7 Ways to Discover Malaysia’s Peranakan Culture with Locals

Peranakan culture offers a fascinating insight into Malaysia’s multicultural blend. The Peranakans, or Straits-Chinese, are an ethnic group descended from Chinese settlers who came to Southeast Asia in the 15th to 17th century, and the local Malay community. As such, everything from their clothes to their food, language and heritage are inherently distinctive in that it takes from both cultures and adapts to the local customs. Male Peranakans are usually called Baba, while their female counterparts are called Nyonya.

Back in the day, you might be able to see many kebaya-clad Nyonyas in Penang and Melaka. Today, it might not be easy to distinguish a Peranakan from other locals. The Peranakan community are known to safeguard their heritage very closely, which is why for the most part, they have been able to retain most of their traditions despite the changing times.

But what if you could have access to these Peranakan experiences?

Here are several tours, classes and activities on LokaLocal hosted by locals from the community, who are now sharing their once closely-guarded family traditions to those who would love to learn about it.


Traditions and Culture of the Peranakan

The Penang Peranakan Museum is by far one of the most well-preserved examples of the rich Baba Nyonya culture in the state. You can’t go wrong with a visit to this charming green mansion, which was even used as the filming location of local film, ‘The Little Nyonya‘!

While the museum certainly captures some of the elements of Peranakan culture, there is more you can explore on the streets surrounding it. And even more so when you have a local Nyonya to share these stories.

Nyonya Lillian, whose passion towards her cultural heritage is infectious, hosts a half day Peranakan private cultural tour that takes you to significant architectural gems, a jewellery shop, and a kebaya shop where you can learn the proper way of to dress up. For lunch, you can bet you will enjoy an authentic Nyonya lunch while Nyonya Lillian gives a lesson about spices that go into each dish. This half-day experience is perfect for anyone looking for an in-depth exploration of Peranakan culture.

Price: RM400 /  ≈  USD96 per pax
Meeting Point: Penang Peranakan Museum
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your experience with Nyonya Lillian on LokaLocal.

Learn the Art of Peranakan Beaded Shoe Making

Peranakan beaded shoes, or kasut manek, looks stunning when worn with the colourful kebaya. The intricate workmanship that goes into stitching on the beads is telling of a Peranakan maiden’s skill. Traditionally, brides within the community are expected to stitch these beaded shoes as part of their dowry.

Nyonya Lillian also hosts Peranakan shoe beading workshops in Penang, using an assortment of multicoloured beads to design the top of the shoe. You’ll get to munch of Peranakan kuihs and tea while you are at it! After the workshop, you can choose to display the shoe top as a decor, or get a cobbler to turn it into a pair of beautiful shoes you can wear to wow your friends at the next special occasion.

Price: RM450 /  ≈  USD108 per pax
Meeting Point: Penang Peranakan Museum
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your Nyonya beading experience with Nyonya Lillian on LokaLocal.

Supper Club Experience in a Nyonya Home

What better way to experience the local food culture than in the home of a local? Edward and his family has been living in George Town for generations, and their Peranakan background shows in the architecture of their home.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, they run a private home dining experience, with Chef David taking the helm. Traditional popiah is the starter on the menu, and you get to roll it by hand the way locals do. The rest of the menu is a surprise; not necessarily Peranakan food as it depends on the chef’s inspiration, but the dishes are flavourful and inviting.

Price: RM132 / ≈  USD32 per pax
Featured Days: Every Wednesday & Sunday
Meeting Point: Lorong Abu Siti, George Town (Exact address to be shared upon booking
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your Supper Club Experience in a Nyonya Home, Penang on LokaLocal.

Related: Penang’s Delicious Supper Clubs and Private Home Dining

Kuala Lumpur

Nyonya Laksa Cooking Class

There are many variations of Laksa in Southeast Asia, and Nyonya Laksa does not stay out of the linelight. Nyonya Laksa typically has a rich santan flavour, tasty toppings and herbs.

If you’re looking to learn how to cook Nyonya Laksa, Chef Noor is one to watch! She is the assistant of Malaysia’s celebrity chef, Chef Wan, and has been cooking since she was 12.

Her Nyonya Laksa recipe is based on Chef Wan’s own family recipe. From preparing the prawn broth and sambal belacan, to assembling a bowl of this noodles dish, you’ll get to bring home the recipe and indulge in Nyonya Laksa – all in the comfort of her home.

Price: RM300 / ≈  USD72 per pax
Meeting Point: Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur (Exact address to be shared upon booking
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your Nyonya Laksa Cooking Class on LokaLocal.

Authentic Nyonya Private Dining

For a taste of authentic Peranakan cuisine in Petaling Jaya, Ken’s humble home welcomes you for a family dinner that utilises recipes passed down for generations. Ken wants to champion for his culture through food, and you get to listen to stories about the Peranakan culture and the history of Kuala Lumpur. It will feel as though you are talking to a friend!

Price: RM88 / ≈  USD21.10 per pax
Meeting Point: Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1, Petaling Jaya
Reservation: Early booking required. Book an Authentic Nyonya Private Dining on LokaLocal.

Nyonya Peranakan and Malay Cooking Class

This hands-on cooking class features several Nyonya Peranakan and traditional Malay cuisine on different days. Each day there will be 4 dishes including a main, side dishes and snack. Mee Siam, Pong Teh Chicken, and Asam Pedas Ikan are just some of the many Peranakan delicacies you can learn to cook.

Price: RM250 / ≈  USD60 per pax
Meeting Point: Sarang Cookery, Bukit Bintang
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your Nyonya Peranakan and Malay Cooking Class on LokaLocal.


Melaka Nyonya Kuih Cooking Class

We can’t exactly pinpoint what makes Nyonya Kuih so addictive – it could be the myraid of colours and textures it comes in, or the adorable designs, or the sweetness. Whatever it is, Nyonya Kuih is very much welcomed as a local tea time snack.

In Melaka, you can learn to make 3 different kinds of Nyonya kuih: Onde Onde (Green balls made from rice flour and pandan, filled with palm sugar and sprinkled with grated coconut), Pineapple Tarts (Mini pastries filled with sweet pineapple jam) and Kuih Lapis (Steamed pudding cake that comes in many layers and colours). In the past, these would have been treasured as secret family recipes, but our local expert is more than happy to introduce her culture through her kuih making class!

Price: RM120 / ≈  USD29 per pax
Meeting Point: Taman Datuk Palembang, Melaka
Reservation: Early booking required. Book your Melaka Nyonya Kuih Cooking Class on LokaLocal.

Discover Peranakan and other unique local experiences on LokaLocal.

LokaLocal connects you to authentic and unique local experiences hosted by the people who matter most in any destination – the locals. Every booking made on LokaLocal goes towards leaving a positive social impact on the community. We aim to empower these chefs, cultural advocates and passionate locals by providing them with extra income, improving their outreach, as well as helping them to preserve their culture.

Discover more local experiences on LokaLocal.


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