Saturday, June 16, 2007

Otak Otak Blangah/Jantan

To most people there is only one type of Otak Otak but to the Peranakans besides Otak Otak wrapped in banana leaves in the home there are different variations of this favourite food.

1) Otak Otak Puteh

Otak Otak Puteh is like the normal Otak Otak except that it is white in colour without any rempah - spice paste. The fish must be of excellent quality to make this.

2) Otak Otak Jantan/Blangah

The other version is simpler to cook using just the round flattish fish ball it is cooked in the same rempah - spice mix with coconut milk added. Why did one dish end up with two different names?

Well the term blangah means a indian clay pot and it is this pot that gives the name to the dish. As in those days earthen pots are use to cook coconut based dishes and for curries.

The other name has a more colourful origin the word Jantan in Malay means Male as the other version is wrapped in banana leaves this Otak Otak must be the male version as it is not wrapped and is terlanjang - naked.

There are many ways to prepare this dish Grill, Steam, Baked so what ever way is your favourite Cheers to Otak Otak....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gambang Kromong

What is Gambang Kromong? was the first thought that flash in my mind when knowledgeable peranakans introduce me to this form of music.

Gambang kromong refers to a type of ensemble, based in and around Jakarta, that combines Indonesian and Chinese instruments and styles. Its name derives from two of the instruments played: the gambang, a xylophone, and the kromong, a set of kettle-gongs on a rack. These are combined with instruments originating from China: a two-stringed fiddle and a side-blown flute. The remaining instruments in the core ensemble are percussion (hanging gongs, drums, and a set of clashing metal plates). Male and female singers, who sing lyrics in the popular Malay form of pantun, round out the ensemble. Western instruments may also be added, including electric guitars, trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, and electronic keyboards.

The music is performed and patronized by two groups who live in and around Jakarta (in Bekasi, northern Bogor, and Tangerang): Peranakan, people of mixed Chinese and Pribumi (native Indonesian) ancestry; and Betawi, who are considered Pribumi. Ensembles accompany male-female dancing at Peranakan weddings and other family celebrations. In this context, female dancers are hired as partners for men. Ensembles also accompany a form of popular theater called lenong.

Ethnomusicologist Philip Yampolsky has identified two repertoires that are part of modern performance practice: lagu lama, older songs oriented toward Chinese musical features; and lagu sayur, newer songs that tend to be based in Malay musical idioms. Lagu lama melodies were probably brought from the Fujian province of southern China to the Dutch colonial city of Batavia, presumably in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. At that time, gambang kromong groups played for private weddings and parties. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, as the music became part of a more public sphere, the instrumentation embraced Indonesian instruments, including drums, gongs, and kromong. The lagu sayur repertoire emerged at this time, and in the early twentieth century embraced popular songs in the region around Batavia. The music became even more hybrid in the 1920s and 1930s, as it blended with U.S. and European popular music and jazz. A genre called gambang moderen ("modern gambang [kromong]"), associated with the actor and popular music composer Benyamin S. (1939–1995), is an important marker of Betawi cultural identity in contemporary Indonesia.

More information:

Music of Indonesia, Vol. 3: Music from the Outskirts of Jakarta: Gambang Kromong

Monday, March 05, 2007

Chap Goh Meh

Yesterday was the last day of Chinese New Year or as it has been called Chap Goh Meh in Hokkien. As usual we had our reunion dinner but this time it was done at my home and we had a Tok Panjang meal of gargantuan proportions.

My cousin Tachi Gek came with her family to join us this time round and we had a grand old time with mum telling us the traditions and pratices of the Peranakan community in the old days.

Mum told us stories before the Japanese war when her uncles would makan angin in thier kreta kuda - horse carriages and cars after dinner going round city centre.

The young nyonyas and bibiks acting as chaperone would have to wait for the next day Chap Lark Meh for thier turn. This would be the only time for the young ladies to venture out and be seen as in those days genteel young ladies are not allowed to go out in public.

We ended the night watching the Peranakan Association play Bibik Behind Bars...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chicken Stew Recipe for Phebes

A question posted by............

Phebes said......

Hey, I think this must be the chicken stew I remember eating as a little girl, with a dark coloured gravy and kayu manis, very wangi. I have tried and tried to find the recipe with no sucess. If you're feeling generous, please share!

Sorry for the long delay in replying to your request for Chicken Stew you would need the following ingredients.

Chicken - a whole chicken chopped and cut to 8 or 12 pieces
4 Local Potatoes - peeled and cut into pieces.
3 Carrots - peeled and cut into pieces.
3 Tomatoes - quartered
3 Bombay Onions or in our local term know as Bawang Benggala :-) - peeled and quartered.
1 can Button Mushrooms
6 Bawang Merah/ Shallots peeled and pounded.

Cooking Oil, Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Black Soya Sauce and Water

1 stick Kulit Kayu Manis/Cinnamon

Marinate Chicken with 1 tbs of Dark Soya Sauce, 1 tsp Pepper and leave it for an hour or more.

Heat a frying pan till hot add oil fry the potatoes till they are nice and crisp on the outside remove and drain on paper towels. Fry and sear the chicken till they are brown remove and drain on paper towels.

Heat a frying pan till very hot, add around 3 tbs oil. Add the Cinnamon stick stir fry for a short time, add the pounded shallots and contine to stir fry till it smells really good...add the chicken continue to fry...for a short while before adding the carrots, onions stir fry again for a short while...add your potatoes and button mushrooms pour water just enough to cover the ingredients..when the stew is cook add your tomatoes continue to cook till the tomatoes have soften but still retain thier shape.

Season with salt, pepper and if you want the stew to be thick you can mix courflour in a bowl with some water to a paste add this to your stew.

Happy tryin and do tell me the results...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Slamat Toan Baru

Slamat Toan Baru to all Bibik Bibik, Encik Encik, Nyonya Nyonya and Baba Baba.
Boleh panjang panjang umor, untong untong, kuat kuat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Objects & Desire

NX Gallery

Objects & Desire

31 January to 30 April 2007

In conjunction with the launch of NUS’ Baba House at the end of 2007, Objects & Desire is a conceptual visual art project challenging eight international talents to present works inspired by the Straits Chinese lifestyle.

The recurring theme in this exhibition of works plays with the notion of site, community and experience, interpreting the creators’ experiences with the Baba House or the Peranakan culture, and delivered in the form of photography, installation, video, product design, interactive sound and food, these works tantalise our senses and demonstrate the creativity of the young talents.

The artists are Victoria Cattoni (Australia), Bettina Johae (Germany), Andrea Teo, Khoo Eng Tat (Malaysia), Mauricio Alejo (Mexico), Adrian Chua, Choy Ka Fai (Singapore) and Fal Allen (United States of America).

Programmes in conjunction with
Objects & Desire


Interactive Media Workshop with Choy Ka Fai and Khoo Eng Tat

Saturday, 17 March 2007
3.00 to 6.00pm
Celadon Room, NUS Museum
Artist Choy Ka Fai and student Khoo Eng Tat from NUS Mixed Reality Lab share with the audience their collaborative effort and the processes in making art.


Brew Appreciation and Food Pairing with Fal Allen

Saturday, 10 March 2007
3.00 to 5.00pm
ST Lee Atrium, NUS Museum
$20 per participant

Brewed and crafted in Singapore, Archipelago handcrafted beers are created in small, unpasteurised batches to obtain the freshest beers that perfectly complement the region’s food cuisine. The range of Archipelago craft beers combine the credibility of western brewing techniques with Asian ingredients such as lemon grass, tamarind and gula melaka to create what is arguably the first Asian conceptualized craft beer with Asian characteristics.

Come join the brewmaster Fal Allen for a session of Archipelago beer appreciation and food pairing experience.


Artist Workshop with Victoria Cattoni
Nyonya's kebaya, Baba's desire, 2007

Workshop 1 @ NX Gallery, NUS Museum
Saturday, 3 March 2007
1:00 – 3:00pm
Workshop 2 @ Your MOTHER Gallery, 91A Hindoo Road
Sunday, 4 March 2007
10:00 am to 12:00 noon and 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Cattoni’s work is developed through a series of interactive video workshops. She investigates the public's responses to Kebaya, the fashionable blouse worn by Peranakan women. Nyonya’s kebaya, Baba’s desire is a new component of an extended 'kebaya' research that began in Indonesia in 2002. Challenging common cultural misconceptions, using the language of clothing to stimulate dialogue as part of her research, each new work is developed contextually – socially, geographically and spatially within its particular site. The most recent version of the project Nyonya's kebaya, Baba's desire at NUS, is developed in both Penang and Singapore.
Public interested to meet Victoria Cattoni and be part of the process of Nyonya's kebaya, Baba's desire is encouraged to visit workshop/s during the allocated time.


Talks by Mauricio Alejo (Mexico) and Bettina Johae (Germany)

Saturday, 20 January 2007
1.00 to 3.00pm
Celadon Room, NUS Museum

Mauricio Alejo shares his investigation into home objects and their forms. His intuitive decisions in producing photographs and videos aim to resonate with the body, our memories and daily life experiences. Alejo looks beyond the daily encounter to find something exceptional, and his visuals created are symbolic references of his enjoyment in the ‘set’ or ‘the photographer’s frame’ through daily life.

German architect and artist Bettina Johae shares her investigation on subjects/theme through the use of mapping ideas, performance and documentation of changes in life and cultural activities. She had recently participated in CONFLUX: the annual NYC festival
for contemporary psychogeography where international artists, technologists, urban adventurers and the public put investigations of everyday city life into practice on the streets.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ways Of The Matriach : A Very Nyonya New Year

The series Ways Of The Matriach : A Very Nyonya New Year first episode will be shown at Arts Central on 7/02/07 Wednesday at 9.30pm.

Watch out for the episodes updates here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ways Of The Matriach: A Very Nyonya New Year

Shirley Tay and cast return with a new series Ways Of The Matriach: A Very Nyonya New Year. Most of the filming is already completed with only a few more cutaway scences left to be filmed.

The series will be shown on Arts Central on February 9, So do watch and see how we Peranakans sambot Toan Baru with our customs.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Straits Chinese House

The reprint edition of The Straits Chines House is finally out at the bookshops.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dr Lim Boon Keng

The National Library will be holding an exhibition and a talk on Dr Lim Boon Keng. A prominent pioneer of Singapore and one of the most influential men in Singapore's history. He epitomized the Peranakan heritage and led the way for many social and educational reforms to take place. 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Lim Boon Keng’s death.

Lim Boon Keng: A Life to Remember

An exhibition on the life and times of the Singapore pioneer
By Settlement of Dr Lim Boon Keng (1921), National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society

Venue: Level 9 Promenade
Date: 24 January - 18 March 2007

Dr Lim Boon Keng was a phenomenon. He was a polymath the likes of which Singapore has never seen and is unlikely to see again. A brilliant scholar, Lim won a Queen's Scholarship to study medicine at Edinburgh University. During his long and eventful life, Lim was medical doctor, legislator, scholar, educator, entrepreneur, community leader, social reformer and philanthropist.

A powerful orator and a prolific writer, Lim led various moral, social and educational reforms and contributed immensely to the welfare of the Straits Chinese community. Among other things, he initiated rubber-planting in Malaya and founded of several banks and other companies. Lim promoted the learning of Mandarin and was responsible for the revival of Confucianism in Malaya. Founder of the Singapore Chinese Girls' School, he also became President of the Amoy (Xiamen) University in China.

This exhibition held in conjunction with the launch of the reprint of Dr Lim's seminal work, The Chinese Crisis from Within, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Dr Lim's death in January 1907. Son of Singapore, citizen of the world, Dr Lim Boon Keng, a life to remember

Other Highlights

Lim Boon Keng One Voice on the life and times of Dr Lim Boon Keng and a musical performance put together by Stella Kon, the great-granddaughter of Dr Lim.

Excerpts from One Voice: A musical performance
(Limited to 40 participants)

Date: Wed 24 January 2007
Time: 7.30 - 8.15pm
Venue: Possibility Room, National Library Building
Program Details
Admission is FREE but registration is required. Interested parties to register via email at: and to include 'Lim Boon Keng One Voice" in the subject field.

Heritage Trail: A special bus tour to places related to Dr Lim Boon Keng
(Limited to 15 participants)

Date: Thursday 25 January 2007
Time: 9am - 5pm (registration is at 8.45am)
Venue: Pick-up & Drop-off at the Lobby, National Library Building
Program Details
The tour costs S$10 (including lunch). Registration is required and interested parties can register via email at: and include “Lim Boon Keng bus tour" in the subject field

'Lim Boon Keng and the Straits Chinese: A Historical Re-appraisal'
Organised by the National University of Singapore History Department and supported by the National Library Board

Date: Saturday, 27 January 2007
Time: 9am - 5pm (Registration starts at 8.30am)
Venue: Possibility Room, National Library Building
Program Details
Please register before 22 January 2007, by emailing Registration is free and includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Places are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

For information about the conference programme and speakers, please log on to:

The Boon Keng Pavilion at Xiamen University: History Recovered, Nanyang Link Reconnected
Speaker: A/P Lee Guan Kin (Division of Chinese, Nanyang Technological University)

Date: Saturday, 27 January 2007
Time: 5pm - 6pm
Venue: Possibility Room, National Library Buidling
Program Details
Please register before 22 January 2007, by emailing