Learning > Recipes

Nonya tacos

Sylvia Tan on 09 Jun 2016

The Straits Times


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The Koreans have invaded the food truck business in the United States.


Bulgogi, a Korean spiced grilled meat, and kimchi, fermented cabbage, now fill Mexican corn tortillas in food trucks around the country.


The craze started in Los Angeles with Kogi Korean BBQ. Its owner Mark Manguera decided to make Korean tacos after he failed to find carne asada (grilled meat) tacos in Koreatown there. It was a hit and now the craze is everywhere.


This made me think, why not nonya tacos? The nonyas, after all, have spicy satay, which is pork or chicken rubbed with a rempah or spice paste, then fried or grilled.


We could grill the pork rather than fry it, lessening the fat content and, instead of kimchi, add nonya rojak - pineapple and cucumber mixed with cut chilli or sambal belacan (chilli pounded with toasted shrimp paste).


It is essentially lean pork made flavourful with sambal and enlivened with rojak.


I like pork in this recipe though chicken could also be used. Pork is flavourful meat with several lean cuts.


Indeed, you do not have to forgo meat in a healthy diet. Aside from skinless chicken breast, you could choose pork tenderloin or fillet, sirloin or the loin chops.


But tenderloin is best. This is the cut we choose for toddlers because it is tender and tasty.


There is little fat and lots of nutrition as meat contains perfect proteins, unlike the incomplete proteins obtained from plant- based foods, which lack at least one of the amino acids the human body must get from food.


Pork is also a good source of B vitamins. According to The Pig Site, a serving of pork tenderloin includes thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-6, as well as minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc.


With that in mind, I got to thinking about how to make nonya tacos.


To cut down on the hassle, I used a bottled sambal - the nonya sambal chilli produced by many brands - to rub over the pork before grilling it.


To add some creaminess, I added a dollop of low-fat mayonnaise, stirred through with that same sambal, to make a spicy mayo.


For greens, line the tacos with lettuce leaves before filling with the pork and there is also a huge bowl of nonya rojak on the side.


Besides being low on fat and huge on flavour, this makes for a good convivial meal with everyone helping themselves to assemble their own nonya-Mexican tacos.





  • 500g pork in one piece
  • 1 tbsp bottled nonya sambal chilli (look for shrimp paste, chilli and onions on the label)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 20 corn taco shells, available in boxes from the supermarket
  • 1 head butterhead or local lettuce leaves, washed, dried and separated


  • 1 tsp nonya sambal chilli
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 4 slices pineapple, cut into cubes
  • 1 cucumber, cut into cubes
  • Light soya sauce to taste
  • 1 to 2 red chillis, sliced
  • 1 to 2 tsp white sugar or to taste



  1. Heat oven 200 deg C.

  2. Rub the pork with sambal and leave aside for 30 minutes.

  3. Roast the pork for 10 minutes on either side and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Slice.

  4. Switch off oven and place taco shells in the warm oven to crisp up.

  5. Make mayonnaise. Stir in sambal.

  6. Make the rojak. Add soya sauce and cut chilli to the pineapple and cucumber mixture. Add sugar to taste and stir well.

  7. Line taco shell with 1 to2 lettuce leaves to serve.

  8. Add a slice of pork, top with sambal mayonnaise and offer a dollop of nonya rojak.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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