Private dining chef, Nyonya Chin See, hosted a 4-hour marathon dinner for us last night, featuring a plethora of dishes, including the complicated celebratory dishes of the “Leng Ngah” Fujianese people.
The Leng Ngah are a Hokkien sub-dialect ethnic group, whose homeland is where the modern-day city of Longyan stands. Longyan (Chinese: 龍巖; Hakka: Liùng-ngàm), is a prefecture-level city in southwestern Fujian province, bordering Guangdong to the south and Jiangxi to the west.
Some of the dishes take more than a week to prepare, e.g., cleaning and re-hydrating dried bamboo shoots, whilst some dishes take up to 30 different steps or more to prepare, and for the various components to be cooked, before assembling them into a single dish!
Our dinner last night:
“Sek kim” (Shijin / 什锦) - traditional Leng Ngah appetiser rolls of candied tangerines, peanuts, sesame seeds, candied wintermelon, pork lard, breadcrumbs & shallots, wrapped in a thin egg omelette.
House special prawns and white fungus salad, with lotus seeds, gingko nuts, lily bulbs and torch ginger, in a citrus dressing
“Or Bak” or “black pork” (煎黑肉～时来运转)
Penang-Nyonya Curry Kapitan makes an appearance, in a nod to Penang Nyonya cuisine, an integral part of the culinary offerings of the Heritage Artisans team, which of Nyonya Chin See is part of.
Curry Kapitan is a signature Penang dry curry - julienned kafir lime leaves (daun limau perut) provides its trademark scent and flavour.
Leng Ngah Yang Yu (洋魚 /年年有余) - this is perhaps the most important dish amongst the Leng Ngah culinary culture’s pantheon of traditional main dishes. There is an old Leng Ngah saying about the “Yang Yu”: 不出洋鱼，不成宴席 meaning “Without this dish, it’s not a complete dinner.”
Leng Ngah Yang Yu (洋魚 / 年年有) consisted of thick wedges of minced pork pattie, braised with pork-ribs, cuttlefish, Chinese white cabbage, carrots, black moss and other delectables. It packed an umami sucker punch.
Four Heavenly Kings (四大天王/ 吃了做王）- a spicy Malaysian-Chinese stir-fry of okra, stink beans (petai), long beans and eggplant. My first taste of this dish was in 2010, in a new Chinese restaurant in Singapore. I met a cousin for lunch and we were puzzled at the time, and asked the waiter what it was - he said, “Oh, this is a popular “dai chow” dish in Malaysia among the Chinese.” Ever since then, we’d know if a restaurant serves that dish, it has to be Malaysian-owned.
Leng Ngah Soon Kua (吃了做Kua) is an incredibly hard-to-prepare dish.
Re-hydrating the red-hued dried bamboo shoots require one week of boiling, soaking and daily cleaning of the shoots.
After one week, the re-hydrated bamboo will then braised with condiments and spices. The braised dish then needs to be kept over three days - re-boiled each day - to let the flavours mature, before it can be served.
Whole slabs of marinated pork belly also needed to be deep-fried, before being added during the braising of the dish. The end-product is ready to eat, after 13 days’ of pain-staking preparation and cooking - it packed quite an umami punch.
The Leng Ngah culinary culture calls for large chunks of servings in their food, as a symbol of generosity and sharing.
This was in complete contrast from my own Nyonya culinary culture, which requires very fine cutting of meats and vegetables into dainty morsels, to denote delicacy and a higher level of culinary standards.
But, in Leng Ngah tradition - big, coarse chunks of food denote abundance and the generosity of the host:
Bangkwang char - stir-fried jicama with mushrooms and shallots. This is a Penang-Nyonya dish (it doesn’t exist in Malacca-Nyonya or Singapore-Nyonya cuisines) - and Nyonya Chin See reverted back to Nyonya-style of fine-cutting vegetables.
Nyonya Fried Fish (飞黄腾达) - this is a unique Nyonya Chin See creation: fish marinated in turmeric & other spices, pan-fried, then served with chopped scallions, chilis, torch ginger and Chinese parsley.
Our hostess, Nyonya Chin See:
Dessert: Bubur cha cha - the traditional Malaysian dessert of coconut milk with a variety of tubers: sweet potato, taro, yam, pumpkin, black-eyed peas, and pieces of colourful jellies called “cha cha” (from the Malaccan Portuguese-Creole Kristang dialect.
One of the best meals I’d had in a while. The time-consuming, hard-to-prepare Leng Ngah dishes were the standouts.
Nyonya Chin See Food Services / Heritage Artisans
2, Bodhi Avenue, 10400 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-414 0802
Opening hours: Private dining by appointment only.
Enquiries: 10am - 6.30pm daily.