Melaka (or Melacca) has a population of under a million and it sits halfway between China and India. The town served as an important trading port way back in the 15th century with traders from Europe, India and China and it reminded me a lot of Hoi An in Vietnam. It’s this handy location that makes it clear why Malaysia’s food has such a delicious mix of Chinese and Indian cuisines.
A tour of the city took us to Chinatown which was built 300 years ago and is only 1km squared. On Harmony Street we visited the oldest Chinese temple in Melaka and across the road is an opera house where amazingly, The Beatles played in 1964.
Around the city there are seven bridges over Melaka River, which is also known as the Venice of the south. The third, Kampung Jawa Bridge, is known by locals as ‘ghost bridge’ and is said to be the place of the unsettled souls of those who were brutally killed or committed suicide many years ago.
My favourite on-the-go snacks included ice kacang with corn kernels, red beans, rose and pandan jelly, crunchy deep-fried banana and cembedak (from the jackfruit family), soft and gooey kaya buns and a vegetarian poh piah (pronounced pop-ya) which is a roll with a thin crepe (made with rice flour and water) and a filling of turnips cooked with sugar, bean shoots, bean curd, cucumber, lettuce, red bean paste and chilli paste.
One of the best meals I had was dinner at Man Yuan Fang Vegetarian Restaurant where I enjoyed nasi lemak with ‘KFC’ and tofu, ‘duck’ in plum sauce and a coconut milkshake. So dang good!
Busy Jonker Street (pronounced yonker) – also known as junk street – was the best spot to buy a trinket for loved ones. Around here I came across local artist Charlie Cham who creates fabulous wall hangings and t-shirts which made for great gifts for the family.
One of the things you MUST do in Melaka is take a ride in a hugely over-the-top trishaw. They are covered in cutesy characters and some blast music from boom boxes and feature coloured lights. A short ride, especially at night, is a bit of fun.
One of the highlights of the visit was a Nonya cooking class which is a combination of Malay and Chinese ingredients and cooking methods. Here we made chap chye (vegetable stew), lemak (curry) and my favourite, apam balik which were little folded pancakes with gula melaka and sliced banana.
Up next: I take a trip up to Malaysia’s cooler Cameron Highlands.
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