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Flavour of the Scintillating Straits

Many centuries ago, the Chinese folk packed up their worlds in tiny rucksacks and made the shift to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Their descendants came to be known as Perenakan or Straits Chinese. The group has parallels to the Cambodian Hokkien (descendants of Hoklo Chinese), and the Pashu of Myanmar, a Burmese word for the Straits Chinese who have settled in Myanmar.

Despite their language disappearing after settlement, the Straits Chinese maintained their cultural and culinary traits.

From the Malay influence, a unique “Nyonya” cuisine has developed using typical Malay spices. Influences from not just Malaysia, but Indonesia, Myanmar and Singapore too, have helped the Straits Cuisine develop into a diverse platter. There are close to 250 savoury dishes to choose from, and at least 200 different varieties of dessert.

From fish soup to fried chicken, Straits Cuisine plates it all. Since you are left with an array to choose from, here are the top 5 dishes from Straits Cuisine.

Laksa: A popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan cuisine, Laksa is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine.

It is often ranked within the top ten of the world's most delicious foods. Made of thick, rice noodles soaked in a rich fish gravy and coconut milk, Laksa is definitely a dish to sample.

Kerabu Bee Hoon: This is a salad dish consisting of rice vermicelli mixed with sambal belacan (chilli-pepper sauce), calamansi lime juice, and finely chopped herbs and spices peculiar to Asia.

The Kerabu Bee Hoon is a flavourful mix of chicken, cucumber, cabbage and four-angled bean, which provides the rich flavour.

Otak Otak: This dish is as quirky as it is sumptuous. It is a cake made of fish, chilli peppers, garlic and lemon grass, flavoured with coconut milk and thick fish paste.

Traditionally served wrapped inside a banana leaf, Otak Otak is a treat with every bite. It is very popular in Southeast Asia where it is often sold as a street-side snack. Sometimes, it is also sold as canned food and frozen food.

Lontong Cap Go Meh: This is a Chinese-Indonesian take on traditional Indonesian dishes, more precisely, Javanese Cuisine.

It consist of lontong (rice cake) served with rich opor adu ayam bangkok (chicken in coconut milk), sayur lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk), beef liver, hard boiled marble eggs, shrimp powder and soy. The dish is then garnished with an assortment of regional herbs which provide the aroma and unique taste.

Seri Muka: Coming from the sweetmeat shelves is the two-layered delight known as Seri Muka. It is a delectable dessert with steamed rice forming the bottom half, and a green custard layer delicately placed on top. Coconut milk is a key flavour-bearer in this sweet.

The creamy taste of the custard and the softness of the rice add to the richness of this dish.

Radadiya Kalpesh Photo Radadiya Kalpesh is a web enthusiast and a writer.

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