Nyonya people can be patriotic and extremely proud of their heritage, something I discovered when I started dating rif. To him, nothing beats Nyonya Malacca food, a trait I noticed in even some Penang and Singapore Nyonya. #nyonyapride
We had dinner at Nyonya Breeze in Penang, a place recommended by my father in-law’s friend, a proud Penang Nyonya. Watching a Malacca and Penang Nyonya debate over who makes better jiu hu char and curry was most entertaining, especially over a tasty meal.
Who makes better curries doesn’t concern me, as long as I get to eat good Kari Kapitan, chicken curry with strong emphasis on lemongrass, lime leaves and coconut milk. Nyonya Breeze’s version (RM14.40 – small, RM20.20 – large) was rice and full-bodied with a good balance of salt, sugar and spice. This was a lovely complement to white rice.
It was my first time trying Acar Hu (RM11.60 per piece), a popular Nyonya dish comprising fish, pickled with turmeric, vinegar, garlic, chilli and ginger. Some might find the taste overpowering and an acquired one, but I liked it almost immediately. The tangy, pungent and savoury flavour was quite pronounced, and added a nice ‘oomph’ to the meal.
The Huan Chu Heok Masak Lemak (RM10 – small, RM17.30 – large) was rapture in a bowl. I thoroughly enjoyed this simple yet delicious dish of tender sweet potato leaves, sweet potato cubes and prawns in creamy coconut milk curry. Some might find the gravy a tad rich, but I enjoyed every spoonful. Good stuff!
There’s popiah, and then there’s choon peah (RM5.80 per roll), a popular Nyonya spring roll served with “ang mo tau eu” or commonly known as Worcestershire Sauce. This tasty roll of minced pork, carrots, cabbage, onions and crab meat (additional RM2.50) was deep fried till golden brown and crispy. Meaty, crunchy, crispy and full of complementing flavours – I ate a whole choon peah myself!
Hong Bak is a popular pork belly stew that is served in most Nyonya household. Nyonya Breeze’s version (RM15.60 – small, RM21.80 – large) was noteworthy; the pork – cooked in dark soy sauce and rice wine for hours – was meltingly tender with a layer of buttery fat. Don’t over indulge in this though, as this is a fast track to a cardiac arrest.
The Otak Otak was fairly rich and spicy, and infused with a sweetness from the coconut milk. Flavours were bright and crisp from the aromatic herbs, spices and daun kadok. This paired well with rice, but I prefer the Malacca Nyonya version as it is sweeter and more aromatic.
I’ve never heard of Bianchee (RM8.60 – small, RM14.40 – large) before, but Uncle Tai mentioned his mother used to cook this for him when he was a child. This comfort dish of potato cubes, chicken, carrot, peas and corn in thick gravy comes with a garnish of croutons on top. I found this dish very English and thought it would pair better with baguette.
Dessert was a disaster – the Seh Liu Chi (RM3), pomegranate flavoured jelly with jackfruit in coconut milk had almost no jackfruit. It was a rip-off, I felt. This tasted like a pallid version of the Thai red ruby; don’t bother ordering this. The food was priced slightly on the high side, but drinks were priced even steeper. My nutmeg drink (RM4) had very little nutmeg flavour and I tasted more sugar than anything else.
Service was frustrating. While it wasn’t a full house, the staff weren’t very attentive and some of them looked like they were in a daze. That said, I found the food quite good and wouldn’t mind revisiting the place when I’m in Penang next.
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Food: 7/10 (non halal)
Verdict: Good Penang Nyonya food, but disjointed service. Skip the dessert.
50 Lorong Abu Siti
Tel: 04-227 9646
Business Hours : 11.30am – 2.30pm, 6.30pm – 10.00pm
(Closed every Tuesday except Public Holidays)