Fun fact: I am one-sixteenth of a Nyonya.
No kidding. My father’s father’s father (that’s my great grandfather if you’re not great with family trees) was a Baba who lived in an actual Peranakan house. I think. That’s what I’ve been told anyway. Or remember having been told… Ah, that’s the thing about history, isn’t it? It is so malleable.
In some sense, I guess you could say it resembles food-making: you take what you remember and make do with what you have – sometimes you add, sometimes you subtract, sometimes you choose to follow a recipe to the T and it could still be nowhere close to the original. But that’s what I love about being in the kitchen – being able to at the end of the day hold in my hands something so intimately and personally crafted yet imbued with so much tradition and memory.
One particular Peranakan delight (affectionately known as kueh) that has always reserved itself a special place in my heart is the onde-onde. For as long as I can remember, my dad and I have both been aficionados of kuehs, but he especially loves onde-ondes. My first ever attempt at making it was on his birthday four years back – he loved it and requested for me to make it again but I never did get round to it. (Cue: boo me!)
This year, I decided to spring him a lovely surprise with freshly made onde-ondes literally four years in the waiting. It was quite a miracle they turned out well given that I’d made them based on trial-and-error. 🙂
But the best part of everything wasn’t to do with successfully producing the onde-ondes. Rather, it was seeing the joy and appreciation inscribed all over my dad’s face as he looked at me reminiscently, joking, “I hope I won’t have to wait another four years, princess.”