new ethnic community
"Cristang" has its roots in the Portuguese word "cristao";
a nomenclature adopted by the mestizos of Malacca to avoid
persecution by Dutch papists. The Dutch conquered Malacca
around 1641, and remained for 150 years. During the Dutch
occupation of Malacca, the Cristang were accepted for their
European features, and were favoured with jobs in the
administration. Some Dutch officers even chose to remain in
Malacca by marrying Cristang women.
Around 1440 a Sumatran Prince called
Parameswara fled his kingdom of Temasak (modern day
Singapore) after being attacked by the Majapahit. Legend has it that
as he sat under a tree he saw a mouse deer defend
itself against his hunting dogs. Such bravery inspired
Parameswara to make his domain there. To name the domain, he asked his guards the
name of the tree he sat under and was told that it is the
Malacca tree, hence the name of the state. Malacca grew in
prominence due to its strategic location as a port for
eastern travels (between March to October) and western
travel (between November to February). It grew as a spice
port with traders from China, India and the Arabian
Peninsular located there. History records that the famous
Chinese Admiral, Zheng He called on Malacca in the mid
1400s when the Emperor of China sent a princess Hang Li Po
to wed Sultan Mansur Shah (1459 - 1477), the then ruler of
Malacca, in response to the Sultan's request for protection
from the Siamese.
arrival of the Portuguese
Portuguese mariner Lopez de Sequeira decided Malacca would
be the base of his country’s commerce in the region. Two
years later, Alfonso d’Albuquerque, took
possession of the land and fortified it to achieve that aim.
The ruins of the fort, "A Famosa",
can still be seen in Malacca to this day.
Malacca (circa 1630), the fort surrounds the entire
Current day Serani
(Eurasian) fisherman, fishing off Portuguese
Settlement in Malacca
Legend has it
that in the walls of Porta de Santiago lies a nun who was
buried alive because of her nightly tryst by the gateway
with a solider; he was beheaded in front of the gateway
after their liaison was discovered.
Portuguese came for God, Gold and Glory; their mission was a
campaign of trade and crusade which evolved into cultural
and culinary assimilation.
of the Dutch
Dutch East India Company (Verenidge Oos-Indische Compagnie
or V.O.C ) arrived and conquered Malacca in 1641 from the
Portuguese who governed Malacca for 130 years.
Dutch VOC Coin
The interesting fact is that it was the
Dutch East India Company and not the Dutch State that
established a commercial
presence in Southeast Asia.
1933, 2 missionary priests, Frs. J.P. Francois & A.M.
Coroado, recognising that the Cristang culture was in danger
of disappearing, proposed to the British Administration that poorer
Cristang be regrouped into a settlement so that they could
practise their religion and culture within the community.
The British agreed and provided the land which was swampy
and mosquito infested but it was later drained and made
habitable. This settlement is
known as Portuguese Settlement, but was originally called
St. John's Village, later changed to
Padre sa Chang.
This enclave is 3 kilometers from the town centre. Its first
inhabitants were 10 of the poorest of the Cristang
Serani or Eurasian
The Cristang is a new ethnic community - of Malay, Indian, Portuguese
and Dutch descent. The British
called the Cristang "Eurasian" and the local Malays referred
to them as "Serani" .
dancers doing the Branyo
The Portuguese and Dutch
ancestry can be noticed in the surnames that the descendents
carry such as Dias, Fernandes, Gomes, Lazaroo, Nunis, Pinto,
Peris, de Rozario, de Souza, de Vries, Goonting, Klyne,
Marbeck, de Witt, Danker, Hendroff, Hendricks, Westerhout
and many others.
The nobles in their galleons may have had retinues of
personal retainers, but it was the lowly press-ganged
deckhand, forced to forage to survive, who became the
cuisine’s prime mover.
Adapting was easy because then – as it is now – fresh food
was abundant, and the spices on which mercantile capitalism
thrived, were the same that made delectable the bounty of
land and sea. Cristang food is a mélange of many flavours
combined to bring out the best of East and West. This was
when fusion cuisine was first created.
- is celebrated on Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday and is the
last day of merriment before Lent. It dates back almost 5
centuries when it was brought to Malacca during the
Portuguese era. People splash water on everybody and no one
in sight is spared a drenching. Those splashed are given a
glass of wine as a token of respect.
- is Lent in Cristang language. It is a time of self denial
so instead of eating rice, "canje parper" (a rice gruel) is
served with a pickle salt fish relish called "pasce
is the culmination of Lent. Cristang families rejoice with
serving of rice, curry seccu mutton and
pang susis (a
savoury meat bun).
Festa de San
- is celebrated on the evening of 23 June with the lighting
of candles along the pathway leading to the entrance of the
house Children and adults wear green garments and
porridge made from mung beans and sweetened with gula melaka
and coconut milk is served throughout the day.
Festa de San
- is celebrated on 29 June in honour of St Peter, the patron
saint of fishermen, with a carnival, decorative boats, folk dancing
and a delicious array of typical Cristang food .
- is a time of feasting and family reunion. This is the time
when traditional Cristang cuisine is at its peak. Age old
recipes are brought out.
Kuih tart, bolu
cocu, bluder, sersagung, agar-agar
are the must have sweets.
savouries are garlinhia pai, curry
feng, curry seccu, seybak
and fluffy white rice.
Porta de Santiago
Dutch VOC buildings in Malacca