At The Mansion features a specially crafted menu stemming from Chef Melba’s collection of treasured family recipes.
A descendant of the Dutch and Portuguese settlers who, around the early 16th century married the local people of Malacca, she’s part of a community that still exists in modern- day Malacca, most notably in the city’s Portuguese Settlement or Ujong Pasir. While the creole language of the Kristang continues to be spoken among the 1,000-odd people who live in the Settlement, and their pastel- coloured houses withstand the test of time, it is through food that Chef Melba safeguards and celebrates Kristang culture. “If I don’t highlight these dishes at my restaurant and in my books, they’ll be forgotten,” says the author of two cookbooks, A Kristang Family Cookbook and Everything Kristang. The latter book garnered Chef Melba the Best in the World Award in the Best Woman Chef category at the 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
Looking through Melba at The Mansion’s menu, the cuisine might seem exotic even to Malaysians, which goes some way to illustrating exactly how rare and under-the-radar Kristang cuisine is.
With influences drawn from Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay, Chinese and Indian culinary traditions, it is perhaps the finest example of fusion cuisine done correctly – over a period of 500 years.
From her moreish silver karing- karing threadfish appetiser (fried to a crisp and excellent with a beer) to her grandfather’s show-stopping chorka pretu - slow-cooked squid in a sambal created from its own ink – there’s history, joy and the tantalising suggestion of discovery in every bite.
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“IF I DON’T HIGHLIGHT THESE DISHES AT MY RESTAURANT AND IN MY BOOKS, THEY’LL BE FORGOTTEN,” SAYS THE AUTHOR OF TWO COOKBOOKS, A KRISTANG FAMILY COOKBOOK AND EVERYTHING KRISTANG.