Thanks to Angie, of the wonderful Puri Hotel, for her superb restaurant recommendations, all of which are listed below.
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant, 4,6,8 Jl Hang Jebat (Chinatown):
One of Melaka’s specialities – found nowhere else in Malaysia, or so we were told – is chicken balls, and Angie rated the Hoe Kee’s top of the wozza (I’m paraphrasing). We can but declare that this was one of the most delicious food encounters we had in Malaysia. Chicken rice (which is a staple nationwide) is rolled into spheres about the size of golf balls, accompanied by slices of tender steamed chicken with side serves of fresh cucumber, sesame tinted hot cabbage salad (oh my!) and an ooh-ah-inducing sauce of chilli, dark soy and ginger.
Price: 13.70 RMB for two ($4.75AUD – yes, $2.40 each).
Melaka is famous for its laksa, and the Calanthe Café was Angie’s favourite laksa spot. What can I say? We have not tasted better anywhere. My partner ordered a standard laksa, I ordered the special “Calanthe’s E-mee Claypot Laksa”. Big bowls. Big yum.
Price: 4.5RMB and 5.9RMB respectively ($1.60 and $2.05AUD).
Pak Putra Restoran, 56 Jl Kota Laksamama:
OK, grab on to your rugs – windy words approaching. This hawker restaurant, 5 minutes walk from the Puri Hotel (short cut through the Baba House Hotel, opposite) served us the best meal we had during our entire trip. The Pakistani owner and cook, Qamar, uses a genuine tandoor (standard in Indian restaurants in Malaysia) to produce tandoori chicken and naan bread that is just extraordinary – certainly the best I have ever tasted, surpassing any I had in India! The chicken, too often rendered dry by tandoor cooking, was plump and succulent, the tandoori coating tangy and slightly smoky from the wood-fired tandoor: perfect. Unusually, Qamar served it with a wonderfully complementary chilli-stoked sauce. The naan, slapped against the clay inner sides of the tandoor to cook above the coals in the bottom, was evenly browned, light and elastic, full of bready, oven-warm aroma and flavour, and retained its bounce even after it cooled. We ordered Malaysian-style rotis, also, which were light, flaky and irresistible, and another fragrant moderately hot spicy chicken curry dish, the name of which I forgot to record. Included at no extra charge, were various dahl and spiced vegetable side-serves. In contrast to many other Malaysian Indian food venues, all the food came steaming hot. Glasses of fresh, iced lime juice completed a feast that I will long remember. And what did it set us back?
Price: 18RM for the two of us ($6.30AUD, or $3.15 each)
While we were eating, I noticed two other guests from the Puri Hotel tucking in (the only other tourists in sight), and next morning asked them what they thought. They, too, waxed lyrical. One, a Chinese woman from Singapore, stated: “That naan is the best I’ve ever had. Last time I had Indian food, it was at a very expensive restaurant in Singapore, and was nowhere near as good.”
Qamar is made for bigger and better things. I doubt his finely honed talents will be contained by a modest hawker premises. I just hope I can find him next time I am in Malaysia, whatever his prices are then.
Next course: KL