Malaysia Nyonya Restaurant, Howick, Auckland
Malaysia Nyonya (87 Picton Street) is a stalwart in Howick and has served Nyonya cuisine for over 6 years. It is one of the more formal Malaysian restaurants where you can relax and take your time over your meal. There is a fantastic selection of dishes on the menu, which spans not only the Nyonya cuisine but also Malaysian favourites. There are also several special dishes which have to be ordered 24 hours in advance; the golden pillow (see below), Hainanese steamed chicken and herbal duck.
Nyonya food, for the uninitiated, is the aromatic fusion of Chinese and Malay ingredients, spices and cooking techniques. From the 15th century, Chinese migrants who were mainly young bachelors, settled and married Malay women, creating a whole new culture with its own pathos, food, customs and colourful sartorial style. Nyonya culture is an important part of Malaysian life, and the well-known dishes such as kuih lapis, Kapitan chicken curry, assam laksa and otak-otak, are a part of the Malaysian food scene.
We made a lunch visit. Unfortunately neither the rojak (Malaysian salad with shrimp paste sauce) or the kerabu mango salad were available, but one of my favourites, kuih pie tee ($5.50 for 3) made for a great starter. Kuih pie tee, or top hats, are crispy cases encasing savoury sautéed vegetables. These are a well-known Nyonya snack, and a good introduction to the cuisine. Another traditional Malaysian delicacy is ngoh hiang ($7), its crispy deep-fried bean curd ‘skin’ giving way to 5-spice flavoured pork.
I had preordered the golden pillow ($28, with rendang instead of the usual chicken curry). This was the highlight; I loved breaking into the bread shell, and tearing pieces of warm bread to dip into the rich gravy.
The wat tan hor ($15) came in a huge serving, with generous pieces of squid, prawn and chicken nestled among the egg-y gravy, and there was plenty to share. It could have done with more seasoning, but the kids really enjoyed it.
Crispy eggplant in spicy sauce ($18) had a good contrast between the crisp slices of eggplant and the savoury mince. I found the deep-fried dishes a touch too oily, so it may pay to make a special request if it bothers you.
There is complimentary fruit for dessert, which is a great way to end the meal. Malaysia Nyonya is a worthwhile visit if you are in the Eastern Suburbs and you are sure to find many great dishes to delight your taste buds.
Written by Carmella Lee
AMS Food Review Editor