Ayam Buah Keluak: A Taste of Peranakan Heritage

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Ayam Buah Keluak is a distinctive and traditional dish, a gem in the rich tapestry of Peranakan cuisine, and often considered a true embodiment of the fusion of cultures it represents. Primarily associated with the Straits Chinese, Ayam Buah Keluak features a unique combination of native flavours and ingredients, presenting a gourmet experience that is both exotic and steeped in history.

Origins and Culture

The culinary masterpiece that is Ayam Buah Keluak originates from the Peranakan or Straits Chinese culture—a rich blend of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritages. This fusion cuisine emerged from the marriages between Chinese immigrants and locals in the Malay Archipelago between the 15th and 17th centuries. Peranakan culture is revered for its colourful traditions, unique art, distinctive attire, and, most notably, its delectable cuisine.

Source: TimeOut

A Symphony of Unique Ingredients

Ayam Buah Keluak is not just a dish; it’s a culinary adventure. “Ayam” denotes chicken in Malay, but the true star of the dish is the “Buah Keluak,” the black nut from the kepayang tree (also known as pangium edule), indigenous to the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia. This nut is renowned for its robust and earthy flavours but is poisonous if consumed raw due to the presence of hydrogen cyanide.

The meticulous preparation of Buah Keluak is crucial, involving a laborious process of boiling, burying, and fermenting the nuts to remove the toxins. The resulting flavours are complex, with a strong, bold taste and a hint of bitterness, earning it the moniker “the truffle of Asia.”

Culinary Techniques and Flavor Profile

In Ayam Buah Keluak, the chicken is usually simmered to tender perfection in a rich, spicy tamarind-based gravy, infused with the flavours of lemongrass, turmeric, and other aromatic spices, presenting a perfect amalgamation of spicy, sweet, sour, and savoury notes. The Buah Keluak paste, extracted from the fermented nuts, is mixed with other ingredients to accentuate its flavours and is often stuffed back into the shells before being incorporated into the dish.

Legacy and Modern Innovations

Ayam Buah Keluak is not merely a dish; it’s a legacy, a tradition passed down through generations, each adding its unique twist to the recipe. Modern chefs and culinary aficionados continue to experiment with this versatile ingredient, creating innovative dishes and presenting new ways to enjoy this exotic flavour. Its rising popularity has garnered international acclaim, putting Peranakan cuisine on the global culinary map.


Ayam Buah Keluak is more than just a staple of Peranakan cuisine; it’s a representation of the rich cultural heritage and the amalgamation of flavours that define the Straits Chinese. The exquisite combination of unique ingredients and meticulous preparation techniques creates a culinary masterpiece that is both exotic and deeply rooted in tradition. Whether you are a culinary explorer seeking new flavour territories or a gourmet enthusiast pursuing refined tastes, Ayam Buah Keluak offers a journey through the rich tapestry of flavours that define Southeast Asian cuisine.

Article curated by Himavee Jayaweera