Cuisine in Melaka

Melaka Belacan – Part II

If you aren’t familiar with local cooking techniques and dishes, chances are you won’t know what to do when presented with a block of raw belacan. Firstly, the odour can be overpowering and not to mention plainly unpleasant to some people. However, looks and smells can be deceiving and it certainly is amazing how that distinctive odour becomes an appetizing aroma once heated and toasted in a pan.  You often do not need a large quantity of belacan to cook a dish. Only a little is needed but is absolutely essential to the final taste, quality, texture of a dish.  Leave out the belacan in signature dishes such as asampedas and your dish will be considered a failure.

So what kind of dishes can one whip up using belacan? Again, we remind you that not all belacan is created equal. In our case, it’s only belacan from Melaka or nothing else. Penang belacan is our closest rival and with its dark brown chocolate colour and dense texture, you will get a different result in your cooking. However, we leave it to your personal preferences but reiterate that Melaka belacan is our pick!

Dishes cooked with belacan are obviously local favourites and so far, we haven’t come across any Western dishes which use it. But since cooking is a versatile art, we hope that some creative being will one day come up with a fusion dish using belacan. Here are some popular dishes which need this all-important ingredient to qualify.



Asampedas (Image from

Asampedas is synonymous with Melaka cuisine. Mention this dish and everyone has their favourite version and favourite stall, restaurant or outlet to recommend.  Served with white rice and side garnishings of fresh “ulam” and sometimes hard-boiled salted egg,its humble appearance belies its complex tastes. True to its name which literally translates to mean “sour and spicy”, the gravy is both piquant and taste bud tickling. For the benefit of those who have yet to taste this signature dish of Melaka and who are probably have no idea what it is, AsamPedas is basically fish cooked in a chilli and tamarind based gravy with ladies fingers (okra) and brinjal (eggplant).  The type of fish used is typically stingray (“pari”) ,Spanish Mackeral (“tenggiri), wolf herring (“parang”) and Mackeral (“kembong”). The base “rempah” is finely ground wet spices consisting of dried chilly, shallots, ginger, galangal, lemongrass and of course, belacan.  The base is gently sautéed in hot oil till fragrant and then made into a gravy with fresh tamarind extract.  Then the fish (which should be as fresh as possible) and vegetables are added and gently simmered till just done.  Towards the end of the cooking time, fresh herbs are added to impart extra taste and aroma.  As far as I know, there are 2 versions of asampedas.  The Malay style is arguably more popular and can be found easily at Malay restaurants and road side stalls. The otherversion  is the Nyonya style. Having tasted both, I would say that the difference lies in the type of herbs used. The base “rempah” is the same but the type of herbs used produce subtly distinctive differences. The Malay version uses Vietnamese mint (“daunkesum”) and Ginger Torch Flower (“bungakantan”) while the Nyonya version adds candlenut in the base and uses kaffir lime leaves.  As to which version is tastier depends on your personal preference. To me, both are equally delicious and appetizing and second helpings are always guaranteed!

For those interested in cooking asampedas at home, here is a recipe, courtesy of Amy Beh, celebrity chef, which is taken from

You can also check out another recipe sourced online from

Assam PedasTenggiriBy Amy Beh


    • 450g to 500g mackerel (ikantenggiri), cut into slices and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
    • 2 stalks lemon grass, smashed
    • 2 sprigs polygonum (daunkesom)
    • 1/2 tsp Maggi belacan granules
    • l 1/2 cups tamarind juice

(A) Grind or pound finely:

    • 12 to 15 red chillies
    • 10 shallots
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • l.5cm fresh tumeric


    • Salt and sugar to taste
    • Dash of pepper


    • 1 bungakantan, sliced thinly


Deep fry fish in hot oil until lightly brown. Remove fish and drain well. Leave two to three tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add lemon grass and ground ingredients. Fry until aromatic.

Add daunkesom and tamarind juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Add seasoning and fish.

Simmer until gravy is according to desired thickness. Scoop into a serving bowl and garnish.

Serve hot with rice.



Sambal Belacan

Sambal belacan (Image from

The mere mention of sambalbelacan often evokes various gastronomic reactions in Malaysians. For those living overseas, especially in Western countries, sambalbelacan can trigger a flood of nostalgic memories. Memories of roasted fresh belacan wafting through the kitchen and the comforting sound of the rhythmic pounding of pestle and mortar. And of course, memories of the taste – a medley of fiery chillies tempered with subtle sweetness, a hint of lime zing and savoury saltiness.

Essentially, sambalbelacan is a condiment. Not meant to be the main star in a meal, it often plays a supporting role. However, in certain “star” dishes, the absence of the supporting dish will more often than not guarantee a dismal performance with connoisseurs openly lamenting “Oh, how nicer this would taste if we had sambalbelacan” or typically “No sambalbelacan, no kick lah!”

Among the many varieties of sambal available in our local cuisine, sambalbelacan has the simplest and fastest method of preparation. The basic recipe is simply fresh red chillies pounded with roasted belacan and flavoured with a pinch of sugar, salt and a squeeze of calamansilime (“limaunipis”). Over the years, different cultures have added personal touches to the basic recipe. So some varieties will have a touch of one of the following ingredients – finely shredded lime skin, julienned unripe mangoes, fermented durian (“tempoyak”) and the rare “buahbinjai”.

Whatever your choice, there is one thing everyone will agree on – the preparation of authentic sambalbelacan can only be with a traditional pestle and mortar and never with an electric blender or food processor. Electric gadgets do not achieve the desired consistency and texture which in turn affects the taste. Purists will surely turn their noses up at machine made mass produced sambalbelacan.

Sambalbelacan is best served with plain white rice as an accompaniment to main dishes such as fried fish, fried chicken, masaklemak, Nyonya pong teh and even Chinese dishes such as yam rice and pan mee. Home cooks can also attest that leftover sambal fried with overnight rice with shrimp and vegetables thrown in will create a wonderfully appetizing dish of fried rice, perfect for late night suppers or quick one dish meals.




Kangkong belacan ( Image from

Around the world, from Australia to USA to Europe and UK, Malaysians dining out in a Malaysian restaurant will always look for kangkongbelacan on the menu. Kangkong is a local vegetable and its English name is water convolvulus or water spinach. Previously, it was only available locally but with local ingredients now obtainable all over the world, it is possible to find this vegetable in Asian supermarkets and in restaurants.

Plain kangkong boiled or stir fried with just oil and garlic is delectable enough but stir fried with a sambal made up from ground shallots, garlic, chillies and belacan, it transforms into a lip smacking, mouth- watering dish best savoured with plain white rice. With a hint of fieriness from the chillies, saltiness from the belacan and subtle sweetness of the shallots, the crunchy hollow stems of the vegetable and its delicate leaves have never tasted better. This is a truly Malaysian dish as it is a firm favourite with all races.

Try pairing it with traditional home cooked dishes such as cincalokomelette. You can also substitute kangkung for other vegetables like okra or sweet potato leaves or better still, stir fry a combination of four angled beans (“kacangbotol”), okra, stink beans (“petai”) and long beans popularly known as the Four Kings Vegetables. Check out this website for a sample recipe and write-up.

Happy cooking and Happy Eating!



Home2Stay Warisan Melaka thanks the owners of the above websites for the use of their images and recipes and hopes that readers will visit these websites for more information and mouth-watering pictures!


Cuisine in Melaka



Linda Phua Sue Lin

If you are looking for accommodation within the core heritage zone in Melaka, you have several choices. Depending on your needs and your budget, you can choose from 3, 4 or 5 star hotels,  budget hotels, boarding houses and boutique hotels. However, home-2-stays within the zone are hard to come by. We recommend Taming Sari Guest House in Kampung Morten.  So if you want clean, comfortable accommodation with modern amenities which would enable a large family to live together under one roof while not eating a huge chunk of your holiday budget, look no further. As we said in our previous article (link), a home2stay within Kampung Morten goes beyond just accommodation. It’s the whole living heritage experience coupled with the extremely strategic location.

There are plenty of boarding and guest houses within the heritage zone. Just take a walk or a drive along roads like KampungHulu, Harmony Street, Blacksmith Street and Heeran Street. However, these are all rooms to let and if you have a family with many children and relatives, you may feel more comfortable living in a house with amenities like a gas stove, a dining area, kettle, fridge and even a washing machine available. Also, if you are a Muslim family, you may not be comfortable living amongst strangers while sharing bath and toilet facilities and not having prayer mats in your rooms.

We promised you in our previous article to talk about the attractions within walking distance from Kampung Morten and we figured that it would be more interesting to compile a photo report. To make it clearer, the walking tour starts from the house itself and starts from the right turn. This simply means that you turn to the right upon leaving the house and start walking along the riverside.

If you want to see more pictures, just hop over to our Facebook page (Homestay Warisan Melaka) and click on the Album.

Coming up…. Spotlight on another heritage house in Kampung Morten which has just joined our Home-2-Stay Warisan Melaka Program.

Happy Exploring!



Leaving Taming Sari Guest House located at Kg Morten

The Monorail passing along the river. This picture was taken at Kg Morten.

One of the colorful Malay houses in Kg Morten. Notice to roof painted with the Malaysian flag.













Outside the Dutch Harbour cafe. The owner is a Melaka chap who used to work in Holland. Their speciality is Dutch Apple Cake and traditional Dutch food. Halal.

The Melaka River Cruise in action. The cruise starts at 10 am and runs till 11pm. The night cruise is more popular as the whole river is lighted up.

The water wheel – as re-constructed from historical records. In the foreground is the Casa del Rio Hotel.



Cuisine in Melaka

Book Talk By Dennis De Witt & Serge Jardin On 9th July 2011 At Cheng Ho Cultural Museum

Last Saturday’s Book Talk on the 9th July 2011 was an exciting time for both Kampung Buku and Cheng Ho Cultural Museum. As this was a public event, we had no idea how many people would turn up. Prior to the date of the event which was the 9th July, we had sent out invitations via mail and email, placed advertisements in the local papers and placed buntings around strategic places in tourist spots in town. We also made use of Facebook and the internet.

In the end, 40 people turned up which was quite a relief considering the fact that it was the same date as the Bersih rally (which caused massive traffic jams and therefore our Kuala Lumpur invitees had to take a rain check). There was also the problem of parking as the museum is located in the core heritage zone where parking is quite challenging. There were residents of Melaka, tourists from Japan, Singapore, Spain, India, USA and members of the press.

The opening address was by Mdm. Irene Huang, Director of the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum and without further ado, the first speaker Mr. Dennis De Witt was introduced to the audience by the moderator, Mr. Colin Goh. Mr. De Witt gave a very interesting talk which was essentially highlights of his 2 books, “History of the Dutch in Malaysia” and “Melaka from the Top”. He had the audience captivated with his personal anecdotes and the accompanying slide show. The audience responded by asking many questions and it certainly was a lively session.

After a short break, Mr. Serge Jardin was introduced and began his talk about his book “Rever Malacca”. As the book is written in French, it was interesting to listen to Mr. Jardin speak about his book in his heavily accented English. This was also followed by a question and answer session.

We finished in good time around 12.30pm and this was followed by light refreshments served downstairs in the lobby of the museum. With free flowing coffee and tea and authentic Nyonya kuih, it was an animated session among the members of the audience, the speakers and the organisers.

Kampung Buku Malaysia Melaka wishes to thank Mdm. Irene Huang, Mr. Kok Kee Boon and Mara of the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, the speakers Mr. Dennis De Witt and Mr. Serge Jardin, Nutmeg Publishing and everyone who attended our first Book Talk. We are very grateful for your support and with that, we hope to organize similar events in the future.

Our next Book Talk is scheduled for the 23rd July 2011 and this time Dr. Tan Ta Sen will be presenting his book “Cheng Ho and Islam in South East Asia”. The talk starts at 12 noon but before that at 10am, there will be an official launch of the book AND an exhibition titled Ming Shipwreck Treasures brought to you by Tradewind Treasures. Entrance to the Book Talk is FREE. The venue is the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum at No. 51, Jalan Hang Jebat, Melaka which is just next to the famous Jonker Street.

Thank you and Happy Reading!

Cuisine in Melaka

Rumah Melaka

The front view of Rumah Melaka

When travelling along the Bukit Katil road towards Tehel, it is hard not to miss Rumah Melaka on your left. Constructed entirely from wood in the style of a typical traditional Malay house complete with ornately tiled stairs on a vast 10 acre plot of land, the building certainly succeeds in grabbing your attention. As reported by the guard on duty at the front gate, most visitors would instantly whip out their cameras and snap a few shots. Well, its photogenic quality is undeniable and some quarters have even suggested that it is a good venue for filming period dramas and movies.

What gives Rumah Melaka its draw-dropping quality is the material and style of construction. In this day and age of concrete, glass and aluminium finished structures, it is very difficult to find a house or a building built entirely from wood. The cost of constructing a wooden building is also prohibitive as the price of this rare commodity has risen tremendously in recent years. Therefore, it is easier and cheaper to use other materials. However, as most of us can attest, a house built from wood evokes a sense of old world charm, of serenity and of peace with the environment. Wood is an organic material, so even when it is cut to size and treated, it continues to “live” and “breathe” and perhaps those qualities are the ones which contribute to its attraction.

Rumah Melaka is built on a 10 acre plot of land located in Bukit Katil. 5 acres of the original plot was allocated to the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) which financed the construction of the building and currently manages it. The remaining 5 acres are managed by the Melaka State Government and several projects are currently pending. One of these projects is the construction of Taman 1Malaysia, located on the left of Rumah Melaka. Taman 1Malaysia consists of a huge hall the size of 10 badminton courts and comes complete with landscaped gardens, fountains and family recreation areas. It is slated to be completed in May 2011 and will be a perfect venue to host functions such as weddings, sports tournaments such as silat, badminton, taekwondo and basically function as a multi-purpose hall. For those holding their wedding party, bridal make-up rooms are also available within the hall. Your family, friends and relatives will also be able to stroll around the gardens, water fountains and snap pictures of the happy occasion. While lingering, they will be free to enter the grounds of Rumah Melaka for more pictures and to check out the furniture showroom and cafeteria located within.

So what is inside Rumah Melaka? The building is generally divided into 3 main sections. The first on the left houses a furniture and interior design showroom. If you are expecting a run of the mill type of showroom showcasing only traditional teak furniture, you will be in for a surprise. Besides wooden furniture (which happens to be solid wood and not those made from flimsy chipboard of plywood), furniture from other materials such as cast iron and with glass or upholstery finishing are also displayed in a tasteful style. Managed by FITEC, a subsidiary company under MARA, it is a chance for Bumiputra furniture companies to showcase their products and services. FITEC also offers interior design consultancy and kitchen cabinet design and construction.

The center section is occupied by MTIB and houses the main exhibition area displaying samples of Malaysian timber, information on the timber industry in Malaysia and useful contacts and networks. There are also 2 spacious halls for seminars, conventions, courses and workshops. These halls are also available for rent. For further inquiries, you can contact MTIB at 03-92822235 or Perbadanan Hang Tuah Jaya at 06-232 3308 (Mr. Hafizam). There are also 4 kiosks selling wood based products such as souvenirs, handicraft, soft furnishings, etc.

The final section of Rumah Melaka is an open space which consists of the office administration block, cafeteria, surau and toilets. This is also where garden furniture is exhibited. The cafeteria, Seri Kesidang, is worth checking out as we heard it is passionate in the promotion of traditional Malay cuisine and has made all types of “kerabu” their house speciality. “Kerabu” is a Malay salad usually served as an appetizer and there are many types to choose from, all redolent with fresh herbs, spices and local fruit and vegetables.

A view of the cafeteria section

Rumah Melaka was recently in the limelight after its official launch on the 18th March 2011 by The Rt. Hon. Datuk Seri Mohd Ali bin Mohd Rustam, Chief Minister of Melaka where the Guest of Honor was The Hon. Dato’ Hamzah Zainudin, Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, representing the Minister. In its press kit, MTIB states that the objectives of Rumah Melaka are as follows:-

  • To increase sales and income for Bumiputra and Small to Medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) involved in the furniture and wood based industry in line with Thrust 7 of the National Timber Industry Policy (NATIP) (Bumiputra Participation)
  • To promote awareness and understanding of the development, importance and contribution of the timber industry to the socio-economic fabric of Malaysia to specifiers, architects, engineers, builders, interior decorators, students, the general public and tourists
  • To generate demand and stimulate the use of wood and wood based products in the local market in line with Thrust 4 of the National Timber Industry Policy (NATIP) (Promotions and Marketing)
  • To promote the local furniture industry and the use of timber in construction
  • To provide exposure, awareness and knowledge on the different types of timber and their uses
  • To promote the history and provide information on the development of the timber industry in Malaysia

Congratulations to Rumah Melaka on their official opening and may the Malasyian Timber Industry Board achieve all its objectives in time to come!

Contributed by

Linda Phua Sue Lin

Chief Executive Officer, Perbadanan Hang Tuah Jaya

Cuisine in Melaka

Taming Sari Guest House @ Kampung Morten

Part 1 Introduction.

An authentic traditional Malay house in an urban heritage village

The front view of No. 134, Kampung Morten, Jalan Tun Ali, Melaka.

The side view of the house with the immaculate grounds.

Urban villages located in town centres can be found in most cities. However, picture perfect villages with well-preserved and maintained buildings, beautiful landscaping and neat layouts are extremely rare. Kampung Morten started out as a Malay village in early 1920s and takes its name after Joseph Frederick  Morten, then Commissioner of Land in Malacca. Over the years, it has evolved into a model village which attracts tourists, both local and foreign, all year round. Strategically located along the historic Melaka River, it is one of the must-see tourist attractions in Melaka. Now, for the very first time, the Melaka State Government is offering tourists a chance to stay in this historic village in an authentic refurbished traditional Malay house. Operated by a government linked company, Taming Sari Sdn Bhd, the house is named Taming Sari Guest House and visitors can be assured of the best amenities, modern facilities and old fashioned furnishings.

A view of the wooden “anjung” or verandah.

The steep wooden staircase leading to the loft. The loft is directly under the zinc roof.

For visitors who have never stayed in a traditional wooden house, the experience can be quite unforgettable. This is because a house built with wood emits “sounds”. It responds to the movement of its inhabitants. For example, when you walk on the wooden verandah, it will creak.  It is also not possible to climb a wooden staircase silently.  Some people may say this is unnerving but others may relish the experience especially when this is an antique building with its own heritage and history.

The view in front of the house. The bridge over the Melaka River is in the foreground.

A closer view of the bridge. Notice the intricate artwork.

The whole package of staying in this house isn’t just the building itself. Kampung Morten is a heritage village and it is a chance to experience first-hand, the living heritage and traditional culture of the Malays in Melaka. The location of the village is also perfect for tourists. Located at the buffer of the core heritage zone (Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage City), it is literally a stone’s throw from many historic sites and attractions. Visitors can also walk along the Melaka River which is famous for its own history and the iconic Melaka River Cruise. A walk at night is highly recommended as the river is beautifully lighted up. Many quaint cafes, souvenir shops and art galleries can be accessed by a walk along the river promenade.  Within the village itself, the house of one of founders of Kampung Morten, Othman Haji Muhammad Nor, has been converted into a living museum and named Villa Sentosa. The house was built in 1920 and has on display household items, pictures, memorabilia  and furniture which hark back to a bygone era.

Retro iron grills on a window. They don’t make grills like this anymore!

One of the neighbouring houses. Almost all the houses in Kg Morten are well-preserved and in immaculate condition.

So, don’t wait any longer. Seek adventure in Melaka and chart your own travel course.  Coming up in the near future are articles on the history of the house, Kampung Morten and retro photographs. Perhaps even an interview with the original owner.  Also, what to see and do in Melaka when you book a stay at Kampung Morten Taming Sari Guest House.  Stay tuned!