Take advantage of long weekends and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka. Famed for its rich Portuguese and Dutch heritage from years gone by, this city is flocked by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. But if you look hard enough, you’d find great local gems away from the tourists’ hotspots.
Being in a town where food literally dominates the scene, I dived into a controlled gastronomic fare. My mantra: Eat only to satisfy the palate and never enough to satisfy the tummy. And that was how I kept to moderation! A must try is the durian cendol on Jonker Street, a creamy dessert of shaved ice, green stringy jelly, beans, corn, dollops of the durian flesh and a hearty drizzle of thick palm sugar. Look for Jonker 88, you won’t miss it as there is a perpetual line of customers waiting to be seated.
For mains, try the Nyonya Laksa and Popiah at Poh Piah Lwee located at the intersection between Jonker Street and Tun Cheng Lock. The small shop often goes unnoticed as tourists bypass it to get to the buzz at Jonker. The laksa soup is velvety with a mild piquant taste stirring my appetite for another bowl – but I resisted. The popiah, a local veggie spring roll oozed with flavour. Unlike other boring veggie rolls, this kept me hungering for more. At the end of the meal, I finally found the secret ingredient tucked among the healthy greens, tiny pieces of fried lard! (Not so healthy anymore…)
The next day I discovered another hidden gem called Baba Charlie, a haven for homemade Nyonya kuih. Located at No.72, Lorong Pantai Tengkera 2C (about 2 minutes’ drive from Jonker along Jalan Tun Cheng Lock), the house exterior actually looked like a mega-sized kitchen with trays, pots, woks and kitchen utensils decked all over. I started to doubt if I got the right place, but as soon as I stepped into the house, my doubts melted away. A colourful patchwork of delectable kuih’s filled the table. A fickle mind and a growling stomach did not help with the selection. Everything looked good and the kuih’s came in different sizes, colours and filling. A tip, ask if you are unsure. Other customers are more than willing to help you choose the best buys.
For lunch, I fortuitously stumbled on the Hajjah Mona Assam Pedas Restaurant located at No. 6, Taman Kota Laksamana (just a few streets away from Jonker). It was actually the smell that wooed me in. If you are up to a hot and spicy meal, don’t miss out on this. This Malay restaurant serves up the best assam pedas; fish bathed in red hot assam pedas gravy served with hot steamy white rice.
Finally to seal the night with something sweet, try Putu Piring, light fluffy cake dough filled with palm sugar bits that melt in your mouth. There is a warning that if you start, you cannot stop! Find the tiny stall located along Jalan Tenkera at No.252 (next to the Sports Toto shop). It only opens in the evening from about 7pm till late.