Malacca is rich in history and was considered one of the greatest trading posts in Southeast Asia. Strategically located it was fought over and colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British during the Spice trade. Each country left its mark thus it became a UNESCO heritage site.
At the borders we had to pass through immigration for both Singapore and Malaysia. Each time we had to get down the tour bus but it was well worth the extra stamp on my passport. It took us three hours to get to Melaka from the border of agricultural Johor Bahru. The scenery was hectares of rubber trees and palm oil plantations.
I was excited to relive the spice trade during our walking tour of Jonker’s street, but all I found were little boutique shops for tourists. Our guide told us that no one was really interested in spices anymore. Expecting a culinary adventure I was getting disappointed until we found Melaka’s signature dish at the Famosa Chicken Rice Ball restaurant. The rice balls are now hygienically made by machine and are about the size of a golf ball. They are dipped in chili sauce and eaten with chicken Hainanese style. This is a foodie must try!!! Another is Gula melaka a palm sugar drink similar to arnibal used in our Filipino gulaman (agar-agar) beverage.
The food of Malacca is a fusion of Chinese and Malay called Nyonya cuisine. Chinese in influence but also uses a lot of coconut milk, lemon grass, galangal, turmeric, kaffir leaves, pandan and sambal (chili paste). A popular dish is the spicy noodle soup laksa. Rempah is the blend of spices of the different households used to flavor their dishes. While Belacan is dried shrimp paste in the form of a brick used to season food. Melaka is also influenced by Portuguese and Eurasian cooking. We sampled this during our lunch buffet at the Equatorial Hotel as part of the tour. Egg and pineapple tarts are also famous treats.
A realization from this trip is that the Philippines and Malaysia have very similar desserts. I took note of some of the sticky rice delicacies:
Kuih kasui –brown coconut pudding with latik dredged in niyog or grated coconut
Kuih kochi – steamed galapong or rice flour stuffed with coconut jam and steamed in banana leaves
Pulut serunding – sticky rice ball cooked in coconut milk rolled in turmeric toasted grated coconut
Yellow cassava steamed cake
Kuih baker bajan – pandan flavored rice cake with sesame seeds
Another way to get around is by renting a bicycle rickshaw decorated with so much flowers. For $10 SGD (P330 pesos) the pedicab driver from Christ Church took us to visit the galleons, the Famosa Fort or Porta de’ Santiago and back to Equatorial Hotel. The experience was really cheesy with the “Hotel California” background music from the bike’s loud speakers! Anyway we got a good laugh out of it!!
Here’s Gelo attempting to be a rickshaw driver =)