The Baba Nyonya heritage is one that’s so rich with history, culture and traditions that the hybrid Nyonya or “peranakan” cuisine takes on many facets. The unique blend of Malay and Chinese legacies from centuries ago has resulted in a cuisine that’s incredibly flavoursome thanks to the myriad of distinct spices and ingredients used, not to mention the painstakingly laborious processes.
I know several true-blue nyonya chefs who all tell me the same thing: that nyonya or “peranakan” dishes must be cooked using only the most authentic ingredients and employing the most traditional methods, ie manual and labour-intensive procedures!
The Baba Nyonya by Sambal Chilli restaurant in Avenue K is the 2nd outlet after their popular one in Atria Damansara. I could see a lot of efforts have been put into the charming deco of the restaurant which is decked out to resemble some parts of a typical Baba Nyonya house. There’s lots of wooden emphasis on the furniture and fittings and the walls have been painted to portray a nyonya house from the inside. Green foliage liberally deck the walls and pillars, softening the ambience.
Now Baba Nyonya by Sambal Chilli serves an interesting array of popular dishes which are not entirely of the “peranakan” heritage. There are some nyonya dishes but the entire menu composes of a good variety of Malaysian and even Thai favourites.
These pre-packed Assam Beehoon were really good!
Take the Fruit Rojak, Fried Belacan Chicken Wings and Sambal Petai Prawns for example. I think these are typical Malaysian fares which almost everyone enjoys but I can’t say for sure they are nyonya dishes. Nevertheless, these were good renditions, although I felt the chicken wings could do with a bit less batter and a stronger marinade.
Fruit Rojak (RM9.90) – this was spot-on with kicks flavours!
Fried Belacan Chicken Wings (RM9.90)
Sambal Petai Prawns (RM29)
Among the dishes we tried, I felt the Claypot Curry Prawns, Cincalok Omelette and Steamed Ladies Fingers with Sambal resonated the most where nyonya influences were concerned. We tried the Nyonya Chap Chye too and felt it would have been better if it’s less “watery”.
Claypot Curry Prawns (RM36) – the creamy lemak curry was so addictive!
Cincalok Omelette (RM12.90)
Steamed Ladies Fingers with Sambal (RM12.70)
Nyonya Chap Chye (RM16.90)
We had a whole siakap done “Crispy Fish with Sambal Sauce” style and couldn’t quite discern if it was a nyonya-style. It didn’t taste much like the typical nyonya sambal – this was more like a Malay sambal tumis makeup. Nevertheless, the fish was fresh and the spicy sambal drew more plain rice to our plates.
Crispy Fish with Sambal Sauce (RM56.90)
Similarly, the Salted Fish Chicken in Claypot was a rice-busting dish. The bits of fragrant salted fish among the flavoursome chicken pieces cooked in a wicked dark sauce had us scraping the pot clean. Again, I was not sure if this was a nyonya dish – it looked more like a chicken version of the popular Chinese dish where pork belly is used.
Ever mindful that some diners look for quick easy meals, Baba Nyonya’s menu does feature some rice sets like Chicken BBQ Set, Assam Pedas Fish Rice, Seafood Chilli Api Rice and the Malaysian favourite Nasi Lemak Sets with various add-ons. I was told their most popular set is the Green Curry Chicken Rice Set and of course “green curry” is typically Thai.
Green Curry Chicken Rice Set (RM14.90)
The desserts section of the menu listed Malaysian favourites like Cendol, ABC, Bo Bo Cha Cha and Sago Pandan Gula Melaka.
ABC (RM9.90), Sago Pandan Gula Melaka (RM4.90), Bo Bo Cha Cha (RM4.50)
But what stood out for us was the Banana Fritters served with a dark soya sauce dip. Such an odd combo – the dark soya sauce dip with a sweet sambal in it reminded me of the same concoction we used to make to eat with raw mangoes during my childhood days! Served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, the combo of fried bananas and the chilli dip was quite the bomb! Despite the weirdness, the flavours did somehow work well together and that’s one plate of banana fritters I won’t forget.
Banana Fritters (RM11.90)
Refreshing Apple Assam Boi & Lemongrass Lychee (both @ RM10.90 each)
So, all in all, while the repertoire of dishes here may not be entirely of baba nyonya style, they are hearty Malaysian food at affordable prices. It’s a good place to hang-out if you are in that vicinity and just want some comforting local fares to feed the soul and stomach. Prices are very decent and affordable, especially as it’s in the vicinity of KLCC.
BABA NYONYA by Sambal Chilli
Lot UC-1, Upper Concourse
Avenue K, Jalan Ampang
Open: 8.00am – 10.00pm