[Penang, Malaysia] Nyonya lunch at ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฒ

55-year-old Richard Rivalee is a popular award-winning fashion designer in Penang, renowned for his haute couture evening gowns. The man can also cook up a storm - what started as a hobby 5 years ago because he loved cooking for his friends, has turned into a new passion for him, although heโ€™s not about to ditch his 31-year-old fashion design career.

Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant has been located at Rain Garden on Bangkok Lane since late last year, from its previous location at Times Square. Smaller, cosier, but no less opulent, the restaurant still serves up the โ€œRichard Rivalee brandโ€ of Nyonya cooking: big, bold flavours and spicier than the usual ones found in other Nyonya restaurants around town.

Our lunch spread today was a mish-mash of Penang and Malaccan types of Nyonya dishes.

  1. Kari Kapitan - this is a Penang-Nyonya classic: turmeric-and-chili-marinated chicken, cooked in a spice-heavy stew, enriched with coconut crรจme. This dry curry positively bursts with the typical Penang-Nyonya flavours of lemongrass, galangal, fresh turmeric, chilis (LOTS of them) and slow-caramelised shallots (also a LOT of them).

  2. Jiu Hu Char - this is my favourite Penang-Nyonya vegetable dish: finely-julienned jicama, shitake mushrooms and carrots, cooked with pork and finely-shredded dried cuttlefish which gives the dish its umami flavour.

  3. Babi Pongteh - this is a signature Malaccan-Nyonya stew of fatty pork cooked with fermented beanpaste (โ€œtaucheoโ€), shallots and garlic. Richard Rivaleeโ€™s version also included potatoes, a touch of genius as the tuber soaked in the strong flavours of the taucheo-inflected gravy, reducing the saltiness as well as giving the stew more body. It was delicious.

  4. Perut Ikan - this is a strong-smelling, assertive-tasting herbal stew spiked with pickled fish stomach. Penang-Nyonyas will finely-julienne a variety of herbs: daun kadok, kaffir lime leaves, polygonum, daun cekur (sand ginger leaves), and turmeric leaves. Theyโ€™d then cook these with a spiced tamarind-flavoured stew, together with brinjals, long beans, pineapples and torch-ginger flower.
    I take my hat off to those who cooked this on a regular basis - to me, the recipe itself was enough to intimidate me from ever trying to cook it.

  5. Sambal Petai, Wingbeans, Okra & Shrimps - this was an explosive stir-fry of chili-and-fermented shrimp paste (โ€œbelachanโ€) spice blend, to which shrimps, stink-beans (โ€œpetaiโ€), wing-beans and okra were added. Extremely spicy here.

  6. Nasi Ulam with Penang-style Achar - another laborious Penang-Nyonya dish: basically a rice salad where a variety of very finely-chopped herbs were mixed with cooked rice, to which dried shrimps, toasted coconut shreds, salted fish and other condiments were added. The version here was pretty good, but I was never a fan of โ€œNasi Ulamโ€.

  7. Selection of Steamed Rice, tinted yellow using turmeric and blue using the bluebell vine flower:

Desserts
8) Sago with Gula Melaka - a popular Malaccan-Nyonya sago pudding dessert, covered with fresh desiccated coconut , then served with a palm sugar sauce dip.

  1. Bubur Cha Cha - served chilled here, a sweet, milky coconutty soup, with steamed sweet potato, banana, taro and sago jelly. Delish.

Overall, a very good meal - Richard Rivalee, when heโ€™s at the top of his game, is one of the best in Penang when it comes to Nyonya cooking.

Address
Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant
42, Lorong Bangkok, George Town, 10350 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-227 4888
Opening hours: 11.30am to 3pm (lunch), 6pm to 10pm (dinner) daily, except Tuesday.

10 Likes

The different coloured rice is a very cute idea.

Iโ€™m guessing Kari Kapitan is the same dish as Ayam Kapitan as this recipe from Ping Coombes, winner of the 2014 UK Masterchef series, who originates from Ipoh.

2 Likes

Indeed, it is. โ€œKariโ€ is Malay for โ€œcurryโ€, whilst โ€œayamโ€ is Malay for โ€œchickenโ€.

Curry Kapitan is a very Penang dish which is also very popular in Kuala Lumpur, which is heavily-influenced by Penang where Nyonya food is concerned - probably because a lot of Penangites live and work in the capital city.

Not sure Iโ€™d ever seen it offered commercially in Ping Coombesโ€™ hometown, Ipoh. Although Ipohโ€™s a mere 2 hoursโ€™ drive from Penang, its food culture is totally different! Much of this is due to the fact that Malaysia is a VERY new country, dating back to only 1957. Itโ€™s a cobbled-together federation of previously separate (and very disparate) states, each of which has its own food culture which has developed independently for centuries.

The only reason Malaysiaโ€™s 13 states even got together was because the British wanted to leave behind all their colonies and protectorates back then - so they managed to convince the old Malay sultanates (Johore, Perak, Pahang, Selangor), the former Siamese/Thai-ruled states of Kelantan, Kedah , Terengganu & Perlis, the Borneo protectorates (Sabah/formerly North Borneo, and Sarawak) plus the Straits Settlement colonies: Penang, Singapore & Malacca, to all come together and form Malaysia. Only Brunei opted to stay out. Then, in 1965, Singapore left the federation due to racially-charged politics.

1 Like

Thanks for the additional info, Peter. Appreciated, as always. It prompted me to do a quick bit of Googling about the coming together of the various diverse states. I was also interested that your head of state is a King - but one with a term of office, like a president.

1 Like

Yes, the only way to please the sultans - there are 9 of them, from the states of Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johore, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan - is to let each of them take turn to be the King of Malaysia for a 5-year term.

Penang, Malacca and the Borneo states donโ€™t have sultans, and their appointed governors do not get a chance to be king, only the hereditary sultans do. :joy:

I think itโ€™s a great idea. Perhaps the UK might consider it when Liz Windsor passes on. Some notable person in each of our four nations gets their turn being monarch for a while. Or maybe the people should just elect a head of state.

Looks Korean :slight_smile:
Like doenjang jigaeโ€ฆ

Not far from it at all - Korean doenjang is pretty much the same product as Chinese taucheo: fermented soybean paste.

1 Like

Richard Rivalee has moved from its long-time Bangkok Lane location to this pair of traditional shophouses on Macalister Lane a couple of months ago.

  1. Kiam chye duck soup - this is an intensely-flavored clear duck broth, pepped up with salted mustard vegetables, galangal and lemongrass. In Malacca and Singapore, this Nyonya soup is known as itek tim, whereas in Penang, itโ€™s called kiam chye ark in local Hokkien lingo.

  2. Steamed minced chicken-meat with egg - this is a common home-cooked dish, usually prepared using minced pork and eggs. Richard Rivalee chose to use chicken meat in place of pork. The dish is a close cousin of Korean gyeranjjim and Japanese chawan mushi.

  3. Laksa steamed seabass - this is a fabulous dish: a whole seabass, blanketed with a spicy, creamy laksa broth, redolent of lemongrass, chilis, turmeric, tamarind, kafir lime leaves and other aromatics, then steamed. The aroma was intoxicating.

  4. Otak-otak (steamed spicy fish mousse) - the version here seemed drier, with a denser texture, replete with finely-chopped herbs, compared to the eggy-custardy version Iโ€™m more familiar with. I surmise itโ€™s Richard Rivaleeโ€™s own personal take on the traditional dish: more terrine than mousse.

  5. Jiu hu char (jicama with cuttlefish) - what we got here was a bit greasier than expected. The dish was also a shade darker (use of dark soy sauce?) than what is usual for this dish. Itโ€™s very tasty, though.

  6. Nasi ulam and steamed rice with bunga telang, served with Penang-Nyonya achar awak - one of the best nasi ulam Iโ€™d had, even though Iโ€™m not a big fan of the dish. But this was good.

Desserts
7) Bubur cha cha - this is a popular Nyonya dessert, usually served hot: a selection of tubers - sweet potato, purple yam, taro, cassava, plus bananas - cooked in sweetened coconut milk. The version here was not overly sweet, which suits us fine, as traditional Nyonya levels of sweetness can give someone insulin shock.

  1. Bee koh moi - this glutinous rice porridge, served with sweetened coconut milk, is known as pulot hitam in Malacca and Singapore, and khao niew dam in Thailand, where I think it originated from, but co-opted by the Baba-Nyonya communities in Penang, Malacca and Singapore sometime in the 19th-century.

Unlike his earlier leased properties, Richard Rivalee (the man, not his eponymously-named business) owns the two shophouses at this new location, and he has faithfully recreated the same atmosphere here with his Penang-Peranakan collection.

Address
Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant
62 & 64, Lorong Macalister, 10400 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 4-227 4888
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-9pm Mon, Wed-Sun. Closed on Tuesdays.

2 Likes