IJCH 2017 Vol.3(3): 190-197 ISSN: 2382-6177
doi: 10.18178/ijch.2017.3.3.099

Culture Indulgence: Communicating in the Language of Nyonya Cuisine

James B. Kuake and Steffanie G. Kuake
Abstract—Malaysia is a multi-racial nation with an incredible blend of cultures. The Peranakan or Straits-born Chinese are a unique group of a Creole sub-culture in Malaysia. They trace their ancestry to Chinese and local Malays. Also known as Peranakan they are rich in cultural heritage as manifested through their arts, rituals, fashions, and most interestingly, cuisine. Nyonyas refer to Peranakan women. Nyonyas are known for their cuisine which in a nut-shell is a harmonious blend of cultures from two different customs and traditions of their ancestors. By looking at the key ingredients used in Nyonya cuisine, it tells hundreds of stories behind those ingredients and ways of cooking, notwithstanding the delicious output. Despite the Peranakans having settled in various nations around the globe today, they have not forgotten their origins and their sense of pride of their heritage. One manifestation of these is through Nyonya cuisine being made available to family and friends wherever Peranakans have settled. Food communicates culture. What one eats is what one is, and what one eats says a whole lot about who one is. Humankind’s identity is symbolized by our food choices. The same goes to what we do not eat nor drink. In addition, our food communicates our identity, beliefs, cultural and social backgrounds to others. It tells a whole lot about a culture as can be told from knowing the origins of ingredients to presentation and plating. In sum, Peranakan food commonly referred to as Nyonya cuisine, while create a new renaissance in the food and beverage, and tourism industry, also communicates the epistemology of that Creole subculture; often indulging both the palate and thirst of cultural awareness.

Index Terms—Peranakan, Baba, Nyonya, cuisine, culture, communicate.

James B. Kuake is with the Department of Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (email: kuakebm@acd.tarc.edu.my). Steffanie G. Kuake was with Queen Mary College/ University College London, University of London.


Cite: James B. Kuake and Steffanie G. Kuake, "Culture Indulgence: Communicating in the Language of Nyonya Cuisine," International Journal of Culture and History vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 190-197, 2017.

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