Monday, January 10, 2011

Dr. Lee Su Kim's book launch "Kebaya Tales"

Last Saturday, I attended my dear friend Dr. Lee’s launch event for her new book “Kebaya Tales” which was held here in Kuala Lumpur at the Textile Museum.
Dr. Lee Su Kim's new book "Kebaya Tales"
It was a great event and we were entertained and enlightened by a kebaya fashion show that showcased several young beautiful nyonya ladies in attractive and colorful kebayas. According to Dr. Lee, the nyonyas and babas of Malaysia and Singapore are a unique ethnic group which originated 700 years ago when Chinese traders arrived in Malacca, the center of the Malacca Sultanate. As the "babas" (male) did not bring their women folk along with them, they intermarried with the local women. If you would like to know more about this interesting and unique culture, I recommend you read Dr. Lee’s book “Kebaya Tales”. She has also authored 8 other very interesting books. Here is the link to her website if you would like to check out her other books. I also recommend that you read the book "Nyonya in Texas" and I can almost guarantee you will not want to put it down until you finish it. I finished the book the day I started it! When I read it the second time, I still got the chuckles! Dr. Lee is an engaging observer and recorder of the experiences she has had in her life. In her new book, she gives us insight into this culture group through fascinating fictional stories reflecting her actual experiences and her research into Peranakan culture.
After the formal launching of the book, attended and assisted by local dignitaries, we were treated to the kebaya fashion show, which was truly "eye candy" for all who were present.

The Nyonya Kebaya is a beautiful, translucent, figure-hugging embroidered blouse worn with a batik sarong by nyonyas. A nyonya kebaya is not only intricate in design, they are extremely colorful. As the embroidery are hand made, I view it as work of art. It is indeed a traditional costume that is timeless. It is an attire suitable for all occasions and they make the lady look elegant, feminine, alluring, sensual and glamorous. Furthermore, it is fashionable for all ages. However, an authentic nyonya kebaya tends to come with a price tag that is not within the budget of many people. One set of kebaya (blouse and sarong) will cost at least RM700.00 (US$250.00) and above depending on how much embroidery is involved.

Lovely Nyonyas in a row
Aren't they beautiful?
Look at the intricate embroidery on the kebaya blouses - LOVELY!
Look at the embroidery in the blouses... fabulous!

Look at these lovely sarongs, which feature the Batik designs that are traditional in Southeast Asia but are world renowned for colorful inventiveness.
I love Nyonya food, and one dish that is so simple to make yet extremely delicious, is for Birthday occasions. It is called simply Nyonya Birthday Mee and most Malaysians are familiar with this popular dish. Noodles are normally served at birthday celebrations because they are considered a symbol for longevity, the association being the obvious - long noodles, long life. Today was a test run of this dish for me as I've not made it before. I am happy to report that the outcome was great (as certified by Stitch). My mum's birthday is around the corner, I think I will make this again on her birthday and surprise her.
Larglely adapted from Vivien Quahe-Seah’s Cookbook titled “Food for Thought”
Nyonya Birthday Mee (Fried Noodles), and a fruit/chili side salad, Nyonya Style
Serves 2
Main Ingredients:
10 medium prawns with shell removed and reserved
1.5 cloves garlic, pounded
1 1/2 tsp tau cheo, (fermented soya bean sauce) pounded
1 ½ lbs Shanghai noodles, (or your favorite egg noodle) boiled to al dente, drained and soaked in a cool bath
2 cups taugay (bean sprouts)
20 medium size tua tow (clams)
2 ozs chye sim, (choy sum), washed and cut into bite size pieces
Make 1 ½ cups stock from prawn shells - Simmer prawn shells in 2 cups of water with a bit of salt until reduced by 1/2 cup.
Ingredients for Seasoning:
A dash of white ground pepper
A dash of sugar
Ingredients for Garnishing:
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded cucumber without skin and seed vein removed
4 medium shallots, diced
2 stalks coriander parsley
1 fresh red chilli
Method for Preparing Garnish:
Beat eggs and fry in wok with a little oil, swirling the wok to make egg into a thin omelette. Shred the omelette finely. Fry sliced shallots in oil till golden brown and drain oil completely. Wash parsley and pluck into sprigs. Wash and slice red chillies finely.
Method for frying noodles:
Heat oil in wok and fry garlic and tau cheo till fragrant. Add prawns and fry till cooked. Add stalk of chye sim (choy sum) and fry for 2 mins followed by the leaves stir fry till half cooked . Add tua tow (clams), ½ cup stock and tua tow have opened up. Add in taugay (bean sprout), noodle and balance of stock and fry till cooked. Add ground white pepper and sugar. Mix well and add garnishing and serve hot.
Note: We recommend serving the noodles with sambal belacan (buh lah chan), pineapple, and cucumber salad.
Sambal Belacan Pineapple and Cucumber Salad
Sambal Belacan 

Nyonya pineapple & cucumber salad


30g toasted belacan crumbled (belacan is a shrimp paste available in most Asian markets)
250g fresh red chillies, washed and diced
12 shallots
1 head (bulb) garlic
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs lime juice
1 tsp oil
salt to taste
½ cucumber, diced without the center
¼ pineapple diced
Method for making sambal belacan:
Put A in blender and pulse till mixture is slightly course. Add B and mix well. Heat oil and add mixture. Stir fry till fragrant and the color of chili mixture turns darker red. Add salt to taste
Method for making the salad:
Toss D with 2 tbs of sambal belacan until well mixed and let it sit in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.
Note: store the balance of the sambal belacan in the fridge for use later.


  1. What beautiful photos, the material and decorations are quite stunning. Diane

  2. Thank you for sharing - this is a beautiful post! I love the colors, the beauty, the culture... amazing!

  3. That was one wonderful event! I love all photos. All the girls are so pretty, including you! As for food, Delicious!

  4. Lovely photos, nice event. nice post love it. Food looks delicious.

  5. Such beautiful colors and the girls are truly lovely. I'm eager to try a sauce like this, it is something my husband will like!

  6. What a treat to be able to attend such a lovely fashion show. Such beautiful blouses and dresses with beautiful embroidery. Both the noodle dish and the salad look and sound delicious. I love chilied salads because of the hot and cold mix.

    Congrats to your friend for having her book published!

  7. Diane and Swathi, what is stunning is the work of art on this attire. The embroidery on the blouse and the hand printed designs on the batik sarongs are truly work of passion!

  8. You are welcome Kate. Thanks for dropping by and glad you enjoyed my post.

  9. Sandra, you are so kind to give me that compliment. I will gladly accept it hehe. Thanks! Have a wonderful week.

  10. Kim, the sauce is versatile, it can be used to cook many other spicy dishes with meat or vegetables.

  11. lequan,
    I will pass your comment to Dr. Lee. Would you like to read this book "Kebaya Tales"? If yes, let me know, I will mail you a copy ok?

  12. wow what a fun event love the clothes so pretty and the food thanks for sharing


  13. The clothing are all works of art. Such detail, beautiful crafting, astounding loveliness. I love that noodles are for longevity and the dish looks grand. I wouldn't mind it on my birthday plate.

  14. How educational, the Kebaya fashion show on your blog was a delight.

  15. Great post and I love nyonya kebayas and thank for sharing this beautiful post. Beautiful pictures and beautiful nyonya the sambal ...most of us can't live without it! :)

  16. I'm not sure which I enjoyed most -- the clothes or the food! Thanks so much for visiting Chopsticks and String. I also invite you to visit my primary blog, The Marmelade Gypsy. All the best, jeanie

  17. I'm not sure which I enjoyed most -- the clothes or the food! Thanks so much for visiting Chopsticks and String. I also invite you to visit my primary blog, The Marmelade Gypsy. All the best, jeanie

  18. wah lau eh....lovely kebaya. To bad I dont have the body for it LOL

    i love to eat the acar

  19. I come here and get adorable boot pictures and recipes? How cool!

    I want those fried noodles!


  20. You make me miss Nyonya food all of a sudden!

  21. That looks like a fun event. I am absolutely loving the dresses and detailed emboridieries. And that salad is sooo colorful and looks delicious :)

  22. Hi. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm a new follower. That embroidery work is amazing--very beautiful clothes. The food looks delicious, too!

  23. Rebecca: You are welcome. Good things must be shared among friends:D

    Claudia: if the noodles can take the hours of travel to your end, I will definitely make it for you on your birthday.

    Torviewtoronto & Rhonda: Thanks.

    Elin: I for sure cannot live without sambal belacan. The last time I went back to US, I carried a big jar with me. LOL!

    Jeanie: You a welcome, I enjoyed reading your posts. Will check out your primary blog soon.

    Small Kucing: You don't need to have a perfect body to wear kebaya, they look nice on all bodies my dear:D

    Laura: Welcome to my blog and hope you will visit often.

    tigerfish: I know, food photos do that to me too.

    Cakewhiz & Darlene: thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoy the photos and the recipes. Hope to see you guys around often.

  24. Thanks for visiting my blog. Love to see on the embroidery kebaya blouses, they all beautiful made. Your pineapple salad looks hot but refreshing. I like it :)

  25. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post! The outfits are so beautiful as is the food you made. Love your lime green kebaya. My husband and I visited Malacca a few years ago and we absolutely loved it!

  26. I definitely want to check out that book. and the kebaya are so beautiful. One that catches my eye is the bright blue/turquoise one... stunning!
    This salad looks really tasty too. Sweet and spicy!

  27. The detail in the clothing is just incredible. I love the variety of colors too.

  28. I'm keeping one of LSK's books, 'malaysian flavours' , very entertaining, witty and humourous too, reading it over again sometimes. Those kebayas are really beautiful, this is one gem that our country cannot afford to lose. It looks good on all races and brings out the feminine side of us.Looking at that, i feel like getting one too. You look great in that photo and thanks for the recipe that you're sharing with all of us. Cheers!

  29. DG: You are most welcome, you bet I will be a regular vistor to your blog, I enjoyed what I see. I am happy know you enjoy my post. Thanks for taking time to leave your comment.

    Karen: you are most welcome. It was nice to know that you visited Malacca. It is a COOL place isn't it? You can actually get set of kebaya made there and have them send to you. I did not buy mine there but all my friends did. If you are interested to get the shop contact, let me know, I will get it for you.

    honeybeecooksjackfruit: What a cute name you have:D Thanks so much for dropping by and leave your comment. It means a lot to me. I agree with you that the turquoise kebaya's embroidery is unique and the color is so brilliant.

    lisa: the fabrics of the sarong and and kebaya blouse are very colorful and it is a great combination with intricate embroidery make the attire looks real stunning.

    Lena: I agree with you 100%! Thanks for your compliment. Have a wonderful weekend my dear. Hope to visit with you again soon.

  30. The recipies look delicious. Thank you for sharing!

  31. That was an amazing set of pictures. I was enchanted by the clothing. It's so sophisticated and intricate. Gorgeous.

    The food is spectacular as well. Thank you so much for thinking to take the photos and allow us to live the experience through them.

  32. Efty: You are most welcome. Thanks for your visit and comment. Please drop by often.

  33. The Mom Chef: Good to see you. I am glad you enjoy the photos.


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