Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia is as beautiful as it wonderful, truly a real-life fairy tale. Half the city is of classical Asian style, with sophisticated carvings and colorful Chinese-style houses, inhabited in the past by wealthy Chinese merchants. The rest is similar to a small European city, completed with windmills, Victorian fountains, and little red houses. For visitors to Malacca, a tour on trishaw (three-wheeled passenger car) is the best way to experience the city, as well as by taking in the variety of local dishes.
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Baba-Nyonya — Fascinating Combination
Malacca used to be a bustling city, full of the most powerful groups of merchants in Asia. When rich traders came here from all over the world, Chinese merchants seized the chance to run businesses and live in this bountiful land. They married local women and saturated the city in their own culture. Since then, this place has been a mixture of mainly Malay and Chinese cultures, along with Dutch, Portuguese, British, Thai and Indian influences. The name “ Baba- Nyonya,” which refers both to the people and the cuisine, is the perfect example of this blend of cultures and tastes. Baba means “father” in Mandarin while Nyonya means mother in the local language. Baba Nyonya dishes are very popular, especially in Malacca and Singapore (meanwhile, in Penang, you can experience a very different culinary style altogether, which is Asam Laksa).
For our first lunch in Malacca, we visited Restoran Peranakan restaurant, serving famous Baba-Nyonya dishes. For a Vietnamese like me, Baba- Nyonya dishes are very familiar due to influences of Chinese cuisine they share with Vietnamese dishes, as well as the same popular ingredients such as onion, mushroom, garlic, pepper, lemongrass and red chilli. For a Vietnamese traveller like myself, once you enjoy a few delicacies in Malacca, you will feel as though you were back at home. At Restoran Peranakan, you can also witness antiques of the Baba Nyonya people such as an old palanquin, mirror or screen. It was well worth the visit.
Restoran Peranakan Melaka
Address: 107 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Malacca, Melaka, Malaysia
Telephone: +60 6-284 5001
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 12:00 – 14:30, 18:30 – 22:00
Street-foods in Melaka Old Quarter
Right in the town square, visitors can easily bump into walking vendors with enormous bunches of bananas. Do not miss enjoying the mouth-watering taste of fried banana! For only 2RG (about 12,000VND), you can enjoy a big bag of fried bananas and sweet potatoes. Although these fried pieces are a little bit fatty, the delicious taste will immediately overcompensate for any possible guilt. While we are familiar in Vietnam with having fried pressed banana with a crispy outer shell, they do things differently in Malaysia. Here, bananas are cut into thick pieces and fried to make aromatic “Goring Pisang” (fried banana).
Something else we enjoyed on our stay was cendol. Cendol is cold, sweet soup, very popular in Malacca. No matter where I was, day or night, near the market or on any given street, I could see the same large signs with “Cendol” scrolled across their front. Cendol is similar to Vietnamese black bean sweet soup with coconut milk. Here the coconut milk is cooked with pineapple leaves to create the a natural vanilla taste, helping make the cold Cendol as satisfying as it is on a hot day. It was a fantastic experience.!
Another dish that caught my eye as I was walking around Malacca was apam balik. This dish is similar to pancakes or crepes with peanut butter. Peanuts are pounded and mixed with brown sugar, which is formed into a cake and roasted. The roasted cake is then cut into small pieces. Sometimes bakers also use corn for stuffing. Unless you are allergic to peanuts, apam balik is a must-try dish in Malaysia. The cake is both crispy and smooth in texture. All in all, it is a simple but very satisfying dish.
In Malaysia, there are two dishes in particular that make diners feel as though they were watching an art program. They are roti canai and teh tarik, often paired together. Local people often start a new day with a cup of tarik tea, along with a roti canai cake. Do not miss the chance to view cooks kneading and rolling the wheat powder skillfully to make roti canai cakes. After visiting the Malacca Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary, you can enjoy teh tarik tea and choose from a wide selection of traditional cakes, free!. This program is to promote Malacca’s tourism. Here, I had a chance to look at thousands of butterflies and snakes, then sip a cup of hot tea. Are you jealous yet? I feel like I could have just stood there, watching the artisan chef make teh tarik for many hours.
How to get there? From Kuala Lumpur capital city, take a bus to Malacca, taking about 1.5 hours.
- Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum
- A’Famosa Fort
- The Stadhuys
- Taming Sari WatcThe Stadhuyshtower
- Malacca Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary
- Restoran Peranakan (Baba-Nyonya dishes) 107, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Malacca
- Jonker’s Walk Night Market (open only at weekends)
- Bars, night clubs and small cafes are located along Malacca river.
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