Around the Bowl

Soups of the world – Recipes from around the globe & some creations of my own


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Nyonya Kari Ayam (Chicken Curry) and some good reading

A new curry recipe! Today I’m sharing a Chinese/Malaysian fusion chicken curry from Nyonya cuisine. Doing my research for the recipe; I became really intrigued by Nyonya cultural background and found some wonderful reading about it that I would like to briefly share with you in order to fully understand and appreciate this curry we are making today (*).

I’ve always thought that a country’s cuisine is a very holistic approach to discover its history, culture and idiosyncrasies; cooking something exotic (to us) is such a wonderful way of travelling without leaving your home, analogous to reading one of those great books that transport you to a different place. I can get so inspired by world’s cuisines that I get to experience a little obsession with the subject, searching, reading and going into expeditions to find ingredients and cook!

(*)The Peranakan or the Baba Nyonya community (also known as the Straits Chinese), evolved in the fifteenth century when the Chinese arrived in Malacca and intermarriage with local women took place. The Peranakan culture is a unique blend of two cultures – Malay and Chinese – intermixed into a fascinating synthesis with elements of Javanese, Batak, Thai and British cultures. Today, they are found throughout Malaysia and Singapore with strongholds in Malacca, Singapore and Penang.

The word Peranakan is derived from the Malay word ‘anak’ which means ‘child’. The term refers to the local-born as well as the offspring of foreigner-native union. Baba is the term for the male and Nyonya for the female.

Peranakan food is a wonderful combination of Malay and Chinese cuisine with influences from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Holland, Portugal and England. Nyonya food is clearly unique and Malaysian/Singaporean in identity. Using ingredients such as galangal, serai, chillies, tumeric, ginger, tau cheow, tamarind, lime juice, belachan, buah keras, gula Melaka; spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and leaves such as daun kesum, daun kaduk, daun cekok, daun limau perut and pandan.

(*)Extracted from: Lee, Su Kim, 2008. The Peranakan Culture: Resurgence or Dissapearance? SARI, Vol. 26, 161-170

I hope that after knowing a little more about this wonderful culture you feel like tasting it with the following unique curry recipe. Trust me, the flavour will surprise you, is neither Indian nor Thai, is just Nyonya, and it’s delicious!

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Chicken Laksa – Bliss from South-East Asia

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To me Laksa is the queen of all soups, a world’s favourite originally from Malaysia and other South-East Asia countries like Indonesia and Singapore. There are many kinds, varying with the region and the ingredients, but one of the most popular and reproduced in the West is the curry Laksa: a curry and coconut based noodle soup . I have first tried it in Australia and then in Malaysia and have been cooking it at home since then, because I love it! (and there are no restaurants in the area where I live that serve it).

I often take the freedom to customise it depending on my fridge/pantry contents and cravings and I always include some  vegetables. Here it is a very simple recipe I cooked the other evening for supper, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Looking forward to your feedback!

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