Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This Blog has Moved

I'm pleased to announced that this blog has moved to it's own 
I would love it if you would click on the following link and follow me 

there for more recent posts and authentic Penang Nyonya
cusine recipes
Thank you for coming by.

Bee Lee

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Launch- Penang Authentic Nyonya Cuisine

A new cookbook -Penang Authentic Nyonya Cuisine was launched in Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Penang
on 2nd Feb 2010. About 50 people attended the book launch and the cook book was reveiled by Bee Lee
for the first time. It was a glamorous surrounding follow by Nyonya kueh and refreshments.
It appears that everyone had a good time, among friends and relatives, E&O, MPH, Kwong Hwa press,
Penang Heritage Trust, Spice Garden and Pacesetters were there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


500 g frozen spring roll pastry (30 sheets about 24cm x 24cm)

2kg frozen yam beans, defrost and shredded
150g French beans, sliced diagonally
cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
200g small prawns, peeled
2 tsp brown bean paste
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water, or prawn stock
Salt and pepper

200g crab meat (optional)
4 pieces hard bean curd, shredded and deep fried until crisp
2 cucumbers, cut into 8 cm x 1 cm lengths
100g fresh coriander leaves, washed and drained
100g lettuce leaves, washed and drained
1 cup fried red onion
100g bean sprouts, boiled and drained

1 cup sweet black sauce or Hoisin sauce
4 tablespoon chilli paste
4 tablespoon pounded garlic paste

Defrost spring roll pastry. Peel pastry one at a time. Cover with a damp cloth. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Fry garlic until crisp. Add bean paste. Stir until fragrant. Add prawns and stir for ½ minute. Stir in French bean and yam bean. Add water to make some gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve:
Place spring roll skin on a flat surface. Spread sweet back sauce, chilli paste and garlic paste. Place 1 lettuce leaf and 1 stick of cucumber and coriander leaf on top. Spread 2 tablespoon of filling, without gravy. Add crab meat, bean sprouts, fried bean curd and fried onions. Fold sides inwards and into elongated shape. Cut into 4 pieces. Place it on the plate. Add 1-2 tablespoon gravy on top of spring roll and serve.


500g banana prawns
200g petai beans
2 stalk lemon grass, peel and slice
5 red chillies wash and slice
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 large brown onion, peel and slice
4 cloves of garlic, peel and slice
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp shrimp paste (belachan)
6 tbsp oil
6–8 fresh mint leaves, washed and drained

Grind lemon grass, chillies, onion, garlic, and shrimp paste. Heat oil in pan, stir in spices until fragrant. Add prawns and petai beans. Add tamarind juice. Cook over low heat until gravy thickens. Add salt to taste.

Note: Petai beans have a strong flavour. They are definitely an acquired taste. They can be purchased in an Asian Grocery store in the frozen section. Snow peas can be used instead of petai beans. Soak Tamarind paste in soak in hot water to extract the juice. Remove seeds and drain. Add juice in curry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Cooking time about 1 hour. Serves 8-10.

600g sugar 
2 cups water
1 lime or ½ lemon

Boil ingredients slowly for one hour. Keep stirring until sugar has thickened and turn into golden syrup. Leave at room temperature for 1 month.

600g plain flour
375g syrup
90g oil
1 teaspoon lye water
1 beaten egg yolk (sieve)
1 mooncake mould (children)

Mix all ingredients except egg yolk by hand. Leave at room temperature for 45 minutes. Fill the moon cake mould with dough. Squeeze the dough towards the centre. Knock out on hand and place on baking tray. Brush the surface with egg yolk. Repeat the process until all dough is used up. Pre-heat oven at 400°F or 205°C or gas Regulo No.8 for 10 minutes. Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Serve cold. Leave in airtight container in room temperature. Keeps for weeks.

Note: - If new moon cake mould is used, the mould in the centre has to be soaked in oil and left at room temperature to dry.


Cooking time about 2 hours. Serves 4-6.

600g plain flour
375g syrup
(see syrup in Moon Cake for children)
90g oil
1 teaspoon lye water
1 beaten egg yolk (sieve)
Mooncake moulds

Mix ingredients except egg yolk by hand then divide into 12 equal portions.

12oz red beans
4 cups water
125g margarine
250g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Soak beans overnight. Boil beans in water until soft. Blend to a smooth paste. Place in muslin bag to squeeze out excess water, until the paste is dry. Mix in with margarine and sugar. Cook, stirring over low heat until paste is smooth. Add vanilla essence. Divide into 10 equal portions. Cool.

Roll dough, flatten thinly, fill with bean paste, sprinkle some flour on mould, press in the mould neatly and knock out on hand, place on baking dish. Brush with yolk and bake in pre-heated oven at 4000F or 205°C or gas Regulo 9 for 10 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes until brown.

Friday, September 18, 2009


In 1969, when man landed and walked on the moon, I was devastated ... Chang Er, the Moon Goddess lives there, the moon is her kingdom and she has lived there for centuries—How could have Neil Armstrong invaded her territory without her permission! I could see the ever graceful Moon Goddess in her beautiful white long robe floating around with her pet rabbit but there was no man on the moon!

A long time ago, Chang Er came to earth to help the peasants during the famine, while there she fell in love with a farmer and they got married. But they offended the heavenly protocol, and she was sent back to the moon immediately and lived apart from her husband forever. She fell to her knees and begged her parents; finally, they agreed to allow her to meet her husband for one day in every year on the 15th of August. In the Chinese lunar calendar, this date is when the moon is the brightest and fullest in China.

About one month before the Moon Cake festival the streets are decorated with colourful lanterns, the shops are full of boxes of moon cakes, piling up on top of each other. The lanterns are made from bamboo frames, with colours of bright transparent papers, traditional animal lanterns are hanging from ceiling to the walls, all lit up at night in the shops. The faces of young children are smiling with excitement; some would throw tantrums for bigger and better ones than previous year if they cannot get their favourite lanterns.

When I was young, the hardest thing for me was to choose the right one, cycling everywhere to choose the best lantern among all shops. Finally I found a fine white dragon lantern with moveable eyes, gold sparkles scales on the body; the head nods as I hold him in my hand. I loved him! “Take me home, I am yours”, he was whispering to me. I made the shopkeeper promise not to sell it to anyone and I would bring our maid, Ah Mooi, to pick it up the next day.

Guess what? The next day, my youngest brother came to the shop with us, he saw my dragon lantern and he wanted it. I argue with him, tears were in my eyes as I was too embarrassed to scream in public. Eventually I gave in; I let him have it since he was born in the year of the dragon. After the lantern festival, I wrapped the dragon lantern with tender loving care, hoping it might be mine next year. Whenever I have a dinner party now, there would be many lanterns hanging on the trees, to create the nostalgic childhood memories of Moon Cake festival!

We used to parade our lanterns just after dark, we would walk to a deserted area and gather the younger children and tell them spooky ghost stories, they were screaming and running everywhere, some even burned their lanterns as they tried to run home. Somehow, our Moon Goddess and the bright moonlight would guide us home to safety.

The moon cakes are made from flour and sugar syrup with red bean filling. Some have salted egg yolk in the centre to represent the full moon, and some with lotus paste filling. My favourites are the ones with various seeds such as melon, pumpkin and sesame seeds, sugared melon, and some with smoked ham; it has salty and sweet flavour, which can be grilled on both sides before serving. It is delicious! Those are the traditional moon cakes, but nowadays there are many new varieties having a snow-white skin and durian filling. The moon cakes come in a tin box with Moon Goddess printed on the cover, containing four round or square cakes. Each cake is embossed with Chinese characters which are the symbols of longevity and harmony.

There are moon cakes for children as well; they are plain pastry without filling (yet the same pastry as the moon cake). They are moulded into the shapes of animals such as lions, rabbits and piglets in the basket. The moon cake is labour-intensive and expensive to make, the syrup has to be prepared for a month before kneading into the pastry. The sweet fillings are sweet fragrant and rich. Small pieces are served with Chinese tea.

Why do we eat moon cakes?

During the Yuan Dynasty, China was ruled by Mongols. The people were not happy and the leaders of the rebellion knowing the Moon Cake festival was getting close, ordered the villagers to make some moon cakes, filled with messages and had plans to attack the army. They ate the moon cakes on August 15 (full moon), read the message and attacked the Mongols. The government was overthrown and a new era Ming Dynasty was established.

Today, all over the world, young and old, we celebrate Moon Cake festival with joy and regard it as an auspicious occasion. We travel from everywhere bringing moon cakes from specialty stores, and then come home to reunite with family and friends. Food offerings were placed on an altar with fruits such as apples, pears, watermelon, pomelos and pomegranates. 

Special food in season would be pinang yam and water cal trope—a type of water chestnut that has a hard shell, crunchy texture and nutty flavour, which resembles the shapes of black buffalo horns.

The family would gather on the balcony admiring and gazing at the moon, eating moon cakes and drinking cups of Chinese tea. The elders would be telling stories of the past, reminding everyone about the meaning of the Moon Cake festival and passing on the tradition to the next generation.

Most moon cakes in Malaysia and Singapore are imported from China and Hong Kong. There is plenty of competition among local bakeries, but as the connoisseur would say, “the local bakeries have not mastered the skills yet!”

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Base layer:
400g glutinous rice, soaked overnight
350ml thin coconut milk
1.5 tsp salt
2 drops pandan paste

Sugar syrup:
250g sugar
100ml water
8 60g eggs

30g custard powder
1tbsp plain flour
1tsp tapioca powder
300ml thick coconut milk

Pandan juice:
6-8 drops pandan paste add
100ml water and
1tsp lye water

Drain rice and put in 30cm round tray. Mix coconut milk, salt and pandan. Steam for about 20 minutes. Boil and dissolve sugar in water. Cool. Beat eggs and stir in sugar syrup. Mix custard powder, plain flour and tapioca flour with coconut milk add pandan juice stir well and strain. Pour egg mixture and custard mixture into a pan, cook gently until thickens and strain. Remove heat from the base layer, compact by using grease proof paper to press it down. Steam the base layer for about 3-5 minutes before pouring pandan mixture and steam gently for about 20 minutes. Cool before cutting into diamond shapes. It is best served and kept in room temperature.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Base layer:
160g rice flour
80g tapioca flour
60g green pea flour
460g sugar
1400ml water mix with 
1 tsp lye water and
6-8 drops pandan paste

Coconut layer:
60g rice flour
40g green pea flour
2 tab tapioca flour
500ml coconut milk
1 tsp salt

Mix in all the ingredients for the base layer in a pan, mix well. Cook gently and keep stirring until mixture thickens. Sieve the mixture and pour into 30cm round tray lightly spray with oil. Steam on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Mix all the ingredients for the coconut layer in a pan, mix well. Cook gently, keep stirring until mixture thickens. Pour into base layer and steamed for about 20 minutes.

Cool for about 3 hours before cutting into diamond shapes. It is best served and kept in room temperature.

The Origin of Nyonya Cooking

Long before Marco Polo, the Chinese excelled as traders, travelling from China to Malacca as early as the 13th century to trade timber, tin and spices. Traders were mostly men.

Malacca was known as a popular world trading centre in the early 18th century.

Lately, some historians argue that there were no intermarriage between the Chinese and Malay. Due to war and famine in China around the 16th century, the Chinese came to South East Asia to earn a living, mainly trading in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Some of them embraced Thai and Burmese customs and the influences of their cuisines. Some brought their wives with them; it was a prestige custom to marry local Chinese maidens from good family. They adapted to the local lifestyle, speaking Malay while retaining some of their ancestral celebrations and they are known as “Peranakan”. They settled mainly in Penang.

There were few Chinese women in the Malay Peninsula resulting in Chinese men marrying Malay women, with descendants known as “Straits Chinese” or “Peranakan”.

The male is called “Baba” and the female “Nyonya”.

The birthplace of “Baba & Nyonya” is in Malacca, situated about 200 km south west of Kuala Lumpur. The culture and tradition of Malacca has been influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, English, Chinese and Malay peoples.

The “Baba & Nyonya” museum in Malacca has certainly preserved the history of the era. There are some narrow streets, long houses (typical of Baba & Nyonya) and quaint antique shops and Portuguese museum.

Beaded slippers known as “Kasut Manek” and sewn by young Nyonya maidens can still be seen in museums and shops.

Various Nyonya and local foods include “SatayCelop”, “Portuguese Devil Curry” and “Oo Koo”, which is similar to “Ang Koo” but the pastry is made from the juice of black leaves. These can only be found in Malacca.

The art of Nyonya cooking used to be compulsory learning for young girls. They were taught to practise cooking to perfection before marriage or they would be regarded by their in-laws as not brought up properly and a disgrace to the family.

Intense training started in early childhood; young girls were taught basic preparation, such as cutting pieces of onion and garlic, scraping coconut from coconut scraper, cleaning vegetables, cleaning fish, peeling prawns, pounding chillies with pestle and mortar, and using grinding stone to grind the curry paste.

The second step would be cutting vegetables into floral designs, cutting meat and gradual introduction to cooking. The beginner was under strict supervision of the elderly members of the kitchen.

The Nyonya are known to be meticulous in their cooking.

With the use of modem appliances, the Nyonya admits that the work in the kitchen is less tedious and time consuming, but the traditional Nyonya believes that their old methods of grinding, pounding and cooking their food is the best method.

The basic ingredients in Nyonya cooking are lemon grass (serai), galangal (lengkuas), coconut milk (santan), chillies and spices as well as palm sugar (gula rnelaka), rice flour and screw pine leaves (pandan leaves).

There are three variations in Nyonya cooking – Penang, Malacca and Singapore.

The Penang style of Nyonya cooking was influenced by Thailand, while the Malacca and Singapore style of Nyonya cooking was influenced by Indonesia because of its proximity.

It is often said that the Chinese in Penang are so different from those living in other states. They speak a sing-song Hokkien dialect that is more refined in terms of intonation and pronunciation, mixed with many Malay words.

Their cooking is neither distinctively Chinese nor Malay but a blend of both cuisines.

A young Nyonya in the early days was expected to display skills which included making a good plate of curry, “Achar Awak” (pickled vegetables) and a beaded slipper or two.

Marriage potential was judged by good cooking skills and of course, good looks and a sweet disposition.

Nyonyas in Malaysia who were still educated in the traditional ways of cooking are well into their seventies and eighties. For many, their traditions and way of life are things of the past.

However, there are many people and expatriates all over the world who are still practicing Nyonya cuisine.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Penang Nyonya Cuisine

Nyonya Food
View video on SBS at

Bee Lee Tan
Malaysian born

Collating over 200 authentic recipes – many three or four generations old have produced highly interesting results for cooks worldwide, with mouth-watering curries and irresistible sweets.

Bee Lee can be contacted by e-mail: