Malacca is a UNESCO site, well-known for its Peranakan heritage; well, putting the historical value aside, one very good reason to visit is to eat the food there. Unfortunately only after 8 years living in Singapore, I went to Malacca for the first time. It is about 3-hour bus ride away from Singapore; easily accessible and a great option for weekend getaways.
The historic town center of Malacca is relatively small, easily within walking distance from one end to the other. Our first stop was the Christ Church and the Dutch Square. There is a certain appeal to the Dutch square that it draws you in and unlike many other UNESCO sites, Malacca maintains its local charm. Yes, it is touristy but you can see many places upholds their tradition and heritage and it was quite a sight.
Especially during 15th to 17th century, many migrants from China settled down into Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. You can read more about this at Wikipedia. There were many migrants coming into Myanmar as well, yet unlike their counterparts (Baba-Nyonya of Peranakan), the Chinese migrants to Myanmar maintained their culture without little to no assimilation into local traditions. This has been a source of fascination for me; tracing back the history of Southeast Asia and influence of migrations: one race or another.
During our stay, we visited Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum. The idea of guided tour visits doesn’t sound appealing to me but after the tour, I concluded that it was the best way to visit the museum. Being guided around by the museum staff, many of the artifacts displayed comes alive with meaning; jokes to keep everyone entertained. The houses which are now part of the museum were beautifully decorated and well-preserved; and you can see a blend of Dutch architecture into Chinese customs and decorations.
Enough about the history, time for the food. Malacca is a food heaven; I have a long list of places recommended by friends but a weekend visit is not enough to conquer the list. So far,
- Nyonya Makko: for our first meal in Malacca, we ordered Chap Chye, Chicken Rendang and Ngo Hiang. It was difficult to tell because this is pretty much the first time that I had Nyonya food but the food taste amazing.
- Nancy’s Kitchen: a very popular restaurant near Jonker street; the meal hour queue can be very long, so we went there for an early dinner and we didn’t have to queue. You need to try their Popiah and Kueh Pie Tee: the best that I have tried, refreshing with a dash of lime. Popiah is a different version than what we could find in Singapore, so don’t miss that out.
- Jonker Street: A visit to Malacca will not be completed without visiting Jonker street. Yes, arguably the food here isn’t the best of Malacca but they have almost everything. So, whether you are a first timer or a veteran, you would still be visiting.
Do visit the Jonker street in the evening for the night market selling all sort of souvenirs, snacks and clothing. It was lively and buzzing. They even have a stage where the local aunties and uncles showcasing their musical finesse.
One food that I couldn’t apprehend is the Chicken Rice Balls. For one, the texture feels funny. The rice seems to get squashed and squeezed into small balls; so, the texture is not here and not there. Second, it is plain rice and of course, taste bland and the sauce couldn’t penetrate well because the rice is squeezed. Chicken rice would have been much a better option. Kedai Kopi Chung Hwa is the famous place for this but the queue is ridiculously long, so we went for Restoran Famosa Chicken Rice Ball.
Among the places that I have heard good reviews about, but didn’t get any chance to visit.
- Baba Charlie’s, for the Kueh
- East & West Rendezvous, for the Nonya Bak Chang (Rice dumplings)
- Aunty Koh’s Cendol
- Restoran Tong Sheng, for their Cheese Prawn Beehoon and Milk Crab
- Sun May Hiong Satay House
Daily fix cafe, my favorite place in Malacca; where I can just sit down with a cup of coffee with a book and just let the time pass by slowly. They have pretty decent food but what makes it so charming is the ambience; located inside a traditional Peranakan house and decorated beautifully.
We stayed in ‘Estadia by Hatten‘, a great hotel by all means: clean beautifully-decorated room and great buffet spread for breakfast but I felt a bit disconnected from all the buzzing and lively vibe around the historical town square and Jonker street area. Some would say that it is a good thing but I could still find tranquility around Jalan Tun Tan Cheng and Jalan Tukang Besi: the two streets parallel to Jonker street and there are many guest houses and boutique hotels along these two streets. Perhaps, just perhaps, if I visit Malacca again, I could consider them.