Saturday, January 23, 2016

Malacca Food Heritage and Culture

Age-old practices and skills thrive in Malacca. Suzanna Pillay speaks to three individuals who have made commercial ventures out of keeping their heritage alive

EVERYONE knows Malacca as a state rich in heritage and culture.
It is one of the few places in Malaysia where traditional practices, cookery and skills handed down from one generation to the next are thriving as business enterprises.

Jone Theseira, Grace Tan and Alice Teh are some of the new generation of Malacca natives who not only keep their heritage alive but have also commercialised it.

-Blue dumplings and cendol

At East & West Rendevouz in Jonker Street, Tan’s nyonya dumplings keep the crowds coming back for more.  
Tan, who learnt to make these dumplings from her grandmother, makes the delicacy by the hundreds daily.  
Her dumplings are delicious mushroom-, meat- and wintermelon filling, encased in a half-white and striking-blue glutinous rice mixture.
The bright blue colouring for the dumpling comes from the bunga telang, or butterfly pea flower, as Tan believes in using only natural ingredients.
“The dumplings are popular with Singaporeans who flock to Malacca during the weekends to buy them,” she adds.
Aside from dumplings, she also sells pineapple tarts and a durian cendol that has become a hit with the crowd.
“Everything has the right balance of gula melaka, coconut milk and cendol, and with a dollop of durian to top it off, who could ask for more?” asks a regular customer.

 -A devil of a curry
Most people would balk at the idea of single-handedly preparing Portuguese Curry Dable (Devil Curry) for 1,200 people, but not  Theseira.
A dab hand at cooking, Theseira recently had the task of preparing the Portuguese dish for the recent 500th anniversary celebrations at the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir. The event marked the arrival of the Portuguese at the former Straits Settlement colony.
Theseira, who was born in the Portuguese Settlement, and still calls it home, runs a catering company and a restaurant specialising in Portuguese-style home cooking.
So what makes a good Portuguese curry dable?
“A Portuguese curry dable does not have belacan or jintan manis, and should be red in colour. Today, people put too many ingredients in the curry paste,” she says.
Cooking Portuguese food is close to her heart. Her father used to run a Portuguese restaurant in the settlement and she learnt the art of Portuguese cooking from observing her parents over the years.

Theseira now runs the J&J Corner at Medan Selera Portuguese, a restaurant that has been around for over 30 years.

Jone is working on a cookbook on Portuguese cuisine such as dry curry sekuk, curry semur, Portugese baked fish and ambilek, which have stood the test of time.
The book, she says, will be a balance of savoury, sweet and baked goods.

-Nyonya kebaya

Teh, the owner of Nirvana Collections in busy Jonker Street, keeps her cultural heritage alive not through food, but fashion.
She makes nyonya kebaya at her shop and Singaporeans can’t get enough of her designs.
Her creations range in price with the more complicated custom-made kebaya requiring special lace work fetching higher prices.
She says this is because the custom-made embroidered lacework is done by hand and can take between two and three months to finish.
Teh learnt the skill from her mother when she was just a schoolgirl.
“I remember learning  to cut out the embroidered lace panels by hand when I was in Standard Six. My mother taught me all my sewing skills.”

Read more:
 Businesses close to their hearts - Holiday - New Straits Times

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