Malaysian (Nyonya) cuisine
Malaysia has three main races (Malays, Chinese and Indians), which all have their own unique dishes and flavours. Nyonya cuisine is a unique blend of Chinese and Malay influence as a result of “cross-cultural fertilisation” 🙂 The combination of both cooking techniques and ingredients brought us this unique hybrid cuisine with the best of both words.
“…bold and complex concoction of savoury, sweet, sometimes tangy, sometimes creamy but always full of spices”
Yes, London has plenty to offer when it comes to food and dining. Almost any cuisine you can think of is available somewhere. Malaysian restaurants for example, there are quite a few to choose from – Tukdin, Sedap, Rasa Sayang, C&R Cafe but to name a few.
However, being a foodie, I can’t help but crave the REAL flavour of home. It’s nostalgic and familiar, it’s the taste of satisfaction and comfort. It is the flavour I knew and loved.
What exactly is that you ask? I can only describe it as a bold and complex concoction of savoury, sweet, sometimes tangy, sometimes creamy but always full of spices. It is hard to put in words… The core ingredients – Coconut, kaffir lime, garlic, chilli, ginger, tamarind, “belacan” (some form of shrimp paste), sambal (some form of chilli paste with a combination of the aforementioned ingredients) etc.
Guan Chua (@theboywhoatetheworld)
An ex-finance industry city sleeker, a Cordon Bleu trained chef, a blogger, a passionate foodie, a damn fine supperclub host, a Malaysian. I’ve been following Guan’s social feeds for a while, as foodies do. Saw him on The Taste (TV programme) not too long ago and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride of my Malaysian heritage. With that also came the longing for some real authentic Malaysian food. Long story short, I got on his supper club mailing list and finally managed to get a seat at the table!
The Supper Club
A lot of people are skeptical about supper clubs. Eating the food cooked by a stranger, in the stranger’s house, with a bunch of other strangers, at the same table! It can be a rather strange and even intimidating experience. Why bother? Well, if like me, you are in search of authenticity and restaurants just don’t cut it, you might want to give it a go.
Speaking from experience, Guan’s supper club resembles having dinner in a friend’s house, with a few of your friend’s friends. From the initial booking stage all the way through to the final “Thanks for dinner, bye-bye“, Guan made it easy and pleasant. All the information was provided up front, in a clear and timely manner.
Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed into his home. Even the “making small talk before dinner” part was relatively easy with him as the facilitator. As the evening progressed, I was quietly admiring and learning the skills of a good supper club host. Here’s what I got:
- Do the dreaded round the room intro – it makes a difference!
- Make your guests feel at home – facilitate and not dominating the conversation
- Get the setting right – light background music fills any silence (if necessary), dining benches are better than armed chairs (the concept of sharing space and intimacy)
- Choice of food and platting – sharing dishes promotes conversations whereas individual plates allows for better appreciation of the food. Go for a combo – worked really well in Guan’s meal
- Have a menu – some guests appreciate having a print out to take home but some would be happy to have something to refer to. Either way, have a menu on the night. It increases the anticipation
- Guest composition – it is VERY important that none of your guests feel left out. Make sure the group vs individual booking scenario is well balanced
Like me, Guan appreciates big, gutsy flavours! It is not just about throwing in the right ingredients. Given the complexity of Nyonya food, it is about balancing the flavour to achieve the desired effect. I was thoroughly impressed by Guan’s precision and control over each dish. He explained that to achieve the consistent standard, you need to know not just your ingredient but also the suppliers and stick with the one which gives you the flavour that makes your dish.
“…big, gutsy flavours!”
What I experienced at the meal was unpretentious, authentic yet creative food. It satisfied the craving for the taste of home as I remember it and gave a little extra by way of the clever use of Malaysian ingredients to create something different. I will let the pictures do the talking…
- Winning start: Lemongrass and belacan (shrimp paste) chicken wings
- Fried assam(tamarind) prawns
- Kerabu Bee Hoon (Nyonya Rice Vermicelli Salad)
- Tau Yew Bak (Braised Caramelised Belly Pork in Soy Sauce)
- My Dish of the Evening: Ikan Masak Nanas (Mackerel and Pineapple Curry)
- Sambal Belacan (spicy shrimp paste) Vege Medley
- And lots of steam rice – it is a must have compliment to these dishes
And for dessert:
- Oh-so-moreish, fresh from the oven: Pandan madeleines (we even got some to take home!)
- Horlicks and Gula Melaka Parfait, Milo Ganache and Tuille
Every dish tonight was cooked to perfection. The only regret was that I didn’t have enough stomach space to accommodate more of the mackerel and pineapple curry. It was heavenly!
Guan’s cooking not only reminded me of my roots. It made me proud to be a Malaysian foodie! Feel free to drop me a line if you’re interested in Malaysian food. Happy to chat further.
For more info on Guan’s Nyonya Supper Club, check out: