[Malacca, Malaysia] Nyonya snacks at Bulldog Cafe, Jalan Bendahara

The 600-year-old state of Malacca in Malaysia has a fascinating culinary heritage - from its native Malay/Indonesian beginnings, to cross-influences from various ethnic communities (Chinese, Indians, Arabs, etc.) who’d settled there for centuries, and the Western colonial powers (the Portuguese ruled Malacca from 1511 to 1641, the Dutch from 1641 to 1798, and the British then on till 1957). Malacca is also the home of one of the world’s earliest fusion cuisine: the five century-old Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, a result of inter-marriages between early immigrant Chinese men with ethnic Malay women.

Malacca’s Nyonya cuisine repertoire included one-dish meals, and the most popular one is perhaps the Nyonya laksa, which combines Chinese ingredients like yellow Hokkien wheat noodles, Chinese “bee hoon” or rice vermicelli, beansprouts, fish cakes and tofu puffs with a spicy gravy incorporating Malay/Indonesian spices, condiments and herbs like “belachan” (fermented shrimp paste), candlenuts, “asam” (tamarind), “bunga kantan” (torch ginger flower), “daun kesum” (Vietnamese coriander), and enriched with coconut milk.

Bulldog Cafe on Jalan Bendahara offers one of the best versions in town, with all the prerequisites, plus fresh prawns, shredded fresh cucumber and finely-julienned egg omelette.

We also ordered another typical Malaccan finger food item: the Nyonya kueh pai tee - little, crisp pastry cups filled with braised jicama (Asian turnip), shredded fried egg, red chili, coriander leaves and golden-fried shallots, with a must-have chili dip.

I’m probably spoilt by living in Penang, Malacca’s great rival for Nyonya food, but I preferred Penang’s more savoury version, where the jicama filling had been cooked with pork and shrimps as well, giving the dish a distinctly meatier, tastier accent.

Another Nyonya snack dish we ordered was the Nyonya popiah or spring roll. I like the Malaccan-style spring roll skin, which incorporated egg into the dough for the skin, making it moister, softer and heavier. But the filling, again, was blander than Penang ones which are much more savoury and sweet from the meat juices. But I still prefer Malacca popiah over Singaporean ones which tended to have raw garlic paste smeared onto the inside part of the popiah skin before being rolled. Malacca and Penang popiahs tend to be milder and gentler in flavour compared to the Singaporean one.

For dessert, we had the Nyonya cendol, a shaved ice dessert with green pandan-scented “cendol” noodles and stewed red beans, liberal lashings of fresh coconut milk and good quality palm sugar or “Gula Melaka”. I prefer Malaccan cendol over Penang or Singapore ones because the Malaccans do not stinge on good quality palm sugar which has a deeper, smoky flavour that inferior ones don’t have.

Bulldog Cafe also serves a range of Nyonya dishes that go with rice for a more “complete” meal, so a return trip might be in order soon.

Bulldog Cafe
145, Jalan Bendahara, 75100 Melaka
Tel: +6019 6552373
Opening hours:
Mon 6.30pm-9pm
Tue-Thu 11.30am-2pm, 6.30pm-9pm
Fri 11.30am-2pm, 6.30pm-10pm
Sat 11.30am-2pm, 6.30pm-12.30am
Sun Closed


Yup. This ticks all the boxes for me!


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Put that one on your bucket list. And if you ever come by this part of the world, let me know! :grin:

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