The majority of Eurasians in Malaysia and Singapore are descendants of early Portuguese navigators and explorers, who arrived on these shores about 500 hundred years ago. These intrepid men braved the then uncharted waters of the world in search of wealth and glory, travelling from Lisbon to Africa, and eventually to Asia. When they reached Southeast Asia, these Europeans immediately set up an outpost in Malacca, the gateway between East and West, to monopolize the highly lucrative spice trade of the region.
The Portuguese ruled Malacca under a hostile social environment: so as not to be outnumbered by the natives, and to create harmony under colonial rule, the Portuguese promoted inter-racial marriages between themselves and the local people. They even brought women from their own country known as “Orphans of the Queen”; these women came from all castes of Portuguese society, including even the nobility. However, the local spouse would have to convert to Catholicism before the marriage could take place, in line with the missionary objectives of the conquerors.
From these marriages a new ethnicity was born, known as Eurasian -- or more accurately Cristang. With their exotic blend of European and Asian parentage, the Eurasians were accorded many rights and privileges enjoyed by the governing classes, and bequeathed a rich and fascinating legacy to our modern cultural mix, most famously, in food.
Combining western cooking methods with Eastern ingredients, the Eurasians created a cuisine with a unique identity. Like their European counterparts, Eurasians usually marinated their food with lime, lemon or vinegar, and, at the same time introduced chilies, galangal, and lemon grass into their curries. The Malaccan Eurasians also came to acquire the Peranakan and Chinese fondness for sweet-and-sour dishes, and the practice of stir-frying their ingredients. The most famous Eurasian dish in this region would probably be Devil Curry.
Christmas is an important celebration for Eurasians as it is a time for sharing joy and love among one other. Preparations would start weeks ahead. Beginning with the spring-cleaning of the house, and preparation of Christmas treats and cookies, until the eve of Christmas when the family would return from church, wish each other season’s greetings and sit down to a festive supper. Celebrations continue until Boxing Day with more food being served, feng (pronounced ‘fing’) being one of the “musts” for Christmas, and also at weddings.
It was believed that feng came about from the first Portuguese sea explorations to Asia. Animals were taken onboard the ship to be killed for meat, and because of the scarcity of food, no part of the animal was to be wasted. Feng became a dish where the innards and the poor cut, especially pig’s entrails and offal, were stewed with spices and eaten over days.
Pork belly 300 g
Pig’s tongue 1
Pig’s intestine 150 g
Pig’s ear 2
Pig’s heart 1
Pig’s kidneys 2
Pig’s liver 200 g
Water 1½ litres
Star anise 2
Cinnamon sticks 5
Oil ¼ cup
Ginger 50 g, julienned
White vinegar 5 tbsp
Salt 3 tsp
Brown sugar 3 tbsp
Dark soy sauce 1 tbsp
Paste (blended into fine paste):
Shallots 500 g
Garlic 25 g
Coriander seeds 6 tbsp
Cumin 1½ tbsp
Fennel 1½ tbsp
Black peppercorns 1 tbsp
Cinnamon 2 cm
Star anise 1
Turmeric 20 g
- Boil water with 8 cloves, 1 star anise, and 3 cinnamon sticks. Cook pork belly for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Cook pig’s tongue, ear and intestine for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Scrape skin off the tongue and rinse thoroughly.
- Cook kidneys and liver for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Dice all cooked meat into cubes.
- Saute ginger with oil. Add the remaining cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Lower the heat when you can smell the fragrance.
- Add blended paste and fry for 15 minutes under low heat. When the onion starts to caramelize, add the spice mixture. Increase the heat to medium and continue to stir-fry until oil is seeping through the paste.
- Add pork belly, intestines and white vinegar. Stir-fry on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add ear, tongue and 1 cup of sieved stock; simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the meat and simmer for further 10 minutes.
- Season it with sugar, salt and dark soy sauce. Cook for another 2 minutes before turning off the heat.
- Let the dish stand for 30 minutes or keep it overnight before serving.
Note: Coriander seeds should be dry-fried until they are fragrant before grinding to yield a strong flavor.