A large picture of two chefs, father and son, accompanied by the story of their signature dish – Cheesy Prawn in Rice Vermicelli occupies a prominent part of the wall as we entered Restoran Tong Sheng. “I don’t like cheese”, I remarked as the waitress was adding this item to my order without asking as if this is the default. She gave me an incredulous look and a curt reply (in Chinese), “everyone likes it, you must try, guarantee you will like even if you don’t like cheese”. I took the plunge and the rest, like they say, is history. It was the most memorable and delectable meal of the trip.
Malacca is a historic town on the west coast of Malaysia and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I haven’t been to Malacca for quite a while so decided to take a 2-day trip last week to check out the food scene some friends have been raving about.
I’ve been warned about the traffic jams in Malacca on Saturdays so our party of 4 decided to set off on a Sunday morning for the 3.5 hour (260km) drive from Singapore. We breezed through the second link at Tuas which saw light traffic on a Sunday.
En-route we took a short break at Yong Peng to have fishballs at Yuan Yean Eating House which is a short 5-min detour from the N-S Highway. Their fishballs are made from ikan parang (saitoh) without preservatives. Although small in size it scored high on the bounciness factor. The dry noodles came with dark sauce common in Malaysia, texture was smooth and not salty which suits me fine. We also ordered the fish cake which was very good, otah was good and the Yong Tau Foo was average. I reckon they could have put more effort in infusing more flavour into the soup. It was a pleasant pit stop for a snack to break the journey. They serve good coffee too.
After a smooth and leisurely drive we arrived in Malacca at around 2 pm. We booked a 2 bedroom suite at Estadia Hotel for the night. As it’s too early to check in we proceeded to the hotel’s Makan Nonya Restaurant for a Peranakan high tea buffet. Variety was good but quality-wise average at best.
The recently opened Estadia Hotel is a Peranakan style boutique hotel located next to the Hatten Hotel popular with many Singaporeans. They share the same carpark. The rooms are nice with pleasant colour schemes and well decorated with paintings. The 2 bedroom suite is spacious with comfortable sofas and chairs in the sitting area, 2 bathrooms and 3 flat screen TVs. Very comfortable for a family of 4. Free in-room Wi-Fi is included. Rate is SGD158/night including breakfast from Agoda.
We left the hotel at around 7 pm for dinner at Restoran Tong Sheng which is just 5 minutes walk away. You can’t miss it as it’s brightly lit with jarring neon lights occupying 2 shophouses. The restaurant seats about 50. Not surprisingly it was full and a sizable queue was forming outside the restaurant. Turnaround was fast so the wait wasn’t too long. The menu is extensive. I am happy to report that the signature cheese prawn beehoon isn’t cheesy at all. The cheese is melted into the stock with milk resulting in a yellowish colour. Served piping hot, the stock had a thick, rich aroma that is so “shiok” (delightfully palatable) that we just slurped it all up. The large prawns were fresh and the cooking timed to perfection. I heard from a friend some Singaporeans make a day trip here just to eat this. We also ordered deep fried squid with garlic, belly pork with salted vegetable in claypot, Four Kings vegetable (四大天王), and salt baked crab which was also outstanding. Other than the belly pork all the dishes were above average and met with enthusiastic thumbs up by everyone in the group.
Malacca is also famed for cendol, a local dessert of finely-shaved ice and pandan-flavoured starch jelly (the green stuff) in fresh coconut milk flavoured with gula Melaka (palm sugar). After the full dinner this was what came to mind. To kill two birds with one stone we took a cab to Jonker Street renowned for its antique shops, night market and small eateries. Wife wanted to visit 三叔公(San Shu Gong) which is located at one end of Jonker street for local sundry and snacks to bring home. With that task completed we walked towards Jonker 88 cafe recommended by many foodies online but found it closed at this hour. After some googling we found Bibik House Cendol nearby. I’m no cendol expert but enjoyed this one nonetheless. The coconut milk was really fresh and had just the right infusion of gula melaka for a well balanced taste.
The breakfast buffet provided by the hotel was the usual hotel fair. Had a light one so as not to spoil the palate for lunch.
No visit to Malacca would be complete without a good Peranakan meal. We had planned to visit the highly recommended Nonya Makko for lunch but it was closed for a private function. Not wanting to venture too far away we decided to try Cottage Spices across the road. It was excellent by all accounts. Of special mention was their Assam Pedas Fish cooked in 10 different spices. Also excellent was the freshly steamed lady’s finger. It was crunchy and served with fresh chilli and onions with a splash of lime. Very refreshing and appetising. The cendol was very good too with generous portions of red beans and pandan jelly.
Before heading back for home we made a final stop at Klebang Original Coconut Shake. This is an ideal thirst quencher on a hot day and very popular with locals. We ordered the coconut shake special which came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The coconut flesh was blended with coconut water together with some ice cubes. The end result was a refreshing concoction with a sweet and creamy aftertaste from the ice cream.
2 days is not enough to savour all that Malacca has to offer. Looks like I’ll be back in the not too distant future 🙂
12 Nov 2016 Update:
We visited Malacca again last weekend. This time we went in search of the best cendol in Malacca 🙂
Yuan Yean Fishball Eating House
123 Main Road, Yong Peng, Johor.
Open 08.30am – 7.30pm. Closed on alternate Wednesdays
Restoran Tong Sheng
378, Jln Melaka Raya 6, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka, Melaka, Malaysis
Open 5.30pm-11.30pm. Closed on alternate Mondays.
Bibik House Cendol
121, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Open 10:30am to 8pm Daily
171, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka. Tel: 06-283 5040
Lunch 12-4pm; Dinner 6pm-8.30pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Klebang Original Coconut Shake
Along Jalan Klebang Besar (next to Caltex Petrol Station)
Open 12.30pm-6.30pm daily (Friday: 2pm-6.30pm)