Sumptuous Nyonya Cuisine by Chef Debbie Teoh!
May is the month of many things like Mother’s Day and a special date for me and my partner! It is also the month where last year, I had the honors of meeting one of my admired chefs, Chef Debbie Teoh at Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur. This year, I was very delighted to hear that Chef Debbie Teoh, back by popular demand, is returning to Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur as guest chef again!
Deemed a Nyonya culinary expert and a chef who wears many hats, Chef Debbie is no stranger to many Malaysians. With more than 15 years of experience in the food industry, the true-bred Nyonya (who hails from Malacca) has garnered her forte in both Northern and Southern Nyonya cuisines from her parents, a Baba from Malacca and a Nyonya from Penang! Chef Debbie does not limit her talents to Nyonya but also dabbles in Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Western cuisine for both cooking and baking.
Not only is she a culinary expert, Chef Debbie is also a foodie, author, food stylish, ambassador for the Nyonya cuisine and culture, and once again, at Chatz Brasserie as its guest chef. With several infamous cookbooks under her belt, Chef Debbie also contributes to magazines like ‘Oriental Cuisine’ by Nanyang Press and ‘Flavours’ by Star Publications. In addition, she is also a Nyonya Food Contributor for Tourism Malaysia. Talk about talents!
My food journey began with a simple but crucial dish in every Nyonya household! Nyonya Sambal is partnered with a platter of raw greens like Wing Beans, Cucumber and Mint. The platter of contrasting green and red resembles Christmas comes early for me!
The unpretentious dish of raw greens with the sambal is simply a match made in heaven! Crunch, crispy, minty with the pungent sambal sauce, the whole package brought forth a level of spicy and robust flavors in the mouth. Once you had a taste of the Sambal, the addiction kicks in and you will find yourself reaching for another and another!
Nasi Ulam is another dish that is created through the skills of every Nyonya chefs. The cooked rice salad relies heavily on local herbs like lemongrass, shallot, turmeric leaves, ginger torch and kaffir lime leaves, coupled with chilies, fried dried shrimp and salted fish are united harmoniously. Easy as it may sound, the dish is intricate because there is a strong focus on meticulous knife skills in painstakingly shredding every ingredient by hand finely and the balance of the ingredients used to bring out the best flavors of the rice salad.
Flavors are surprisingly gentle at the first mouthful followed by the tingling aroma of the local herbs that gently fills the senses through sight, taste and textures. Bits of punchy chili bites added a charm to the Nasi Ulam!
An avid eggplant fan, I was delighted to see the Terung with Sambal Udang Kering in the list! Strips of eggplant are fried till soft and crowned neatly with a gorgeous deep red sambal. Made from the pungent dried shrimp and also shrimp paste or belachan, the sambal is rich and spicy with a heady aroma that is balanced out with the soft flesh of the bland eggplant. Yum…
Unique to the Nyonya cuisine is the Ayam Buah Keluak. Buah Keluak is a black nut or ‘football fruit’ of the ‘Pangium edule’ tree native to Southeast Asia. The nut is poisonous but is made edible after proper treatment and fermentation. Chef Debbie shared her stories of the tedious labor from soaking the nuts, to cracking it open, grinding it into a paste and painstakingly stuffing it back into the shell before stewing and slow braising the nut with meat. Flavors developed deeper with time, therefore, the dish is often made a few days before serving.
Truly unique in flavors, one can attest that you’ll either like it or find it weird! A first bite had me tasting smoky flavors of the creamy and rich paste. A little nutty with intense earthy flavors, some even say this tasted almost like cocoa. The curry had a lovely deep red hue showing off loads of spices enriching the poultry while the buah keluak lends its own exclusive characteristics. A bowl of white rice is a must to savor this rich and luscious dish with gusto!
A curry closed to my heart lies within Gulai Tumis Ikan Pari simply because my mom makes it the best for me during my childhood meals. Mom only makes this dish when she can find fresh pieces of sting ray in her daily market routine. Therefore, whenever I feast my sight on this curry, I will automatically benchmark the dish with my mom’s.
I do have to applaud Chef Debbie as her version is very close to my mom’s recipe. A hearty and appetizing curry that exuded sour, spicy, sweet and savory flavors all rolled into one. This thick curry featured a strong aroma of lemongrass, chilies, ginger torch and the essential tamarind flavors. I like the bold sourness of the curry which I gladly spooned onto my rice. It was truly an appetizing curry that made me crave with comfort from my childhood memories!
Lemak Nenas Ikan Sepat was another curry from the Nyonya repertoire. The lovely yellow curry featured an Asian delicacy of salted fish paired with cooked sweet and sour pineapple for a fruity taste.
This one is ultra creamy with a salty backend in flavors. There is a tangy taste from the soft pineapples pieces contrasting nicely with the subtle spices lending it mild and luscious when savored with rice. A bite of the salted fish will rocket your taste bud even further with a salty fetish!
Another soul food in my Nyonya household is Otak Otak! A composition of spices, coconut milk and egg, the savory custard is usually paired up with fish and an essential Daun Kadok. As popular as it may seem, no recipe is deemed identical. Every Nyonya household has its own touch in flavors and textures. Banana leaves is another important part to produce the distinctive banana leave flavors when steaming the custard.
A Seafood Otak Otak is featured by Chef Debbie for this year’s menu. These packages are so daintily wrapped in banana leaves, almost too pretty for eating. I spotted prawn, fish and squid nicely snuggled among the spicy custard. The pretty yellow custard was soft and wobbly that melts into the mouth with a creamy and spicy taste. I was hoping to have more of the scrumptious seafood otak otak to myself!! J
Itek Tim, a sour and piquant soup filled with a treasure of duck, salted vegetables, Bombay onions, and shitake mushroom, is a bowl of comfort during Nyonya festive season. I remember this dish from my childhood memories as my grandmother insisted that this soup is always at our table during every household gatherings and festive occasions.
With dinner covered, it’s time for a taste of Nyonya desserts! Pulut Panggang was so petite in size. The grilled pillows unveiled glutinous rice rolls encasing a savory and spicy dried shrimp filling. A nice smoky aroma added extra flavors to the soft and sticky rice!
I have savored Chef Debbie’s Seri Muka last year and raved about it tremendously. This year, she outdoes herself by making Seri Muka with Yam! An extremely old recipe, according to Debbie, the first green layer of pandan custard now meld with a second layer of creamy and powdery yam layer. I love this so much I had four pieces that night. The combination was just near perfection in textures and flavors. According to Debbie, the secret lies in the yam which has to have the powdery texture and creamy flavors to bring out the taste. I am so gamed to have this recipe from her if she would share it with me!!
To add to our lovely evening, we each had a Nyonya Dumpling made by Chef Debbie Teoh for us to doggie bag this home! Tinged blue from the butterfly pea flower, the glutinous rice enveloped a filling of sweet and savory meat and winter melon delight. Unfortunately, some of us can not wait to savor this at home, so we happily open one to share around… I believed this is available for orders if you contact Debbie! J
The night was truly enjoyable with new and familiar friends!
For those who enjoy authentic Nyonya cuisine, check out Chatz Brasserie come 11 May till 10 June, where Chef Debbie will be cooking up her list of delectable Nyonya dishes through lavish buffets, cooking demonstrations and interactive cooking classes for fathers and kids.
On weekdays, indulge in Nyonya cuisine in Buffet Lunch priced at RM62++ per person and Buffet Dinner at RM82++ per person. Weekends are also not forgotten as there is a heavenly Nyonya Weekend Hi-Tea priced at RM59++ per person awaiting your senses.
For Mother’s Day on 13 May, bring your family to dine at a kaleidoscope of Nyonya cuisine at Chatz Brasserie’s Mother’s Day Brunch priced at RM68++ per adult and RM34++ per child. With an additional RM10, fathers and kids can cook for mothers in a cooking session assisted by Chef Debbie.
Guests staying at PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur and PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur are entitled to a 20% discount off the Nyonya Cuisine promotion while senior citizens above the age of 55 enjoy 50% discount off. UOB and CIMB card members enjoy special discounts as well.
Prior reservation is required. For reservations or enquiries, please call +603 2147 0088 or email email@example.com
PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail,
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2782 8301
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2782 8301