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All About Penang

Nyonya Food

Nyonya Food

Nyonya Food
August 13
22:11 2014

The Peranakan were mainly Chinese, predominantly Hokkien from the Fujian Province of southern China, who settled in Indonesia, Thailand, Melaka, Penang and Singapore a few centuries ago, integrating into South East Asian life and adopting many aspects of the local culture.

This resulted in a truly unique fusion of language, dress and lifestyle which exists to this day. The men were called babas and the women nyonyas; as recipes were handed down through womenfolk, this type of food is known as “nyonya” cooking. It is a measure of how important food was to them when the kitchen was referred to as perut rumah, the stomach of the house.

Many dishes were labour-intensive; it was all hands to deck each and every day. Girls were commandeered to help in the kitchen under the watchful eye of the matriarch almost as soon as they could walk, starting with simple chores, graduating to the actual preparation of various rempah (chili pastes) which can make or break a dish before finally being allowed to do the cooking herself, under strict supervision of course. In olden days, prospective in-laws would closely inspect, among other things, a girl’s culinary skills, for this was surely an indication of how well she had been brought up.

Each region had its own specialties which incorporated locally available ingredients; as Penang is so close to the northern border, there are distinct Thai influences. Much use is made of strong flavors like chilies, coconut, tamarind, locally-grown herbs and spices, and the aromatic belacan. Many are eaten with plain white rice to do justice to the delicious flavors.

The famous Nyonya foods are Asam Tumis, Ayam/Babi Ponteh (Tau Eu Bak), Otak-Otak, Perut Ikan, Jiu Hoo Char, Nasi Ulam, Acar Awak, Nyonya Laksa and Nyonya Kuih. You may visit the famous Nyonya Restaurant at Penang below and try it out yourself!

  • Hot Wok Restaurant
    124 E & F, Jalan Burmah, George Town, 10050 Penang. (Google Map)
    Business hour: 10:30am-3pm, 6pm-10:30pm
    Contact: +604-227 3368
  • Sri Batik Nyonya Cafe
    102 E-2 New World Park, Jalan Burmah, George Town, 10050 Penang. (Google Map)
    Business hour: Daily 11am-11pm
    Contact: +604-2288 919
  • Mama’s Nyonya Cuisine
    31-D, Lorong Abu Siti Lane, George Town, 10400 Penang (Google Map)
    Business hour: Tue-Sun, 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm (closed on Mon)
    Contact: +604-229 1318
  • Nyonya Baba Cuisine
    44, Jalan Nagore, George Town, 10500 Penang.(Google Map)
    Business hour: 11:30am-2:00pm, 6pm-10pm (Closed on Tuesday)
    Contact: +604-227 8035


  • Perut Rumah
    17, Jalan Kelawai, George Town, 10250 Penang. (Google Map)
    Business hour: Daily, 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm.
    Contact: +604-227 9917
  • Little Kitchen @ Nyonya
    179, Noordin Street (Ji Tiau Lor), 10300 Penang(Google Map)
    Business hour: 11.30am – 2.00pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm
    Contact: +604-2616731
  • Kheng Nyonya Kuih Stall No 29
    Lintang Batu Lancang, Jelutong, 11600 Pulau Pinang(Google Map)
    Business hour: lunch hour until early morning
  • Q Wok Nyonya Curry House
    36-38, Jalan Bayu Mutiara 1, Taman Bayu Mutiara, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang (Google Map)
    Business hour: Tues-Thursday 11am-3:30pm, Friday-Sat 11am-3:30pm, 6pm-9:30p,, Sun 11am-9pm (Closed on Monday)
    Contact: +6012-429 4618


Nyonya Food - overview
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