitely recommend it!
How to get to Penang, Malaysia
Philippines AirAsia does not offer direct flights to Penang, but with the airline’s massive network, you can book fly-thru services that will allow you to fly from Manila to Penang, and to other international destinations like Bali, New Zealand, and Maldives. This service can be availed with the price of only one fare and hassle-free transfers from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, like what we availed of in this tour.