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Malacca: Fusion - before it became trendy

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

500 years before Fusion Cuisine became a global trend, Malacca with its strategic position in the middle of the Spice Route, became the epicenter of a rich experiment in tastes influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Indians, Persians, Arabs, Turks and Siamese, along with the local Malays.

The local Kristang creole language and this new Fusion Cuisine originated with the Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511, which heralded an age when this port was one of the richest on earth and merchants, craftsmen and migrants arrived from all along the Spice Route and made Malacca their new home.

Chef Melba, a Kristang native of Malacca, presides over The Mansion restaurant in the heritage Majestic Hotel overlooking the Malacca River, where she serves flavorful and exotic inherited family recipes, like the Portuguese-Eurasian dish Devil Curry called Kari Debal.

The Chinese merchants brought their own flavors to the melting-pot of cultures in Malacca creating another unique culture called Peranakan, mixing local Malay and Chinese influences with a touch of Dutch and British, into a colorful fusion of food, culture and architecture. The fragrant dishes of this culture are still served at many roadside restaurants and night markets.

Resonating with today’s Covid-19 situation, a plague eventually weakened the Portuguese hold on the city, with first the Dutch and then the British taking over, all leaving their distinct imprints on the local architecture, culture and food adding more to the already eclectic mix. For example, on the same street you will find a Chinese Buddhist temple from 1645, a Hindu temple from 1781 and even a mosque from 1748 with curved Chinese eaves, Corinthian columns, Portuguese ceramic tiles and a Minaret shaped like a pagoda – a perfect showcase of the fusion architecture of Malacca.

Declared a UNESCO Heritage site in 2008, this small gem is within easy reach of both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, a unique destination where Asian Fusion was created – long before it became trendy.

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