Peranakan “Tingkat” Set Lunch by Chef Baba William @ Casa del Rio Melaka

When in the Peranakan state of Melaka, it’s a shame if one missed the opportunity to get acquainted with the local Peranakan delicacies. At Casa del Rio, authentic Peranakan are being adeptly prepared right the kitchens of the hotel.

Meet Chef Baba William Koh, 54, a veteran of Nyonya cuisine. He is a native of Melaka who has been cooking professionally at various nyonya restaurants for the past 36 years. His grandparents are Baba and Nyonya and at a young age, he spent a lot of time helping the family in the kitchen, just like how all chefs got started in this career.

chef baba william

One of my lunches during my recent Melaka trip was by Chef Baba William. While I sat on the spacious River Side Cafe overlooking the river, I thanked my lucky stars that I’m enjoying my peranakan lunch in the company of my close friends and learning about its fascinating heritage from an authoritative figure without having to step out to the sweltering Melaka heat.

It is certainly commendable that Casa del Rio to not only include local cuisine on its menu but also in ensuring an experienced chef like Baba William crafted its peranakan menu.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-004

Here’s a little background of the Nyonya cuisine and also a short explanation of the differences in the Penang Nyonya in comparison to the Melaka Nyonya. I’m no expert and I find the lunch session really insightful.

Nyonya food is the food of the Baba-Nyonya in Malaysia and Singapore. Known also as the Peranakan or the Straits Chinese (Straits-born Chinese). The distinct difference between Penang nyonya and Melaka nyonya food is in the method of cooking and ingredients. While the style of cooking for Penang is centred towards Hokkien and Chinese, Melaka nyonya cuisine are influenced by Malay herbs and spices. Food from Melaka is generally sweeter, richer with liberal use of coconut milk infused with variety of spices. Not to mention, the cooking has some touches of Portuguese-Eurasian. Amoungst some of the classic nyonya favourites are pie tee, tempra fish, assam chicken with keluak, chicken pong teh, chap chai, omelette with cincalok and ikan chuan-chuan. 

We can look forward to many more Peranakan dishes at River Cafe soon but to kick things off Chef Baba William has introduced the Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch at RM28++, suitable for 2 pax.
This is for lunch from Monday to Saturday and each set of menu will rotate daily.

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch

The 2 sets that I sampled during my weekend at Casa del Rio was as below. While I had to admit it wasn’t as authentic as I would have liked (I was anticipating old favourites like pongteh, itik tim, ayam buah keluak) it was nonetheless tasty and as expectantly very adeptly prepared.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-005

Our 2 sets:

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch-002

Here’s the soup of the day (meatball with tanghoon soup), kerabu ong lai (pineapples), and steamed otak-otak. Chef Baba William has steamed the otak-otak first before frying them which explained the dark and firm outer crust.

MElaka - tiffin lunch1

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-003

The differentiating item is the greens – Four Angled Beans with Belacan, Brinjal Fried in Chili and the mains – one was Nyonya Chicken Formosa while another is Lemak Nenas Ikan.

The Formosa Chicken is a personal creation of Chef Baba William. He shared that there were black pepper, gula melaka (palm sugar) and lemongrass (among other ingredients) in the recipe.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-004 (3)

I liked the masak lemak curry though I would have preferred a flakier fish.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-004 (4)

Four Angled Bean in Sambal.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-004 (2)

Fried Brinjal in Chilli.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-004 (1)

And lastly, a nice creamy rich dessert to wrap up lunch.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William-006

I had my local Malaccan friend Daniel joining me for lunch that day who happened to know Chef Baba William and Chef Baba William actually knew his parents. Daniel gave thumbs up for the food served that day and all in all, the group of us had an engaging session discussing history, spices, cooking and everything about nyonya food in general.
It was a fruitful lunch! 🙂

The ala carte menu is still applicable for lunch and since I’ve read foursquare tips that the pizzas here are great I added an order of “Gluttony” – grilled Australian beef, onions, parmesan, tomato and bearnaise sauce for sampling.

Casa Del Rio, Melaka - Peranakan Tingkat Set Lunch - Chef Baba William

And yes, I concurred that the pizza are definitely worth an order.  Being a woodfire pizza it has the prerequisite smoky aroma and slightly charred crust. The sauce and the fillings were commendable as well.

MElaka - tiffin lunch

Here are the other menus on rotation for the Peranakan “Tingkat” Set Lunch by Chef Baba William @ Casa del Rio Melaka. I was told there would be gradual addition of Peranakan dishes to the current ala carte menu as well.
If I’m ever in Melaka I would visit Chef Baba William again for his nyonya laksa, since I’m on the hunt for a authentic one!

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch-001

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch-003

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch-004

Peranakan Tiffin Set Lunch-005

Peranakan “Tingkat” Set Lunch Started from 10 May 2013
Time: 12 noon – 4pm (Monday-Saturday)
Prive: RM28++ per person
Venue: The River Cafe
For reservations, please call +606 289 6888
Email: [email protected]

*Child aged between 6 – 11 years old
++Prices are subject to 10% service charge and 6% GST

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Sean Eat Drink KL

    yay, nyonya food, one of my comfort food cuisines! 😀 y’know, when i was a kid, i actually didn’t manage to try a lot of nyonya food, but it was only in my 20s that i really learned about it and came to appreciate it. but i remember when i was in secondary school, whenever my grandmother was ill and couldn’t cook, we’d get these ‘tingkat’ tiffin carrier lunches sent to us for convenience, usually containing chinese food. otak-otak is always welcome, since it’s quite labour-intensive! 😀

  2. sycookies

    Tingkat set lunch is such a brilliant name.

  3. Samantha

    You’re right. Veron was showing me your post and asking me about Malaccan food since it’s my hometown and I have to agree, it’s a lost cuisine if the older generation don’t pass it on and yes, it’s difficult to find authentic ones in Malacca, the Peranakan state itself. Sad.

  4. docgelo

    we’ll revisit melaka soon and this post, becky is actually helpful! i’ll convince the wifey to try at least one set from what you recommended here. we had coffee early this year at casa del rio but those dishes really look a must-try!

  5. Renee

    Saw on your FB and tweet that you are here again today! How was the food today? Love the picture of the kebaya ladies 🙂

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