I had a rather enjoyable Nyonya dinner at The Mansion at the Majestic Hotel in Malacca – a historical period building that has been turned into a rather nice inn. It’s not one of them budget lodging houses despite how the exterior looks.
It’s right in the middle of town and the river that courses through Malacca (or Melaka as it’s spelled here) is just opposite the street, if you fancy a stroll by the waterfront.
The hotel even had a pianist playing soothing Bach (or was it Chopin?) scores while you’re eating your food. I’m being irreverent, I wouldn’t know one from the other although I had piano lessons till Grade 4.
Dinner was buffet style, with most of the dishes located in a central area – there are classic Peranakan food like udang masak nanas (prawns cooked in pineapple curry).
The toilets are superbly maintained and clean – I was immediately soothed by the scent of vanilla instead of the usual odor of ammonia assaulting the nostrils. Oops…I probably shouldn’t have had this aside, kinda puts people off after talking about shrimp.
Back to the food, I was quite full from lunch so I had several bowls of bubur cha cha – a sweet hot soup-like dessert made with gula Melaka (palm sugar) and yam, tapioca, sweet potatoes, all diced up into miniature cubes instead of the clumsy chunks that’s usually served up. It’s much more refined fare over here.
There’s also classic Nyonya mainstays like pai tee (crispy pastry cups filled with an assortment of ingredients) and of course:
Fresh spring roll made of sauteed sweet turnips wrapped in a wheat flour crepe
Otak Otak with Kerabu Nanas
Spicy mackerel paste wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled, served with a tangy pineapple salad
Grilled chicken skewered on a lemongrass stalk
I didn’t know that otak otak is *only* made from mackerel! It’s information
plagiarized gleaned from the leaflet that was on the table, which describes the unique Nyonya cuisine which is a product of inter-marriage between Chinese immigrants and the local Malays.
Fun (unresearched and vaguely remembered) fact: There’s a difference in salutation when a Chinese male marries a Malay female and the other way round. I believe the latter is called Nyonya and the former is Baba but I could be very mistaken since that was textbook stuff I recall from half a lifetime ago when I was studying Form 3 History.
I also found out Shiraz also goes well with Nyonya food but I’m blasé about Chardonnay. However, the best and arguably most well known product of this cuisine is the kueh (or pastries, but dismiss that mental image of pastries coz these are different) with the complex play of textures and flavors!