Melaka and Peranakan Culture and Cuisine


Dutch colonial influences are still evident in Old Melaka

Chinese window decoration adorning a Melaka home

The Peranakan culture of the former British Straits Settlements (Penang, Melaka, and Singapore) where Chinese, Malay, and European foods and preparations intermingle to produce dishes unique to Malaysia.  Peranakan cuisine, also known as Nonya or Nyonya cuisine, is most remarkable for the flavour given by the unique spices collectively called rempah, which must be prepared to precise requirements with regard to texture and flavour in order to be considered even remotely acceptable to exacting chefs.  With Melaka an easy daytrip from Kuala Lumpur, it is not at all uncommon for local foodies to visit just for lunch or dinner at their favourite restaurants. 

The former Portuguese and Dutch stronghold of Melaka, a newly designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the traditional centre of Peranakan cuisine and purportedly home to the most authentic laksa in Malaysia.  Portuguese influence is still tasted in the food, heavily favouring fish dishes in this seaside city, and the tongue-boggling sensations of spicy nuances and flavours bring groans of satisfaction from many a visiting diner.  Extremely lucky visitors to Malaysia may find themselves invited to a Peranakan tok panjang, the 'long table' feast involving a twelve-course banquet and a huge number of guests coming and going to and from the table while other foods are served all around the room for those not seated.