Heading to Melaka for a weekend getaway and plan to eat your way around? Venture beyond Jonker Walk for gems such as Lin Neo Delight in Taman Kota Laksamana Jaya, which serves up homely Peranakan fare, or Restoran Res Porridge House in Taman Melaka Raya, which receives raves from locals. Here are 11 tried-and-tested places for good grub and edible souvenirs. Hedy Khoo leads the way.
For unforgettably crispy yet tender squid, head to 32 Jalan Hang Jebat. Located at a corner of Jonker Street, the eatery is oddly called Precious Eye Store, which sounds like an optical shop. The shop has no proper signboard.
So set your sights on a bright yellow menu board with items like Jumbo Crispy Squid (RM20 or about S$6), which is a must-try. The squid is coated in batter and deep-fried to order.
Ask for the spicy version which comes sprinkled with eye-wateringly hot chilli powder. The batter is light and crisp, but the squid is astonishingly tender with a springy bite.
The Fruit rojak (RM8) also caught my eye and comprises chunks of pineapple, cucumber and crisp dough fritters covered in inky brown rojak sauce and crushed peanuts, served in a boat-shaped dish. The quality of the rojak sauce easily surpasses that of many famous rojak stalls in Singapore. The deep, rich savoury-sweet fermented shrimp paste shines through, without any fishy smells.
Another offering that hit the bull’s eye is the Stinky Tofu (RM10), perfectly fried with a crunchy exterior and a juicy interior, laced with enough fermented taste yet not overpowering. It comes with pickled radish and carrot to cleanse the palate if you are not used to the odorous dish.
The Cendol (RM7) is also worth a try, although I did not care for the canned sweetcorn in it. The housemade gula melaka syrup, though, was thick, sweet and aromatic with the scent of pandan leaves.
32 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, opens Fridays to Sundays, 11am to midnight
The Kappan Cendol (RM4.50) here is my current obsession. I dream about the green strips of jelly, which are lovingly handmade by owner and chef Leow Lay Wah. The 57-year-old self-taught cook opened the eatery in 2010. But she started making her own cendol from scratch only in 2020 when her dessert supplier closed down. It took many failed attempts before she arrived at her current recipe. Surprisingly, she does not use mung bean starch in her concoction, but declined to reveal more about the flour in her jelly mix.
The green colour comes from blending fresh pandan leaves into juice. Her cendol mould is a metal tray with holes personally drilled by her husband.
If you have a sweet tooth, ask for more gula melaka syrup when you order the cendol. Madam Leow prepares it from premium quality gula melaka and uses fresh pandan leaves as flavouring.
I have eaten cendol in a few places in Melaka, including those at famous Peranakan eateries, but none holds a candle to Madam Leow’s version.
She also ferments her own rice wine using a recipe handed down from her mother. Try the Kappan Special Fried Mee Hoon (RM12), which is rice vermicelli cooked in a gravy of ginger and wine, with fresh minced pork.
Wash it down with the Kappan Herbal Tea (RM3.50), aromatic and tasty with luohan guo, white fungus, dried longan and pear.
Madam Leow has a few special items which she prepares only during public holidays or festive seasons. The Traditional Ki Kuih With Duck Egg Kaya (RM8.50) is one of them. I will gladly travel to Melaka to eat it again. The viscous dark brown kaya, made with duck eggs and gula melaka, has an arresting aroma. The soft wobbly jelly-like texture of the ki kuih – a steamed cake made with a little alkaline – mops up the kaya so well that it leaves an indelible memory.
20 Jalan Tukang Besi, 75200 Melaka, opens Fridays to Wednesdays, 11am to 8pm. Closed on Thursdays
I have always felt that chicken rice balls in Melaka are overrated. I have not changed my mind about it. But I was curious to find out the quality of the chicken at this eatery thronged by tourists.
Opened in late 2018, it is tucked in a shophouse unit beside Watsons on Jonker Street. Kampung chicken is called Village Chicken here and costs RM38 for half a bird.
The regular chicken costs less at RM28 for half a bird. I tried both and I find it worth paying for the Village Chicken as the meat is firmer and more flavoursome. The light soya sauce dressing is a tad sweet, but the garlic chilli is appetisingly tangy with the use of fresh lime juice.
Skip the offal such as gizzard and liver as they come with an off-putting odour. As for the rice balls, I ordered just two (RM0.60 each). While the rice was heavy with the flavour of garlic, the texture was too mushy for my liking.
47A Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, opens Wednesday to Mondays, 9am to 6pm. Closed on Tuesdays
The shop used to be at 121 Jalan Hang Jebat, but moved a few units down to its current location at 125 Jalan Hang Jebat in 2020.
But it is hard to tell the difference because the owners have renovated the new unit such that it is a carbon copy of the previous one. Selling mainly dried goods such as gula melaka, spice pastes and snacks, the shop also has tables for customers to tuck into cendol.
While the shop is justifiably proud of its durian cendol, I much prefer its original cendol (RM7.50). The green strips of cendol are housemade from mung bean starch and served separately in a little plastic cup. The reason is to prevent the texture of the cendol strips from getting too hard when it comes into contact with the ice.
Each time I go to Melaka, I head to Pooh Keon Enterprise to stock up on pineapple tarts. I first patronised the shop in 2012, after a local friend recommended it. The business has since changed its name to Jonker Walk Poh Keong Enterprise, but the signboard remains unchanged.
The pineapple rolls (which are referred to as “round ones” at the shop) cost RM22 for a box of 24 pieces. The ribbed crust is powdery and buttery. The open-faced pineapple tarts with a crispier crust cost RM22 for a box of 20 pieces.
The pineapple filling is made from freshly grated pineapple. The pastries are freshly made and baked daily. Call ahead for orders if you plan to buy plenty.
If the tarts are hot when you buy them, remove the plastic cover of the box as soon as you can to allow them to cool down. They should be able to last up to about a week without refrigeration.
81 Jalan Tokong, 75200 Melaka, opens Wednesdays to Mondays, 11am to 4pm. Closed on Tuesdays
While locals view the seafood joints at the Portuguese Settlement as tourist traps, I find it worthwhile visiting if you know what to order and which stall to eat at. I always eat at two stalls I am familiar with.
Fresh Oyster Corner Monterio sells fresh shellfish caught by husband-and-wife team Tony Monterio, 56, and Amy Monterio, 47.
The couple head out each afternoon by boat to the waters around nearby islands such as Pulau Besar, which is 13km off the coast of mainland Melaka, where they dive for shellfish such as wild oysters and mussels. They also go to the mangroves to hand-pick lokan, a type of mud clams. The menu depends on the day’s catch.
The shellfish is grilled over a charcoal fire and served with a housemade dip made from chilli, shallot and lime juice. The lightly grilled lokan (RM25 for a plate), which looks like giant-sized clams, boasts succulent, lustrous meat.
The wildcaught mussels are also superb (RM25 a plate), with a plump, briny and sweet bite.
Next to Fresh Corner Oyster Monterio is One Terraces Restaurant. First-time visitors to the Portuguese Settlement may find the persistence of throngs of touts at the carpark unnerving. Just say which stall you are headed for and they will leave you alone.
One Terraces Restaurant opened a decade ago. Start with the chicken wings (RM4), which are crispy and spicy. Simply marinated in dried chilli paste and salt, then coated in a batter made with two types of flour, the chicken wings are addictive and do not need the accompanying sambal belacan dip.
Order the burnt crab (RM60), cooked in black pepper and salt, then topped with white pepper, and the salt heat crab (RM60).
Apart from the pepper addition, the cooking method for both crabs is similar. The crab meat is plump, moist and firm.
Stall No. 1, Medan Selera, Kampung Portugis Melaka 75050, opens Wednesdays to Mondays, 4.30pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Tuesdays
For an old-school dim sum dining experience, Restoran Jinbo (Melaka), popular with locals, serves up a wide variety of dishes at friendly prices. The tea comes with a small plastic basin of hot water for you to rinse the ceramic teacups.
The boat porridge, called Savoury Meat Porridge on the menu, costs RM7. The hearty bowl is packed with ingredients such as cuttlefish, braised nuts and rings of fried pork skin.
The bun is soft and fluffy, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture, and filled with a char siew paste that is more savoury than sweet.
For a crispy snack, try the stuffed crab claw with prawn (RM10 for three pieces), prettily plump with a bouncy stuffing of seafood paste coated with breadcrumbs.
No. 16, 18 and 20, Jalan KLJ 4, Taman Kota Laksamana Jaya, 75200 Melaka, opens 7am to 3pm daily
This eatery is packed to the gills, especially during lunch time, so it is best to make reservations or get there early.
The Telur Dadar Cincaluk (RM8), a simple dish of fried omelette with fermented shrimp, is so expertly fried that you taste the briny cincaluk without fishy odours overwhelming the dish. The egg is fluffy with a browned, crisp exterior.
The well-marinated Nyonya Special Fried Chicken (RM18) is so delicious, it still lingers on my mind weeks after.
Another must-try is the Pongteh Pork (RM18) with a moreish reddish brown gravy. The pork is tender yet has bite.
40 Jalan KLJ 4, Taman Kota Laksamana Jaya, 75200 Melaka, opens Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11am to 3pm, Fridays to Sundays, 11am to 3pm, 5.30 to 9.30pm. Closed on Mondays.
A popular spot with locals, Restoran Res Porridge House serves up no-frills homely fare that I can see myself eating at least once a week if I lived in Melaka. The eatery, which has been operating for 26 years, is air-conditioned but smoky from the kitchen fumes. The crowd builds up rapidly after 7.30pm and many opt to sit outside at the sidewalk tables.
The main attraction is porridge. The scallop porridge (RM12 for small), packed with sweet small scallops and garnished with fresh coriander, spring onion and fried shallots, deserves special mention.
Definitely get the Char Kuay (RM10), crunchy dough fritters stuffed with a springy seafood paste.
129, Jalan Melaka Raya, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka, opens Mondays to Saturdays, 5 to 11.30pm. Closed on Sundays
To bag the best local products and snacks such as fish crackers, head for Medan Samudera, a building that houses handicraft and food stalls.
At Zulaikha Binti Melan, which has been in business for over 20 years, my must-buys are the Cincalok Kampung (RM4 a bottle, RM10 for three), which packs a punch but is not overly salted.
The Belacan Istimewa (RM10 for three bottles) is toasted belacan – a convenient option when you want to use belacan without the hassle of roasting it yourself.
No. 14 Medan Samudera, First Floor, Jalan Quayside, 75000 Melaka, opens Wednesdays to Mondays, 10am to 7pm. Closed on Tuesdays
This article was originally published in The Straits Times.
- malaysian food