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Nih, makanen sa’adae…In the old language of Baba Malay this means, “Please, have a meal!”

Baba Malay is the near extinct language spoken by Peranakan people living in the Malaysian and Indonesian region. Peranakan pretty much just means descendant (and there are a few of these).

Nonya (or Nyonya) Baba or Baba Nonya (depending on which part of Malaysia you come from) really just mean male and female (Nonya = Female; Baba = Male).

But I’m not here to give you a history lesson, I’m here to share with you the rich Nonya food heritage which unlike the Peranakan language, is thriving and doing extremely well.

The Boy who hails from the Malaccan region of Malaysia is currently on a homesick run. He’s been missing good Malaysian food and is replicating a few recipes.

Which is fantastic for me! But not so great for my waistline *ahem*

I have Penny to thank for this! Ever since the last Nostalgiaiip event, the Boy has been cooking wonderful nostalgic dishes non-stop! (Yes Penny… Bak Chang will be yours soon 🙂 )

So for today, I would like to share with you a classic dish with a modern take. The Nonya Babi Assam Garam Recipe which literally translates to Nonya Tamarind Pork.


Nonya Babi Assam Garam Recipe
(adapted from Modern Nonya by Sylvia Tan)


700-800g of Pork belly
2 tbsp Tamarind paste
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
125ml or 1/2 cup of Water

For the Dipping Sauce:
2 cloves of Garlic – Diced
4cm of Lemongrass stalk (white part) – Sliced thinly
1/4 cup of White vinegar
1/8 cup of Water
1 tsp Sugar
(Optional: You can add a few slices of chilli to decorate)


Mix the tamarind paste with water and add the salt and sugar. Place pork with the marinade and refrigerate overnight.

Boil pork with marinade in a saucepan until meat is tender. Use moderate heat.

Take pork out and let it cool for a few minutes. Keep the marinade in the saucepan.

Cut the pork into thick slices and lay them out on an oven tray (do not overlap them). Grill them in a hot oven at 220 degrees Celcius until browned. I prefer them to be a bit charred on the edges with some nice caramelisation going on, so I tend to leave it a little longer under the grill.

Meanwhile, cook down the marinade until it thickens to a sauce like consistency. Brush it on each slice of pork.

To prepare the dipping sauce, add all the ingredients together. Heat mixture in a small saucepan for a few minutes until sugar melts. Turn heat off and pour into dipping bowl and allow to cool.

So tell me wonderful readers, what classical dish would you like to take on a modern twist?