• Rick

Not the Usual Affair at Straits Affair Cafe, Malacca

Updated: Dec 17, 2019


Straits Affair is a Peranakan cafe that serves authentic Nyonya food and pastries in Malacca. The cafe is linked to Cheng Ho Cultural Museum. You can visit the museum and try Peranakan food or have high tea in the cafe. Straits Affair's specialties and high tea is not to be missed if you are in Malacca Old Town.

The photo above shows the front of the cafe — an European-style shopfront that is unique in Malacca and very picturesque. And a peek inside the cafe (below).

Note that Straits Affair is not a restaurant — don't go in there expecting restaurant services. It is a cafe that is started by Isaac Tan, an eighth-generation Baba, to preserve Peranakan culture.

The cafe aims to promote traditional Peranakan pastries and cakes (known locally as kueh) to visitors and to preserve cultures that are otherwise disappearing. The staff are always happy to explain about the cafe's mission, Peranakan cultures and introduce Nyonya kueh to visitors. Visit the cafe to find out more.

Straits Affair Afternoon Tea Set

Before checking out the food in Straits Affair, let's have a little affair with their unique English-style afternoon tea set. This elegant afternoon high-tea will definitely add some colourful delights to your Malacca itinerary.

The tea set has three tiers with a number of Nyonya desserts (or kueh) and Malaysia's local delights. And it comes with a pot of refillable tea.

The top tier has 2 sets of ondeh-ondeh (green) and kueh ko swee (brown), which are all-time Peranakan favorites. Ondeh-ondeh (or Tear Drop) is made using glutinous rice flavoured with pandan leave extract and stuffed with gula Melaka (palm sugar). Kueh ko swee is made with rice flour, gula Melaka and tapioca starch. Both are eaten with grated coconut.

The middle tier has 2 pieces of original kueh ku and 2 pieces of apom berkuah (Peranakan pancake) served with Straits Affair's homemade specialty sauce.

Kueh ku is a type of traditional Chinese cake that is usually eaten during festive events. The Hokkiens call it "ang ku kueh" or "red tortoise cake" due to the imprints on the little round cake that looks like tortoise shell. Tortoise also signify longevity in Chinese legends which is why the kueh is often seen during weddings and full-moon baby showers.

Apom berkuah is basically rice flour cakes with thick banana gravy. Straits Affair's gravy is made from premium gula Melaka and banana. Due to the relatively more tedious process in making apom berkuah as compared to other kueh, it is not commonly seen along Malacca streets. Straits Affair makes it available to visitors.

The bottom tier is larger and has more items. From left going anti-clockwise: 2 pai tee (top hats), 2 pieces of fried kueh ku, 2 pieces of pang Su Sie, a bowl of mee siam and a bowl of tauhu goreng (fried tofu). Both the fried kueh ku and pang Su Sie are available only in Straits Affair in Malacca.

Both tauhu goreng and mee siam are Malay dishes while pai tee is another Peranakan snack. The fried Kueh ku is another Straits Affair specialty. Try it with the original version and see which is more delightful to you.

The golden buns are pang Su Sie or "bun Su Sie", a specialty of the Portuguese-Eurasian community in Malacca. "Su Sie" is probably the name of the person who created it. The baking process for this dessert is really tedious and, again, is available only in Straits Affair. To put it simply Pang Su Sie is sweet potato bun stuffed with minced meat and potatoes.

The afternoon tea set is perfect for 2 persons. You can also order any of the kueh above individually. So, not to worry if you are travelling solo.

Local Food

Apart from the traditional kueh and tea sets, Straits Affair serves both Peranakan and Malaysia local dishes too. We tried their le pongteh baguette and nasi lemak. Other recommended dishes on their food menu include mee siam, Nyonya laksa, pai tee (top hat), and tauhu sumbat (stuffed tofu). The list doesn't have to be very long — their main objective is to preserve the tradition and introduce them to visitors.

Straits Affair's signature dish is le pongteh baguette, which is a hot-seller that always get sold out around lunch time. The traditional Peranakan pongteh chicken stew is infused with sweet gula Melaka (palm sugar) and served with French baguette — a blend of old and new. This dish is only available at Straits Affair.

Their nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk) is what I call "truly authentic". While most restaurants try to spice up this favourite dish of Malaysia by varying the ingredients or preparing them differently, Straits Affair tries to preserved its most original version on a plate (nasi lemak is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves but in smaller amount).

The food dishes are not too heavy and you will probably still have some stomach space for their specialty desserts.

Gula Melaka

Most people would have heard of gula Melaka being used in almost all the sweet desserts and dishes in Malacca and probably wondering how it looks like. This is the solid form after being extracted from the sap of flower buds from coconut trees, boiled and solidified after being cooled rapidly in cylindrical containers.

Straits Affair will also introduce and educate visitors on how to identify premium grade gula Melaka, which is often used as sweetener in place of white sugar in most Southeast Asian countries. If you are interested, you can purchase some from Straits Affair if they have sufficient stock (they need it to prepare their food too).

Getting To Straits Affair

Head straight to Straits Affair if you know where to find it, or look for Cheng Ho Cultural Museum — they are interconnected.

Update!

Straits Affair had ceased operation in Malacca in March 2018 and had moved to Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur (as posted on their Facebook).

Eating at Straits Affair is like going on a culture-cum-food tour to learn more about Peranakan cuisines, their food tradition and tasting them at the same time — it's an unusual affair at a little Malaccan cafe. You can say that Straits Affair is a Peranakan "kueh-kery" museum except that the exhibits can be eaten.

More places to try Malacca local food

15 Places for Local Food in Malacca Old Town

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