I’m seated here in my hotel room in Malacca typing this while eating homemade strawberry bread and drinking Malacca’s white coffee in the morning because I’m waiting for my friends to get their bums out of bed. So while I’m waiting, this blog shall keep me busy.
Malacca, or Melaka, as it is also commonly known as, is Malaysia’s 3rd biggest state. Of most interest to tourists is Malacca City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 1500s, the Portuguese defeated the Malacca Sultanate and conquered the state in its effort to boost its control of trade in Asia and such, there is much Portuguese influence in the city and this is especially apparent in its buildings. Much of Malacca’s appeal in its beautiful colonial-era buildings that remain even till this day.
Secondly, or some may say, more importantly, is the food to be found here. If you ask Singaporeans, the appeal of the city is in the food.
In any case, my friends and I decided to do a 3-day, 2-night trip to Malacca and many of the recommendations we got revolved around food. So yes, we have been eating non-stop since we got here and the food is by and large pretty darn good. But first, let me talk about the hotel we’re staying in. Located at the end of Jonker Walk, Jonker Boutique Hotel is a very convenient place to explore all that Jonker Walk has to offer. It is also right in front of the street stage that is the scene of live singing (think Chinese oldies) during the weekend night market. The singing usually ends by 10pm when people shouldn’t be in their hotel rooms anyway, but if peace and quiet is what you’re after, then perhaps Jonker Boutique Hotel is not your best option, but if you want large, comfortable rooms with pretty accents of local architecture, great service and easy access to the main heart of Malacca tourism, then think no more. It is also just a 10-minute walk away from the 2 huge shopping malls, Pahlawan and Mahkota.
We had a list of recommended must-try food places and this trip has pretty much been a checking off of items of this list. The very 1st item that we tried was Chicken Rice Balls (no pictures because we were so hungry, we devoured the food before I thought of taking any photos), which Malacca is famous for and queues for this food can get pretty ridiculous. The most famous place that serves this is on Jonker Walk and is called Kedai Kopi Chung Wah, right at the top of Jonker Walk. Queues for its chicken balls can snake more than halfway to the river. We decided to try out Ho Kee Chicken Rice instead, which is 2 doors down from Chung Wah. The queue was decent, even at about 2pm, but the queue was kept moving and we were soon seated and our orders taken. Unlike Chung Wah, that only serves chicken rice, Ho Kee also has curry fish head and soups, but we kept it simple and went for the chicken rice and vegetables. The boiled chicken is served with both rice balls and loose rice, with a portion of chicken innards. I always had the impression that chicken rice balls had chicken wrapped in the rice, but sadly, this isn’t so. Even so, I pretty much liked it, the rice balls was soft and chewy and the chicken flavourful, although a bit tough. The innards were a delightful surprise, but that’s just me 🙂 That said, I still prefer Singapore’s Hainanese Chicken Rice more.
Next up was Chendol, the other food that Malacca is famous for. There is a large portion of Nyonyas (Chinese who have settled in the Straits for many generations and whose culture is mixed with that of the local Malays) in Malacca and gula melaka, palm sugar, is a big part of their cuisine. Chendol is essentially, shaved ice topped with coconut milk and liquid gula melaka. For that, we hit up Jonker 88, which as the name might suggest is shop number 88 on Jonker Walk. It is a small shop that serves desserts and many many types of assam laksa (noodles in spicy fish broth). Despite having had lunch not too long ago, we could not resist ordering the assam laksa because it smelled awesome and tons of people were having it in the shop. How could I resist? This place is small and the crowds are large, there aren’t people to seat you either, so you have to keep your eyes open for people who are almost finished with their meal and stake your claim on that table! Definitely not a place for a leisurely meal. I’m not a fan of Chendol, but I found it pretty good, although a friend did say that it wasn’t sweet enough. I loved the assam laksa though. Big yum.
For dinner, we hit up Restaurant Peranakan, a huge restaurant a street over from Jonker Walk. While many recommend Nancy’s Kitchen for good Peranakan food, I’ve not had the opportunity to try it as it’s always crowded! I did hear a very positive comment as we passed by Nancy’s from some random person telling his friend that their ondeh ondeh practically squirts into one’s mouth – a good thing for ondeh ondeh. We almost did not go into Restaurant Peranakan because it was a huge place that was devoid of customers, almost like a set for a horror movie. If you are of the school that feels that there will always be a queue for good food, you probably won’t give Restaurant Peranakan a second look, but we were hungry and too tired to continue searching. It has the feel of a very school Baba (another word for Peranakan) house with high ceilings and ornate Chinese decoration, even the water tap was in the shape of large carps! The food was good enough, but wasn’t awe-inspiring.
For breakfast the next morning, we went the traditional route and headed to Rong Mao Restaurant for dim sum. Now, I’d been to Rong Mao the last time I was in Malacca and had not been too impressed with the food, BUT the experience is quite unlike any dim sum places in Singapore and I like the old school feel of the place. Go early though because they do run out of most dim sum by late morning.
Because we were a group of girls, shopping was next on the agenda and off we went to the 2 shopping malls in the area, one of which, Mahkota Parade, houses the popular Nadeje Cafe. Nadeje is famed for its mille crepes and the good sized cafe was packed and we had to wait for a table. Do not miss this though, this was probably the highlight for me. We had the original, the Creme Brule and the Green Tea mille crepe and while the original was my favourite, all of them were really delicious and I seriously contemplated picking up some for the trip back.
We had read a lot about the Portuguese Settlement and that was where we went for dinner the 2nd night. We had a to catch a private cab from a side road at the end of Jonker Walk and because it took a while for the car to get to us, we had a chat with the aunties at the shop which called the cab for us and they all had their own recommendations as to which stall was the best at the settlement. It was a very informal system there and was a little strange to us, but we got to our destination safe and sound at a reasonable price. The touts are very aggressive at the settlement, even before we got out of the car, we could see a whole group of them gearing up to swamp us and swamp us they did, they surrounded the car and was pushing their stalls to us. We decided to take a walk on the pier and they followed us. It actually got rather scary and a lot annoying, they said they would stop following us if we picked a stall, but how were we supposed to choose one when they started bugging us the moment we got down from the car? In the end, we went with the recommendation of our driver and went to No. 7. No regrets, food was amazing, fresh and delicious and very affordable. We also tried the famous mango juice which was tart tart tart! It does grow on you though and I started enjoying it around the 2nd or 3rd sip. Despite the aggressive touts at the beginning, I do think it is a great place to enjoy a sunset seafood dinner (definitely beats the seafood dining at Jimbaran, Bali). If you are headed to the Portuguese Settlement for dinner, do arrange for return transport as it is virtually impossible to get a cab from there.
On our last morning inMalacca,a breakfast of the curry/assam laksa mix at Jonker 88 concluded our food journey in Malacca. Gives you an idea of how much I love the assam laksa. Geographer’s Cafe on Jonker Walk is also a great place to have a cup of coffee, read a drink or just watch the world pass by.