Of gin cocktails, Kristang cuisine and heritage journey with PS150 and YTL Hotels
An experiential journey
Melaka is a favourite weekend destination for many, including for yours truly. This city holds many historical secrets and interesting spots that are worth a few beady drops of sweats in the name of exploration. To celebrate the launch of the special collaboration between PS150 and YTL Hotels, I made my way down to The Majestic Malacca for a quick mid-week excursion with Kristang food and gin cocktails as the main highlights.
The PS150 x YTL collaboration is a partnership of creative expression that will take guests on an experiential journey through its pop-up bar. Located at Petaling Street, PS150 is well known for its intriguing cocktails fusing Malaysian flavours and ingredients. The travelling pop-up bar is currently making its way to four locations namely Niseko Village, Japan as well as Threadneedles Hotel and The Academy, United Kingdom. For the local edition, the pop-up bar will take place at The Majestic Malacca on 15 and 16 March 2019. Here, we got a taste of what this experience is like and a bit more.
A heritage trail
On the first day, and after a very fulfilling afternoon tea at The Lounge with mini tarts, pai tee and onde onde, we set out for a stroll around town. I was grateful for the opportunity to "burn" off some calories. Walking down Jalan Bunga Raya and crossing over the Melaka River, we were given a lesson on the historical landmarks of the area and its unique architectural design. Many of the old shop houses and places of worship draw inspiration from the Malay Sultanate, Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and British.
Accompanied by a knowledgeable Majestic staff, we sneaked glimpses into the city's past and present, learning about the local way of life and the traditional trades that are still alive today. The walk took us through Chinatown and Jonker Street before an evening downpour dampened our spirits. Time to head back to The Majestic Malacca for a breather. My deluxe room was a welcoming sight.
Cooking up a storm
The next morning, we went to the local market located 10-minute drive away from the hotel. We were there to source for a few ingredients that we needed for our Kristang cooking class. I've always found markets to be captivating and I was certainly delighted to see the fresh produce on display.
The Kristang Culinary Journey is based on Chef Melba Nunis' A Kristang Family Cookbook. Chef Melba once helmed the kitchen at The Mansion, the in-house restaurant of The Majestic Malacca. Though she now only serves as a consultant, she has done well in training up the other chefs, who are continuing her legacy in showing guests how to appreciate the local cuisine. Kristang cuisine encompasses fiery sambals, comforting stews and fragrant coconut curries, with influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, Malay, Chinese and Indian.
I was most excited to learn the tips and tricks in whipping up a mean kari debal or devil's curry. The key lies in the blend of spices that includes ground mustard seed, ginger and galangal to make the fragrant curry. Best to prepare this beforehand to infuse the flavours fully into the dish. At this class, I also discovered a new favourite in the soy limang terung—pan-fried smooth eggplant doused in soy sauce mixed with sugar and lime juice. Needless to say, we devoured our dishes with much gusto at the end of the class.
Gin-tasting made fun with PS150
It was an evening of learning and discovery as PS150 set up a temporary station at The Bar of the hotel as a preview of what the travelling pop-up bar would bring to the five properties under the YTL Hotels. The good lads from PS150 served up two of its crowd-favourite – the Lychee No.3, a take on the classic lychee martini, and Salty Chinaman (aka ham sap lou) is inspired by a heady sunny day. The former features London Dry Gin, lychee, lime and torch ginger flower while the latter mixes vodka, preserved orange peel, lime, lemonade and orange bitters. Anything with citrus notes immediately transports me to a tropical holiday and I found these two drinks to be refreshing to the palate.
Historically, gin has its roots in Holland (hence where the term "Dutch courage" came from) but it was the English who popularised the spirit. Gin was traditionally associated as the go-to drink for days when you are facing challenges and need a pick-me-up to lift your mood. Today, gin is celebrated as one of the most versatile spirits around infused with a unique blend of botanicals and spices. Gin's complexity is best served mixed in a cocktail to truly bring out its deep notes.
As we sat down for dinner, PS150 crafted several glasses of gin-based cocktails to go with our food. The four-course dinner featured local Kristang influences paired with a selection of gins including the limited edition Tanqueray Malacca Gin that is only exclusively available at The Majestic Malacca. It was to be my first gin and food pairing that was somewhat a peculiar idea in theory yet easy to layer upon with each bite and sip. Such is the versatility of this spirit that I've come to love gin even more. I retired to my room with a better understanding of this spirit and the PS150 x YTL Hotels experiential journey that evening. A happy tipple that it is!
Catch the PS150 x YTL Hotels pop-up bar at The Majestic Malacca this 15 and 16 March 2019. For other occasions, you can also try your hands at making your own cocktails at The Bar of the hotel every Friday and Saturday, from 5pm to 8pm.