Words & photos by Rena Lim
Apart from its history and harmonious multi-cultural community, Melaka is equally known for its many cuisines. It is for this culinary delight that visitors are drawn to the state.
From satay celup to chicken rice ball, the menu is representative of every culture that makes up this melting pot that is Malaysia. Sampling each and every item is a gastronomical exploration.
Take the satay celup, for instance. It has become so popular that restaurants serving this dish are seeing a boom in business. Skewers of raw or semi-cooked seafood, meat and vegetables are dunked in boiling satay gravy until they are cooked, enabling the seafood and meat to soak up the spicy and fragrant flavour of the gravy. Tasty and spicy, it is best paired with fresh chilled juices.
At Ban Lee Siang, one of the first satay celup restaurants, it takes up to eight hours to prepare the 20 different ingredients for the gravy.
It is an equally tedious process to make the chicken rice ball, another Melaka favourite. Preparation begins even before the rice is cooked. The sticky and fragrant rice is then shaped into spheres to give it a unique taste.
It is best described as an explosion of flavours on your palate – there are hints of garlic, onions and sesame sauce. Pairing with crispy roasted chicken enhances the taste.
A visit to Melaka is not complete without sampling its heritage – authentic Peranakan food. The Peranakans (also known as Baba-Nyonya) are Straits Chinese who have adopted the Malay customs and their cuisine is a fusion of these two cultures. It is guaranteed to satisfy any type of craving.
The Kocik Kitchen on Jonker Walk offers one of the most complete range of Nyonya dishes. Don’t be fooled by what you see. For instance the ayam buah keluak may look quite ordinary but the chicken in soya sauce packs a robust flavour and unique taste.
For those who prefer something sour and spicy, the lemak nanas prawns and Nyonya asam fish are perfect. They also come with a hint of sweetness that will tingle the taste buds.
The Portuguese community has been in Melaka for centuries, and its food has become very much a part of the local cuisine. At the Portuguese Settlement, numerous stalls manned by friendly faces welcome hungry diners.
If you’re not sure where to start, try the chicken devil curry for its fiery and sharp taste. The brightly coloured dish is packed with a wide range of spices, including shallots, garlic, turmeric, red chillies to give it the complex flavour that will tantalise the taste buds.
Add some vinegar and it is unlike any curry you have tasted in Malaysia. Malaysians love the nasi kandar curries but given a choice, most will pick the devil curry any day.
With its rich history, vibrant local culture and enticing cuisines, Melaka is a place you must experience.