05 Feb 2018 - 7 min read
Bro, sudah makan?
Take a walk past Kuala Lumpur’s commercial districts at noon time and the air suddenly rings with this phrase as office-goers step out for their lunch time followed by a ten-minute banter of which Mamak serves the best roti canai. Here we have a clear indication - Malaysia is a country obsessed with food and we do take our teh tarik very seriously.
So much so, that tourist destinations within the country have come to be identified by their cuisines. Go to Penang for the char kuey teow or make your way to Ipoh for chicken rice and some hor fun!
One such destination in Malaysia that boasts a culinary extravaganza is Melaka; a tiny coastal town that displays a multicultural history dominated by European, Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, which gave birth to the nation’s Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine. One of the best ways to explore this multifaceted town is by taking a walk through the iconic Jonker Street night market lined with hundreds of hawker stalls displaying the very best of authentic Nyonya dishes as well as other local delicacies.
We list down a few you simply cannot afford to miss.
An authentic Melakan speciality, chicken rice balls are a must-try at Jonker Street night market. These firm balls of rice are made by cooking the rice in a flavorful and spicy chicken broth and then shaping them into spheres to lend the conventional Hainanese chicken rice an unusual twist in the texture.
In Melaka’s most famous kopitiams, these delectable morsels of rice are served with tender chicken meat drizzled with a delicate sauce and often a side of homemade mix of soya sauce, red chillies, garlic and lime. Dip a chicken rice ball into this spicy sauce for a real party on your tongue.
Source: chee.hong / Flickr
If you are a fan of satay and the crunchy peanut sauce that comes with it, you are going to love this one. Similar in serving style to a hot-pot restaurant, Melaka’s satay celup allows you to cook your meat and vegetables in a boiling pot of delicious satay sauce. Most stalls offer a wide pick of fresh ingredients including fish balls, chicken balls, prawns, bell peppers, bean curd and squid. You can pick your own, arrange them on a satay stick, drop them into the satay sauce and eat them hot and saucy.
Your best bet for this street eat is Capitol Satay Celup, a stall favored by most locals and travelers. But expect a waiting period of at least 30 minutes before you can find your own seat. It’s quite worth the wait, though.
Laksa or curry noodles are a national favorite, with each region in Malaysia varying in their spiciness and thickness of the broth. Melaka’s famous Nyonya Asam Laksa comes with a slightly rich broth, usually with coconut cream, jumbo prawns, fish balls and tau pok (bean curd puffs) commonly served with julienned cucumber.
This flavourful broth that comes with a distinctive taste is a perfect example of Melaka’s multicultural community and the influence they have on the cuisine. Either way, after slurping up a bowl of these delicious noodles, you’ll definitely want another, even in hot weather.
Head over to Jonker 88 to sample some Nyonya Asam Laksa and beat the heat with a cool serving of their cendol.
A great street eat while exploring the night market, these simple fish balls are good enough to satiate sudden hunger cravings. Priced at only RM3-5 per portion, you can find a string of stalls at Jonker night market shelling out this humble treat.
While there is nothing unusual about fish balls, the curry sauce – which is a perfect mix of sweet and spicy, ladled on top of these handmade savoury balls – gives an otherwise ordinary dish a Melakan twist.
If you are not a big curry fan, you can also find stalls serving fish balls in easy-to-eat salads with fried bean curd puffs and vegetables for a healthy yet wholesome snack.
Originating from China, Nyonya Popiah is made from fresh egg wraps and the popiah stalls in Jonker Street offer a wide range of juicy fillings such as bean curd, vegetables and seafood served with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce. What makes the Nyonya popiah unique is the addition of pork lard as a final touch before the serving the wrap. If you are a Muslim traveler, make sure to ask the stall owner before buying or head to halal Nyonya restaurants to sample this yummy treat.
Source: Timothy Merrill / Flickr
Almost similar to the Japanese takoyaki, these fried quail eggs are probably the best treat on a stick you will come across in the Jonker night market. The delicate quail eggs are fried in hot round moulds and are filled with various ingredients such as chicken sausage, Nyonya curry chicken, crab sticks, bean curd and corn. What makes them irresistibile is the drizzling of mayo, cheese and barbecue sauces; you simply will not be able to stop at just one.
Source: Yanwen Tan / Flickr
Glutinous rice, a spicy meat filling and a deep blue streak are the classic characteristics of an authentic Nyonya Chang or rice dumpling. Unlike other rice dumplings, this one is made by coloring the rice with extracts from the blue pea flower and using it in combination with plain boiled sticky rice.
The dumpling is then filled with a mixture of meat, vegetables, candied winter melon and a special spice mix, before being wrapped in a bamboo leaf and steamed to perfection. An intense dish, both in flavors and texture, the Nyonya chang is what most people refer to as the true taste of Melaka.
This Nyonya kuih is literally so ‘pre-tty!’ Often called ‘top hats’, Pie Tee is yet another traditional Nyonya kuih that is made by frying flour into cup-like moulds and then topping them up with a refreshing mix of seafood, vegetables, lime and chilli sauce; almost like a dainty tea time canape. Try these as an appetizer before you dig into your servings of Asam pedas and kangkung belacan.
You simply cannot leave Melaka before trying out the much talked about gula melaka cendol – a truly refreshing dessert to end a hearty meal. Yes, we are talking finely shaved ice swimming in a pool of fresh coconut milk, pandan jelly, kidney beans, corn and a gorgeous glug of the local gula melaka or brown sugar syrup. The earthiness of the sugar syrup is quite distinct to what would be served at kopitiams elsewhere and a trip to Melaka just for the local cendol is definitely worth the journey.
While the gula melaka cendol is pretty awesome in itself, some stalls in Jonker night market delight diners with their own variants by adding a scoop of fresh durian flesh to an ice cold bowl of cendol. (Rejoice, durian fans!)
If the durian cendol isn’t enough to satisfy your inner durian junkie, try the one-bite durian puffs. The layers of puff pastry stuffed with fresh cream and durian flesh make these bite-sized puffs hard to resist. Remember to eat these in a single bite for an unexpected explosion of flavors.
If there is something you want to take back from your trip to Melaka, we highly recommend a box of freshly baked pineapple tarts. There is something so comforting about these little buttery pastry parcels filled with jammy goodness that they are invariably one of Malaysia’s favorite snacks.
Another must-eat here are freshly made Portuguese egg tarts with their firm pastry and well-balanced steamed egg mixture. Available in bite-sizes portions and ranging from only RM6-8 per piece, this is also an easy delight to snack on while hunting for more hidden food haunts in Jonker’s night market.
Know of more must-try eats in Melaka? Tell us in the comments section below, simply because we are always hungry for more Nyonya street eats!