A sam­pling of Kris­tang cul­ture at The Ma­jes­tic Malacca

YTL Life - - Contents - Words DIANA HUBBELL

Kris­tang cui­sine, a blend of Por­tuguese, Malaysian and Chi­nese flavours, frames the his­tory of a cul­ture with roots go­ing back 500 years.

The sun is set­ting over the Straits of Malacca, and not far from the wa­ter’s edge, fam­i­lies have gath­ered at a se­ries of out­door eater­ies to feast on seafood. Though the restau­rants in ques­tion are far from up­scale, the mood is bois­ter­ous and the multi­na­tional crowd is in high spir­its as they dig into plat­ters piled with Por­tuguese chilli crab, in­cen­di­ary sam­bal shrimp, and fishes grilled whole. As the evening wears on and the beer flows, voices rise in a ca­coph­ony of lan­guages: English, Man­darin, Malay, and Kris­tang.

The lat­ter is a mix­ture of Por­tuguese and Malaythat clings to sur­vival thanks to the few thou­sand left in the re­gion who still speak it. Of­fi­cially known as Por­tuguese Eurasians, the Kris­tang are the de­scen­dants of Por­tuguese set­tlers who con­trolled the re­gion in the 1500s. To­day, ap­prox­i­mately 1,000 Kris­tang in­habit the pastel­painted houses of the Por­tuguese Set­tle­ment on the out­skirts of Malacca. The small com­mu­nity still hon­ours the tra­di­tions of their an­ces­tors. Be­fore Lent, the streets break out into a rau­cous wa­ter fight. For Fi­esta de San Pedro, men and women don tra­di­tional garb in­spired by 14th-cen­tury Por­tu­gal and dance with aban­don. Christ­mas trans­forms the neigh­bour­hood into a sea of twin­kling lights so spec­tac­u­lar that Malac­cans of all faiths flock to see it

The Kris­tang con­tinue to serve their dis­tinc­tive cui­sine, a fiery fu­sion of Por­tuguese and Malay dishes, en­riched with ex­otic spices and laced with piri-piri chill­ies. Th­ese ad­dic­tive spe­cial­i­ties are are on the menu at Melba at The Man­sion, the sig­na­ture res­tau­rant at The Ma­jes­tic Malacca.

Sit­u­ated in the orig­i­nal his­toric house at the heart of the ho­tel, this grand din­ing area, with its high ceil­ings and fine china, presents a far more re­fined picture than the hum­ble eater­ies in the Por­tuguese Set­tle­ment. In lieu of plas­tic table­cloths and pa­per nap­kins, waiters in crisp for­mal­wear pour Old World wines as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the neatly plated dishes.

THE KRIS­TANG CON­TINUE TO SERVE THEIR DIS­TINC­TIVE CUI­SINE, A FIERY FU­SION OF POR­TUGUESE AND MALAY DISHES, EN­RICHED WITH EX­OTIC SPICES AND LACED WITH PIRI-PIRI CHILL­IES.

Yet de­spite the art­ful pre­sen­ta­tion, th­ese Kris­tang dishes are ev­ery bit as au­then­tic as their street­side coun­ter­parts. Many come from fam­ily recipes that have been passed down through gen­er­a­tions and faith­fully recre­ated by Melba at The Man­sion’s ex­pertly trained chefs. Rig­or­ously sourced lo­cal pro­duce and pris­tine seafood el­e­vate this soul food to fine din­ing. Through­out it all, bold salty, sour, savoury, and spicy flavours that char­ac­terise both Por­tuguese and Malaysian cook­ing shine through.

A dish of egg­plant slow­braised with soy sauce and lime is im­pos­si­bly silky, while a vel­vety prawn curry is smooth and rich. Some of the Kris­tang spe­cial­i­ties, such as a crab shell stuffed with sweet crab­meat and chicken, lean more heav­ily on the Por­tuguese side, while oth­ers are al­most purely Malaysian. Even the sim­plest sta­ples such as fried rice or laksa, with tooth­some noo­dles swim­ming in a del­i­cately spiced curry broth, are pre­pared with rev­er­ence here.

Re­gard­less of what you or­der, the best way to en­joy is it to share it with friends and fam­ily. The Kris­tang be­lieve in the power of food to bring peo­ple to­gether in cel­e­bra­tion. It’s one of the ways that they have man­aged to main­tain their iden­tity and why after half a mil­len­nium they are still such an es­sen­tial part of Malacca’s cul­tural fab­ric. This cui­sine is about com­mu­nity and main­tain­ing a liv­ing con­nec­tion with his­tory. It is, sim­ply put, food fit for a feast.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.the­ma­jes­tic­malacca.com

RIG­OR­OUSLY SOURCED LO­CAL PRO­DUCE AND PRIS­TINE SEAFOOD EL­E­VATE THIS SOUL FOOD TO FINE DIN­ING.

Top two im­ages: the in­te­rior of The Ma­jes­tic Malacca has a time­less el­e­gance with au­then­tic an­tiques and orig­i­nal porce­lain floors. Bot­tom: Christ Church was com­pleted in 1753 as a Dutch Re­form church.

Top: The Bar at the Man­sion is the per­fect place to un­wind and re­lax. Above: Por­tuguese in­flu­ences can still be found in the his­toric town of Malacca. Left: the heart of The Ma­jes­tic Malacca is a re­stored 1920s Straits Set­tle­ment man­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.