I learnt through some research that Big Baba was opened by a certain Baba Wee and his nephew, who hail from a Peranakan family in Melaka. It was comforting to see Pong Teh chicken on the menu, as well as Curry Debal
Growing up in Melaka town, I’ve been exposed to Peranakan cooking all my life. I’ve always loved it, even as a child. Peranakan cuisine is a complex mastery of Malay condiments, Indian spices and a dash of Chinese soy sauce. They come together in perfect harmony in Peranakan cooking.
The Peranakans are also called the Straits Chinese. They’re the descendants of Chinese traders that settled down here hundreds of years ago and have adopted various local cultures into their own, giving birth to a unique way of life. The most obvious blend of cultures can be seen in their cuisine. All the nyonyas I knew growing up were amazing cooks.
There would be an abundance of Pulut Seri Kaya, Ang Ku Kueh and Pang Susi during church pot bless parties. It was during this time that I learned to eat things like Ayam Pongteh, Otak-otak, Enche Kabin and Pai Tee.
Unfortunately, since moving to the Klang Valley as a young adult, goof Peranakan food is hard to come by. I’ve tried a few places here, but they’ve largely fallen short of the standards I’ve grown so used to in Melaka. The local KL foodie community seems to rave about some of these places, but I walked away unsatisfied, even from brands that have gained a large following.
That is until I tried Big Baba.
I learnt through some research that Big Baba was opened by a certain Baba Wee and his nephew, who hails from a Peranakan family in Melaka. It was comforting to see Pong Teh chicken on the menu, as well as Curry Debal. However, since I wasn’t for the mood for much meat that day, I settled for steamed okra, Cincalok omelette, mixed vegetables and an otak-otak.
The otak-otak arrived wrapped in a leaf. Different Peranakan families have different otak-otak recipes. Some of them mix eggs with boneless fish meat and spices, while others cover an entire piece of fish with grated lemongrass and other spices without any eggs. The entire thing is steamed in little ‘bags’ made of banana leaves. Big Baba’s otak-otak is the eggless type, which is fine by me. I really take my hats off to them as some of these spices are hard to come by nowadays, like daun kaduk or pepper leaves.
My next favourite thing was the sambal that came with the steamed okra. I’ve always been fascinated by Peranakan sambals and attempted to recreate them in my kitchen. I’ve never gotten it quite right yet. Yet again, Baba Wee’s signature family cooking is brought to light with this sambal, which came topped with pieces of onions and lemongrass. There was a distinctly ‘umami’ taste that I couldn’t pinpoint exactly. Then again, Peranakan family recipes are a closely guarded secret.
My only point of contention at Big Baba’s is the price. With two veggies, an omelette and one otak –otak (with two drinks), the price came up to almost RM80 for two persons. However, I do believe the price is fairly acceptable, given the authenticity of the place and the care that goes into preparing each dish.
- No 34. Ground Floor, Jalan 2/109E, Desa Business Park, Taman Desa, Jalan Klang Lama Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Phone: +60 3-7987 7755
- Opening Hours: Tuesday 09:00-15:00 & 17:00 - 21:00, Wednesday to Sunday 11:00-15:00 & 17:00 - 21:00, Monday Closed