We spent around four days in Melaka, eating our way around the city, interrupted by museum visits. Melaka is a nice little city – the central area is easy to walk around and it’s nice to go for a stroll alongside the river to cool down a bit. Melaka has a really interesting history, having been ruled by the Dutch, the British and the Portuguese at one time or another. The remnants of these cultures can be seen in the many museums as well as in the surviving relics of churches, forts or bastions. In fact, the area with these ruins and many of the museums is a UNESCO world heritage city and is therefore quite full of tourists (both from within Malaysia and further afield).
Melaka is also a centre for Baba Nyonya (or Peranakan) culture – this being the descendants of early Chinese settlers who married Malay women. So while there we visited the Baba Nyonya museum – actually the houses of a wealthy Baba Nyonya family (three houses interconnected). The houses were quite impressive – a mix of European, local and Chinese furnishings, decorations and traditions. Food in Melaka was really good as well. The owner of our hostel was really helpful and had a map prepared of all the best places to try different types of food in the city. We made the most of this over the next few days.
We tried different Baba Nyonya dishes including Popiah (like a big spring roll and really yummy), and top hats – like popiah but in a different shape, nyonya pickle (green chilli stuffed with papaya), traditional cooked vegetables, and chicken candlenut. Of course we also had to try the laksa from this area – Baba Laksa – quite nice (from Jonker 88).
One morning we had dim sum (yum cha in NZ) with the biggest pork buns I have ever seen! It was quite warm and we were walking around a lot so had to get a few things to cool us off every now and again, such as Ice Kacang, ABC Cendol, Ice Floss – all surprisingly tasty, although in some cases (ABC Cendol), the ingredients aren’t quite what we’re used to in a dessert – corn, beans, green noodles made from pea flour. We tried some nice coffee in Melaka too. The Calinthe Art Café has different types of coffee from all of the Malaysian states – the ones we tried were pretty strong and tasty.
Another Melaka specialty is Satay Celup. It’s like fondue or steamboat in a way but is done with delicious satay sauce. We went to Capitol Satay – apparently the recipe for the satay is three generations old, and you can tell from the queue that this one must be better than the others advertising the same thing right next door. You have a big pot of the sauce cooking in the middle of your table and then go up and pick what you want to cook in it – a vast array of meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu (some of which I’m still not sure what it was) – and cook until done!
The weekend market was great as well – on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, a few streets around Jonker Street in Chinatown are closed off to traffic and packed full of food, drink, and other stalls (from cleaning products, to jewellery, clothes, toys), along with the locals partaking in karaoke and line dancing in a building off the street. The surrounding streets and riverside are also lit with beautiful red lanterns, giving the area a really enchanting atmosphere.