The Malays, settled in Malacca since 1400, form the largest community and have a distinctive culture.
Malacca is well-known for its food; Malay dishes include ikan asam pedas, sambal belacan and cencaluk.
Belacan, a Malay variety of shrimp paste, is prepared from fresh shrimp of a species known as keragu in Malay. These are mashed into a paste and dried in lumps, pounded and formed into large balls, dried again for a week or so, wrapped in plastic and stored for future use. It is in this form that most of these blachan balls are sold. Belacan is used as an ingredient in many dishes, or eaten on its own with rice. A common preparation is sambal belacan, made by mixing belacan with chili peppers, minced garlic, shallot paste and sugar and then fried. The aroma from the frying mixture can be unpalatable to Westerners who have not become accustomed to it, but is an absolute delight to the Asian connoisseur.
Malacca is also famous for satay celup. Raw fish and meat are skewered onto sticks which is then cooked in a peanut sauce; this is often sold in individual sticks.
Nyonya-Baba cuisine is a fusion of Chinese (mostly southern Hokkien or Fujian influence), Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, British and Malay cooking with most dishes being spicy in nature. Peranakan dishes include Itik Tim (a soup containing duck and salted vegetables), Ayam Pong Teh (chicken casserole with salted brown-bean sauce usually served with potatoes) as well as the famous Nyonya Laksa. Chicken Rice Ball is another dish popular with domestic Chinese tourists.
Malacca's ethnic Portuguese population are the descendants of Portuguese colonists from the 16th and 17th centuries. Even to this day, many of the traditions originating with the Portuguese occupation are still practised, i.e. "Intrudu" from Portuguese word "Entrudo" (a water festival that marks the beginning of Lent, the Catholic fasting period), "branyu" (traditional dance), "Santa Cruz" (a yearly Festival of street celebrations).
The Portuguese colonists contributed dishes like Devil's Curry and Portuguese egg tarts to the town's cuisine. Ikan Bakar (roasted fish) restaurants in Umbai, Serkam and Alai are also popular.
There is also a sizeable amount of Sikhs residing in Malacca, and Sikhs from Malacca and abroad congregate in the gurdwara (Sikh temple) situated in Jalan Temenggong during the last weekend of May, to commemorate the death of its former priest, Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji, who was elevated to a saint upon passing away. Visitors are welcome but are advised to follow rules and common practices within the premises. Typical vegetarian punjabi cuisine will be served to everyone visiting the gurdwara.