>I don’t know if I have documented this, but here goes a list of our favourite places to eat in Malacca. Many do not have addresses, so I’ll just give directions and landmarks.
Chicken rice balls at Chung Wah coffee shop, corner of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Jalan Hang Jebat. This is the crowded, a bit grimy coffee shop just after the bridge. Parking lot next to it. Love the softness and flavourful rice balls – a bit on the mashy side but generous with the chicken stock flavour. Not expensive, but its been selling chicken rice balls for decades before the flashy imposters down the street came along. Go early by 11am or go on weekdays or risk standing in line outside under the hot sun. The queue moves pretty fast though but its still easily a half-hour wait for a table.
Our favourite wanton mee at the following:
Hawker centre at Jalan Tun Sri Lanang, less than 100m away from St Peter’s Church. Springy noodles and hot chilli in a Cantonese-style light but tasty sauce. Generous helpings for only RM2.50. The hawker centre sells many other delicious food – see below for my favourite cze-cha stall.
Also on Jalan Tun Sri Lanang but slightly further down, before you get to this hawker centre, look for a row of shophouses. Sandwiched in between the shophouses is a hawker cart in front of a single story building that sells only wanton mee or fishball/yong tau foo noodles. The chef is a thin man with a chef hat who works frenetically amid a blur of arm action, stacked up bowls of noodles and steaming vats of soup. The wanton noodles here come in a slick black sauce base. The noodles are slippery and smooth and the chilli is relatively mild but contributes nicely to the overall punch of the whole dish. Accompany with a bowl of fishballs and yong tau foo. The stall only operates from 7.30pm till late. This is usually our first stop in Malacca after a long night drive and even at midnight, the place is buzzing with people patiently waiting for their wanton mee fix. My son thinks an altar should be built here to worship at the best wanton mee stall in Malaysia. (and trust me he’s eaten his way through many a wanton mee staff all over the peninsula). Prices start at RM2.50 per plate.
Another great place for wanton mee is the corner coffeeshop at Lorong Bendahara and Jalan Bunga Raya, just next to Renaissance hotel. Open only in the mornings. This is not the usual black sauce Malaysia version, but the pale Cantonese version. They only give black sauce for the non-chilli plates. As with the usual Cantonese versions, the chilli is mild and this comes with shredded chicken. Starts at RM2.50 a plate.
Seafood is good at Restoran Lee (Jalan Bendahara across the road from St Peter’s Church. But this place is a bit pricey and service can be slow and distracted if the place is packed. Good crabs though.
Also, I like the milk crabs at Madam Fatso. The milk crabs come in a sweet-savoury milky gravy that has green chilli padi in it for kick. A bit pricey, she used to have a stall at the gluttons corner in front of Mahkota Parade before they kicked all the stall holders out to build the spanking new and totally unnecessary Dataran Pahlawan shopping mall. Yes, just what all World Heritage Cities need – another mall! Madam Fatso was recently re-discovered to have moved to Jalan Melaka Raya 30, right next to a bank of mangroves and water so I suppose extra points given for ‘atmosphere’. I don’t know if their standards have declined since I last ate, so but they did used to be good, so buyer beware here.
For cze-cha fare (cook-fry outlets where various seafood and meat dishes are ordered with rice and noodles) we enjoy Ji Xiang at Jalan Portugis and Lorong Masjid. Its always packed with local families eating off metal tables and chairs under the night sky. Great frogs’ legs, venison, beef cooked with ginger and spring onions. The horfun is smooth with good charred wok hei flavour. Prices are reasonable and we usually spend about RM70 for the whole family (and there are 7 of us).
My favourite cze-cha place though, is the humble tiny stall at the Jalan Tun Sri Lanang hawker centre which also features the good wanton mee stall. This cze-cha stall is run by an Eurasian woman of Indian-Portugeuse descent. She offers razor clams, bamboo clams, and other shellfish, squid and veggie cooked in any way you like. Her razor clams in a simple belachan-sambal sauce is to die for. Paired with a plate of steaming hot white rice, that is pure satisfaction. Simple home-cooked fare but absolutely mouth-wateringly good. A plate of clams with rice is about RM7 I think?
Next door to the cze-cha stall is the steamed soup stall which sells goodness in a porcelain bowl. Piping hot pork innards soup, pig brains soup, and any other piggy permutation you can think of. Further down the same row of stalls is the braised duck stall which also sells a whole ikan tenggiri crispily fried. Mix and match these stalls for a cheap but deliciously satisfying dinner in Malacca. The wanton mee stall I wrote about earlier is also in the same row. The hawker centre is a U-shaped building. These stalls are on the right side of the U, same side as the stall selling bootleg DVDs.
If you’re into airconditioned pricey cze-cha, try Bei Zhan Restaurant which has moved to Jalan Syed Abdul Aziz, a new major coastal road. From Mahkota Parade, just take the road with the flyover. Bei Zhan is in a new building at the corner of the road turning off towards Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. A bit pricey and service rushed but food is pretty good.
For Nonya food – Ole Sayang is not bad. Not great and like all good Nonyas, I don’t think the food is up to my mother’s standards. Decent but a bit pricey. I would go only if I really, really badly wanted to try Nonya food, but otherwise, I think there are much better options around.
Some guidebooks and websites suggest the Portugeuse Settlement for dinner. I would say, treat it like an adventure which you’d do only once. As I did. The row of seafood ‘restaurants’ is on my hygiene suspect list and with touts pushing for their own restaurants, its really a hit or miss affair. Dining on wooden platforms jutting out to sea with twinkly lights overhead might sound romantic – except that you really have the stench of stale seawater beneath and lots of cans and other debris floating around. Also, I ended up with a very bad case of the runs after one meal there. I don’t know if this is a one-off thing but if I do get the craving for clams and ikan bakar, I’d rather head to the Jalan Tun Sri Lanang hawker centre than risk another visit to the Portugeuse Settlement.
Having said that, a visit in the day is nice because I enjoyed walking around the houses in the settlement – like a tiny Catholic village. Another friend who went also enjoyed the visit in the day, when he met with friendly local ladies who kindly spent time chatting and telling him stories and the history of the place. So while I wouldn’t eat there, but I wouldn’t mind visiting for a different perspective.
Other places we like – prawn noodles done spicy penang style at Jalan Bunga Raya near the Hotel Majestic, dim sum breakfast at the forme Hotel Bentona at Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho, fishball noodles at Jalan Laksamana 5, in the residential area behind Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and mee siam, chendol, taukwa rojak and home-made chicken curry at Donald & Lily’s, also behind Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock.
Finally, if you enjoy cooking mee swa at home, buy hand-made mee swa from Lorong Jambatan, on the fringes of the heritage area. The shop has been making hand-made mee swa for generations. Unlike the factory-made counterparts, the mee swa here is not floury and does not break easily when soft.