MCO 2.0: With no Chap Goh Meh parade this year, Penang Baba Nyonya family celebrate with pengat and traditional dishes

Anne Grace Savitha
·3-min read
Peter Yeoh (far right) and the Baba Nyonya community decked out in their traditional attires for one of the previous Chap Goh Meh. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh
Peter Yeoh (far right) and the Baba Nyonya community decked out in their traditional attires for one of the previous Chap Goh Meh. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh

PETALING JAYA, February 25 — For many Penang Baba Nyonya families, their Chap Goh Meh festivities this year will only be among their family members due to the movement control order (MCO).

Many are unable to get together to witness the Dondang Sayang — a love ballad where poems are recited by both skilled men and women in Malay.

They are also unable to join in the vibrant Dondang Sayang parade with the bus stopping at the governor’s residence and also Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Penang residence.

Instead, they will celebrate Chap Goh Meh this year in their respective homes and cook their traditional meals to keep their traditions alive.

Make pengat and cook traditional Baba Nyonya dishes

Pengat, a popular Penang Nyonya dessert is usually made and served in the morning of Chap Goh Meh for most Penang Baba Nyonya families.

Peter Yeoh, a sixth generation Baba from Penang, said that the pengat is similar to Bubur Cha Cha but the ingredients used for both desserts are not entirely the same.

Pengat made from a variety of ingredients including gula melaka, pandan leaves and brown sugar and served on festive occasions. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh
Pengat made from a variety of ingredients including gula melaka, pandan leaves and brown sugar and served on festive occasions. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh

“Ingredients such as bananas, gula melaka, pandan leaves, and brown sugar are used in pengat which makes it a very rich and authentic delicacy.

“Unlike the Bubur Cha Cha which is available in dessert shops, the pengat is usually made in Penang Baba Nyonya homes or served for special occasions.

“We will then serve the pengat to our deities by 12 noon,” he said.

Yeoh, however, said that although the dish is a passed-down delicacy, there are new ingredients that his mother has added such as the black-eyed beans and sago jelly.

“But the basic components of the pengat remain the same which are the different types of tubers, pisang raja, sugar, fresh santan and pandan leaves.

“We also steam each type of tuber separately to prevent cross-contamination of their colours.”

Yeoh said that for this year, many of his non-Baba Nyonya friends have already asked him for the dessert.

“Because pengat is typically made in a Penang Baba Nyonya household coupled with the fact that it’s only served for special occasions, many of my friends can’t wait to indulge in it.”

For this year’s Chap Goh Meh dinner, Yeoh and his family will gather for a variety of traditional Baba Nyonya meals.

Meals that Yeoh and his family will be cooking tomorrow include the Curry Kapitan, Jiu Hu Char and Hong Bak. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh
Meals that Yeoh and his family will be cooking tomorrow include the Curry Kapitan, Jiu Hu Char and Hong Bak. — Picture courtesy of Peter Yeoh

“Some of the typical dishes that would be served are the Curry Kapitan (dry curry chicken), Inche Kabin (Nyonya fried chicken), Jiu Hu Char (stir fry jicama and cuttlefish), Lor Bak (fried meat rolls), Hong Bak (braised pork with aromatic spices), Gulai Tumis (tamarind fish curry), and Sambal Udang (prawn sambal).

“However, my family’s Curry Kapitan is slightly sweeter and less spicy than those from other Penang families because my mother who is Kelantanese-Peranakan prefers sweeter flavours.

“But our family will also cook our signature pig stomach soup that is cooked with chicken, abalone, and lotus seeds.”

Yeoh added that for this year, he and his family members would not be wearing their usual traditional attire of batik shirts, kebaya, and sarong.

“This year’s festivities are not going to be vibrant but we just have to make do with the MCO,” he said.

He added that for this year, virtual programmes will be performed by the popular Nyonya Annie Lim who will be doing a Cantonese ditty recital while a Curry Kapitan demonstration would be done by Nyonya Jenny Tang.

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