The rich legacy of Chinese has been preserved by the evolution of a unique community called the Babas and Nyonya whose linage tracks back hundreds of years when the Chinese arrived and inter-married with the local women. The men are called ‘Babas’ and the women “Nyonyas’. From these mixed marraiges evolve a unique culture which retains Chinese customs and Malay traditions. Also known as Straits-born Chinese or ‘Peranakan’, their speech is linguistically assimilated, speaking a form of Malay Patoi, termed Baba Malay and Eurasian. The Nyonyas still wear the Malay ‘sarung’ and they prepare the much sought-after cuisinee known for its typically generuous use of spices and pungent shrimp paste. The ‘Otak-otak’ , Buah Keluak, Itek Tim, Laksa and Mee Siam are excellent examples of the Nyonya cuisine. Nyonyas are also known for their scrumptious and colourful cakes and sweet, sticky delicacies.
When I was in Malacca, a local friend took me and another friend to a Nyonya Restaurant at Melaka Raya. According to him it’s the best Nyonya cooking in town. It is situated at a corner lot along Jalan Merdeka. The address is Ole Sayang Restoran, 198-199 Taman Melaka Raya, Melaka.
At first I was skeptical whether the food serves are halal, since as a Muslim the status of food is an important aspect in eating. Upon entering I browsed around to see whether there is any HALAL signage around. None. Then I spotted the Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan plaque of TV3’s show hosted by Maria Tengku Sabri. That gives me some confidence.
My friend ordered the gulai lemak, kangkong , tauhu and chicken. Well, frankly I forced myself to eat and of course couldn’t finish a plate of rice.