Other than the vibrant Peranakan culture and colorful culinary traditions, Nyonyas and Straits Chinese also thrive on intricate, elaborate, one-of-a-kind Nyonyaware–crockery, tableware, porcelain, kitchen utensils, tools, and pots and pans.
In prominent and wealthy Peranakan families, tableware such as serving plates, bowls, tea pots were mostly imported from China and Europe. Nyonyaware are much-valued items. There are often special cupboards and cabinets to store all the Nyonyaware and utensils. Different tableware is also marked for different festivity, and one can’t mix them up in everyday use. For example: in my family, we have a separate set of tableware, kitchen utensils, pots and pans just for the vegetarian month, during the 9th month of the lunar calendar. Suffice it to say, those tableware and utensils are strictly vegetarian, meaning, they have never been used to cook or serve non-vegetarian foods. As soon as the vegetarian festival is over, all “vegan” tableware and kitchen tools will then return to the storage area, covered, and waiting to be uncovered again the following year…
The picture above is an old-fashioned Nyonya egg basket, a fast disappearing Nyonya artifact. Nyonyas are very delicate and there is no surprise that they have a special carrying basket even for eggs. I took this picture at a friend’s house, who is an author on Nyonya culture and a historian. He owns a vast assortment of Nyonya antiques, one of the most complete private collections I have ever seen. His house is a true gem of everything Nyonya.
I last saw an egg basket at a Char Kuey Teow hawker stall in Penang. It was an old-time stall in Georgetown, and the hawker still uses charcoal frying his char kuey teow. There was an egg basket with eggs, hanging off a hook in his cart. Nyonyaware of bygone years are much sought after antiques and rare commodity nowadays; they are highly valuable and heftily priced now.
Anyway, other than the egg basket, there are other Nyonya kitchen tools, pots, pans, and molds that I will introduce to you on this blog. If you are from a Nyonya or Peranakan family, I am interested to know more about your collections.
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