Friday, July 06, 2007

A Trip to Melaka

The family and I had made the little trip across to Melaka in search for antique Peranakan tiles and we had a lovely time. I wouldn't stay more than one evening because it's a sleepy little town, but it's a fun day out, and only 2.5 hours from Singapore.

Melaka is famous for Peranakan culture, architecture and food. We went on a weekday, but save your trip for the weekend when the pasar malams, or night markets, are on.

My mission was to admire the 19th century shophouses and to search for vintage pieces for the NewBiz.

My dad's mission was to hunt down the authentic cendol from his youth, but he was pretty disappointed . So I'm going to make it my new mission to make him some from scratch! I wonder how I'm going to make the "green worms"? I read somewhere that oldskool street hawkers in China, when the need to make thin strands of dough arises, they pack a mouthful of raw dough in their mouth and squirt strands out through the gaps in their teeth.

I think I might just use a potato ricer!

Anyway, I digress.

The best place for antique shopping is Jonker Street because there are loads of shops and many of the shophouses have been beautifully restored.

Unfortunately, most of the antiques were well beyond my budget. A real shame because there were loads of funky finds! Here's a great shop with oldskool lighting fixtures...

But back to the tiles. There are basically two kinds : the glazed ceramic tile which are mostly used for walls, and the hardier floor tiles. The price differential is substantial!

Glazed wall tiles (on the left) can cost up to RM$150 per piece depending on its condition. The floor tiles on the left cost about RM$20 per piece. I need about 10 metres worth, so guess which ones I'm going for!

We went to practically every shop in Jonker Street, Heeren Street and Jln Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Abdul Company had the best selection of both tiles by far. Most shops would have about 10-20 tiles. These guys had hundreds, if not thousands!! The glazed tiles are out front, and the floor tiles are in the back. BE WARNED, if you're going to see the floor tiles bring loads of mozzie spray. I'm not being a princess here, the tiles are stored in a dusty shed and there are as many mozzies are there are tiles. The Dolphin and I got into a bit of an argy-bargy because the mozzies were annoying us so much. We couldn't get out of there fast enough, which was a shame because you should really be able to spend time picking the right tiles, and checking the condition of each piece.
We also found a shop, Lagenda, that does great reproduction tiles. They've got a good selection, but you need about 3 months lead time. Each tile costs RM$15 but I'm sure that's negotiable!

We called it a day after the Mosquito Shop, and in typical Lim fashion went in search of food. I've heard so much about Famosa Chicken Rice Balls but after trying them, I don't really get it. The rice came as a plate of oily, glistening balls and they looked pretty ick to me. All I could see in my head was a fat man witha dirty sarong, squatting in front of a bucket of rice and rolling those rice balls with his sweaty palms.

Here's a screengrab from their (pretty impressive) website! Did they really say "sweat flows down to earth like a river"? Do they actually mean "sweat flows down to earth like a river....and into our chicken rice balls"? Ew.

There was a teahouse on Jonker Street we really wanted to visit cos it looked sooo pretty, but it was closed :( If anyone passes through and has a chance ot check it out, let me know what it's like!

Finally, some tasty retro goodies to bring back as souvenirs and sustain us on the drive home...

From top left: authentic gula melaka, kai chai peang (little chicken biscuits),
gula tarik kok kok candy, tau sar pneah (not technically a Melakan treat!),
coconut candy, nonya pineapple tarts (in plain and pandan), coconut and durian dodol


Johnny said...

I remember those sweets from my youth, hard to find these days. Agree with your dad, chendol these days isn't the same.

Christine said...

Well, I'm going to try the recipe that was posted in the link and will let you know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

Christine: My wife and I are looking for nyonya tiles and your site provided a lot of useful info. Thanks a lot, dear.


Anonymous said...


I stumbled across your site when I was searching for Peranakan tiles for my home. Did your family manage to buy any of those tiles and how did you use them? Thanks for the great infor on the source of tiles.