Beyond Horizons



12 What does it take to become great? Take a peek into the lives of some of the world’s greatest icons and witness how each one of them made a difference to the world.


While many Peranakan dishes are popular, not all of them are remembered as Peranakan cuisine. Reflecting its hybrid cultural traditions, Peranakan cuisine includes both Chinese and Malay elements. For example, many Peranakan culinary delights are created by blending Chinese ingredient­s with Malay herbs and spices. Given its Chinese heritage, pork is a common ingredient in many Peranakan dishes. On the other hand, many dishes are also prepared with Malay spices (such as lengkuas, assam, cabai, serai, cukur, duan pandan and santan), or with common Malay cooking styles like goreng (fried), tumis (lightly fried), rebus (boiled) and panggang (smoked). It is also not uncommon to find the women spending hours in the kitchen to prepare Peranakan dishes. After cutting, chopping

or pounding the ingredient­s, they will then proceed with the cooking, while adding an extra touch of aromatic and delicious spices to give the dishes their unique taste and smell. It is a testimony of the popularity of Peranakan dishes such as Nyonya Kueh (sweet sticky cakes), Kueh Lapis (multi-layered cake), Nyonya Laksa (spicy noodle soup), Chicken Kapitan (dry chicken curry) and Inchi Kabin (Nyonya fried chicken).


The clothing of the Babas and Nyonyas, which is a legacy of its historical heritage, fully reflects its rich cultural traditions. Peranakan fashion is well-known for its wide array of batik, silks, satins, organdie, embroidery and beadwork. In the past, Nyonyas used to make everything themselves, such as bed tapestries, pillow covers, purses, food covers, handkerchi­efs and bags, though most of these are now manufactur­ed by machines.

Today, Nyonyas are commonly seen wearing the sarong kebaya. The sarong kebaya, which is usually worn with a “tali pinggang” (silver

or gold-plated waist belt), is made up of the following items.

• A kebaya (blouse) which is embroidere­d with silk of different colours to form the borders of the kebaya

• A batik sarong skirt which is beautifull­y decorated with colourful floral designs

• A set of three kerosang (brooches), which are usually made of pearls, precious stones or even gold or silver

To complement this traditiona­l costume, the ladies also like to wear the kasot manek, which are hand-made beaded slippers with each glass bead carefully sewn onto the canvas. It is believed that the sarong kebaya first originated among local Javanese women in Indonesia in the 1920s. It was subsequent­ly picked up by the Peranakan community there, which then spread it to Singapore, Malacca and Penang. In the past, the Babas would usually wear the baju lokchuan (full costume) or Western clothing. Nowadays, the young men prefer to wear either a long sleeved silk jacket with a Chinese collar or a batik shirt.

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