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Monday, June 07, 2010

Chicken rice balls, Nyonya cendol and 1m roti tisu, Melaka, Malaysia


One of the oldest cities in Malaysia, Malacca - also known as Melaka in Malay - was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511. Its capital city is Malacca Town, preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.

We made a day trip to Malacca on day three of our recent trip to Malaysia.

Now a road trip requires one essential thing. Snacks. We had plenty of them.

Twisties in flavours of "BBQ Curry Dude!" and "Whoa spicy garlic"

A petrol station stop gave us ample opportunity to stock up. The Whoa Spicy Garlic Twisties were rather addictive, tasting more like garlic chicken.

Muruku ikan

I bought this snack solely because of the packaging. The Muruku Ikan was a fish-flavoured snack that was quite thick and crunchy.

Mamee Monster noodles

Minh happily relived her childhood with Mamee noodles, and she introduced me to the new tantalising game of "what's the longest noodle strand you can prise?"

Welcome to the city of historic Melaka

Our early start paid off and we made the 140km journey from Kuala Lumpur south-west to Melaka in good time. What was more exciting than seeing all the billboards advertising various foods along the way was spotting pylons made to look like giant chip cannisters.

Jacker chip pylons!

Christ Church Melaka, built in 1753
Originally a Dutch Reform Church, the building took 12 years to complete.

Window shutters

Malacca Town is a popular spot for tourists, a gaggle of daytrippers who traipse about the city centre exploring the remains of St Paul's Church, built in 1521 and located high on the hill, the old Portuguese fort of Porta de Santiago and the myriad of shops and eateries that line the narrow and winding Jonker Street.

We follow suit.

Floral rickshaw

We do, however, resist the offers of a ride in a rickshaw, in spite of the considerable efforts invested in decorations.

Row of rickshaws

There are dozens of rickshaws, some are fitted with speakers that blast latest pop songs, others come with flashing lights that are turned on as dusk falls.

Rickshaw drivers

It's reasonably quiet, however, and it seems like everyone is sitting around, taking a pause from the stifling heat.

Street cleaner

We take pause for lunch. If there's one thing you must do in Malacca it's have chicken rice. The influx of Chinese settlers to the area resulted in a unique Chinese-Malay cuisine known as Nyonya. Hainanese immigrants in Malaysia put their own spin on the Hainan chicken dish by creating chicken rice balls.

Kedai Kopi Chung Wah

We join the long queue outside Kedai Kopi Chung Wah, a tiny eatery that specialises in Hainan chicken rice and chicken rice balls. The owner is no-nonsense, brusquely asking for our order before we're even seated, but the queue moves quickly and soon we find ourselves at a heavy table made from solid marble in one corner.

Chilli sauce

A jar of homemade chilli sauce is immediately placed on our table. We decant small amounts of it into our individual saucers, tiny flimsy bowls made of disposable plastic.

Chicken rice balls on the counter

It's loud and chaotic. There is only one dish on the menu: chicken rice, and the man in charge of the chopping station is working non-stop with his cleaver.

Chopping the chicken

Hainan whole chicken RM29 (about AU$9.20)

Chicken rice balls RM0.30 per plate (about AU$0.10)

The chicken is soft and juicy, the flesh doused with chicken stock. Chicken rice balls are compact nuggets of rice that are a little stodgy in texture. I'm not quite convinced bythese, preferring a drier rice to absorb the juices from the chicken.

Kalamansi lime drink

Lunch crowds

Tourists in rickshaws

After lunch we check out the shops along Jonker Street, a slow meander that seems to revolve mostly around t-shirt shops. On the street we're distracted by a stall manned by two kids aged under seven. Billy buys a small box of mochi rolled in crushed peanuts, I get a packet of menthol and sesame toffee, laboriously hacked into small pieces by a young boy with a hammer and chisel.

We find ourselves on the lookout for dessert and find ourselves staring at the cart promising Famosa Original Nyonya Cendol.

Famosa Original Nyonya Cendol

The restaurant is Famosa Chicken Rice Ball, and as we grab stools to sit on, we realise there's an expectation we'll be ordering more than just dessert.

We happily relent.

Red walls and framed old photos inside Famosa Chicken Rice Ball

Famosa Chicken Rice Ball is one of the bigger restaurants aimed at tourists, and whilst they claim their chicken rice is the best, we stick with smaller snacks given that lunch was only 90 minutes ago.

Roasted pork RM6 (about AU$2.15)

Yam rice ball RM0.30 each (about AU$0.10)

Otak otak steamed fish cake RM10 (about AU$3.60)

Yam rice ball, roasted pork and otak otak

The roasted pork is ribboned with fat and topped with a tile of crunchy crackling. Whilst the yam rice balls look unusual, they don't taste particularly different from chicken rice balls.

Otak otak is surprisingly light in texture, a fluffy mousse that is creamy with coconut and redolent with spices and lemongrass.

Nyonya cendol RM3 (about AU$1.10)

Nyonya cendol differs from the usual version by its use of gula melaka, or palm sugar syrup, instead of rose syrup. Fat and shiny kidney beans congregate with chewy strands of pandan flavoured noodle. The ice is soft and fine shaven, swollen with the toffee sweetness of palm sugar and a generous ladle of rich coconut cream.

Only an hour earlier we'd walked past No. 1 Kopitiam Famous Authentic Nyonya Cendol and marvelled at its interior. Past the narrow entrance we spied a simple benchtop, a row of stools and shelves that seemed to be packed with paraphernalia.

Cendol customers

"Second cendol?" asks Billy, even as we're licking the last of the gula melaka from our lips after our last one.

"Of course," I respond.

Coca Cola and Pepsi collection

The owner, we soon discover, is a keen collector of Cocoa Cola and Pepsi memorabilia. The shelves are stacked from floor with ceiling with cans from all over the world. It makes for interesting viewing as we wait for our cendol, which barely takes five minutes to arrive.

Making cendol

Nyonya cendol RM2 (about AU$0.70)

The cendol is cheaper here, and the portion is correspondingly smaller too. The petite bowl is flooded with coconut milk, a peak of gulaka melaka soaked ice barely breaking the surface. It's sweet and creamy and satisfying.

Slurping up cendol

Tan Kim Hock

Durian towers

Looking for gifts or souvenirs?

Billy takes us to Tan Kim Hock, a treasure trove of edible gifts that include durian candies, sago biscuits, dried cuttlefish snacks and bottles of lemon honey syrup. Inside are giant towers that look like they might topple over until we realise they're made from empty cardboard tubes sticky-taped together.

What we do find outside is another tempting offer - yes, time for cendol number 3.

Durian cendol RM5 (about AU$1.80)

Billy, Simon and I are the only stayers in the cendol championship by now. The plastic bowl is brightened by the cardboard holder in yellow and tangerine, but we're a little disappointed by the taste, the red beans a mush of beans and sugar, and the durian sauce a thick jam that is less fragrance and more sour.

Our efforts to enjoy a Nyonya dinner are thwarted when we turn up at Kapitan House to find it closed. Instead we walk around the corner to Newton Culture Food Village, a huge covered food court that boasts marble tables and plenty of stalls to choose from.

Newton Culture Food Village

Loving the rockin' hair do's

Sweet corn ice RM2.50 (about AU$0.90)

One thing we noticed about food courts is the entrepreneurial nature of drinks vendors. As soon as you're seated, a drinks vendor is by your side with a menu and a notepad. I tried a sweetcorn ice which tasted like a can of sweet corn blended with ice cubes. Sweet and salty, I found it deliciously refreshing, like an icier version of sweetcorn ice cream.

Deep-fried chicken RM10 for 3 pieces (about AU$3.50)

Deep-fried chicken arrived in mysterious bags that had been fried along with the chicken. Extricating them from the paper was a little tricky for some of them, the flesh sticking to the paper, and whilst there was a hint of marinade and a lovely smokiness, I found them a touch dry, even with the accompanying chilli sauce.

Cuttlefish RM6 (about AU$2.15)

Strips of crunchy cuttlefish are sprinkled with crushed peanuts, doused with a spicy belecan sauce on top of a bed of green vegetables.

Fried oyster omelette RM10 (about AU$3.60)

We also dig into a plate of oyster omelette, this one thicker and wetter than the crispy version we'd had at Jalan Alor. The oysters are plump and juicy and kalamansi limes and sprigs of coriander provide a palate-cleansing boost.

Cockles RM2 (about AU$0.70)

Cockles require a little patience to eat, but for less than a dollar, we find the plate of shells a worthy investment. We prise open the shells quite easily, using a toothpick to dip the flesh inside into a saucer of kecap manis, chilli sauce, kalamansi lime and crushed peanuts.

Otak otak RM0.60 each (about AU$0.20)

Otak otak are an aromatic arrival, long lengths of banana leaf holding pockets of spicy fish mousse. The banana leaves are tinged brown from their time over the charcoal grill, and we carefully remove the staples to find a present of fish that is smoky and delicious.

It's a two-hour trip back to Kuala Lumpur and after a day of non-stop eating, surely we couldn't eat another thing...

Teh tarik

Of course we ate more. Travelling with food bloggers is dangerous. And brilliant. Often both at once.

Just outside of Kuala Lumpur is the city of Petaling Jaya and our last destination of the day, Kayu Nasi Kandar. We wend our way through the late night supper-goers, most of them watching soccer on the TV screens. We're meeting Christine, a long-time friend of Billy's.

Mee goreng RM$4.20 (about AU$1.50)

Murtabak ayam RM5.50 (about AU$2)

We pick at a pile of mee goreng fried noodles and the flaky roti-wrapped omelette that is murtabak.

Shaving ice

Ais kacang

In Petaling Jaya, the ais kacang here is flavoured with rose syrup.

Roti pisang RM2 (about AU$0.70)

There is also roti pisang to be shared, a pastry filled with thin slices of banana and served with a pot of banana sauce.

Stretching out the 1m roti

We are primarily here for one attraction, the 1-metre roti so enviably reported on by Chocolatesuze.

Rubbing butter on the pastry

It doesn't seem possible, making a 1m-tall roti on such a modest grill.

Holding the 1m-tall roti up to set

I shouldn't have doubted them. The pastry is stretched out until paper-thin, rubbed generously with butter, and then folded into a cone shape and lifted until the pastry cools and sets.

Delivering the 1m-tall roti to our table

The waiter seem a little bemused by the excited camera action that greets his arrival but how could you blame us? The 1m-tall roti beggars belief.

Carefully laying the roti down across three plates

The roti tisu is incredibly crisp and thin, coasted in a glaze of sugar. We eat with our fingers, tearing off shards that shatter in the mouth.

We rub our bellies and finish it all.

EDIT: Thanks to GYF reader Winnie, you can find out what happened when the staff at Kayu Nasi Kandar find out they've been featured on Grab Your Fork here

> Read the next Malaysia 2010 post (Cameron Highlands tea plantations and strawberries)
< Read the first Malaysia 2010 post (Kuala Lumpur)

Kedai Kopi Chung Wah
18, Jalan Hang Jebat
75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Opening hours:
Open 7 days 7.30am-3pm

Famosa Chicken Rice Ball
21 Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street)
75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (06) 286 0120

No 1 Kopitiam Famous Authentic Nyonya Cendol
No. 1 Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street)
75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (06) 335 7443 / 013 680 4473

Tan Kim Hock
85, 87 & 89 Jalan Bendahara
75100 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (06) 281 2763 / 282 6099

Newton Culture Food Village
PT 499, Jalan Merdeka
Kaw. Bandar XLII,
75000 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (06) 282 0448

Kayu Nasi Kandar
PJU 1/43, Aman Suria
64, Jalan SS2/10
47300 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 7877 7745
Open 7 days, 24 hours

> Read the next Malaysia 2010 post (Cameron Highlands tea plantations and strawberries)
< Read the first Malaysia 2010 post (Kuala Lumpur)
Freebie Friday winner
Congratulations to K who has won a Beerenberg prize hamper worth $50!
28 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/07/2010 03:21:00 am


  • At 6/07/2010 5:12 am, Anonymous yewenyi said…

    Ah, chendol with palm sugar, the nonya know how to do it!

    And the chicken in what I'd guess should have been rice paper. I so much miss the bone dry chicken. It is a specialty that is sadly mssing in a world concerned with juicyness and sauces.

  • At 6/07/2010 8:02 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Oh, so much chendol that day!

    The trip out for the 1m was so worth it :)

  • At 6/07/2010 8:19 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Oh my, my heart skipped a beat when I saw your sweetcorn ice drink! That's my kind of drink! Mmm love the amount of cendol you fit in, I've heard the cendol in Malacca is to die for

  • At 6/07/2010 9:01 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm 1m roti soooo good! <3 the sweetcorn drink too!

  • At 6/07/2010 9:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I prefer my chicken rice to be in loose grains form than in a ball. Reading this post brings back memories! I haven't been to Melaka for many years now.

  • At 6/07/2010 9:34 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Haha that Mamee game is the best! I feel a craving coming on now...

  • At 6/07/2010 10:07 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Mamee noodles! Oh my god, memory lane! I was never allowed those as a kid but used to havethem for afternoon tea at a friend's house. So crunchy, and so messy if you sprinkled on the powder...

    Otak otak, oyster omelette, palm sugar syrup - what an amazing day of eats. THank you for sharing! :)

  • At 6/07/2010 10:48 am, Anonymous Tresna said…

    I love Melaka! What a wonderful place to walk, eat and explore. I ate the mochi rolled in crushed peanuts when I was there, amongst other things!

    I really enjoyed the Nasi Asam Pedas and loved the Chicken Rice Ball so much I got a tshirt with is emblazoned across my chest! Hah :) I'd love to visit there with you Helen - you always go out of your way to try everything!

    Some of the places I visited are listed here : http://www.dutyfreeliving.com/melaka-malacca-malaysia/

  • At 6/07/2010 11:05 am, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    WTF! That Muruku ikan has Arabic writing on it... Must be that strange Asian/Arabic script thingy. It actually says death to the infidels. No, just joking, it says Muruku ikan. What an amazing post, and a phenomenal eating journey. Great photos and it's wonderful to get a glimpse of your trip.

  • At 6/07/2010 12:15 pm, Blogger YW said…

    ahh.. new garlic flavour twisties!! have to get a box of them back to Sydney when I visit M'sia next.. Mamee definitely brings back childhood memory .. it's the 1 thing that I always ended up spending my allowance on :)

  • At 6/07/2010 1:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    awesome post! :)

  • At 6/07/2010 1:04 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    So much chendol! I have never tried it but it look so delicious! I'm glad you got to sample everything...and that 1m roti looks unbelievable! I would have screamed! Thanks for the visual journey Helen!

  • At 6/07/2010 1:39 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Epic post Helen. Hehe I admit I also go kinda nuts in Malaysia because they have the most awesome snacks!! I love all the different flavours of Twisties!

    And 1m roti! I can't believe that Kayu Nasi Kandar is in my hometown where my grandmother lives - it's practically my next door neighbour because she lives in SS2 too! And I've never been! Shame, shame, shame...

  • At 6/07/2010 2:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hhaha those twisties flavour names are so much win! Siigghh seen so many 1m rotis but only on the screen! Since not make one Mamak!

  • At 6/07/2010 6:03 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Awww thanks for another insight to the wonderful looking place called Malaysia. Makes me want to travel so badly!

  • At 6/07/2010 6:20 pm, Blogger Laura said…


    i'm seriously jealous

  • At 6/07/2010 7:10 pm, Anonymous mrs ed said…

    how did u like calamansi juice?? i loveeeeeeee that stuff.. mr ed doesnt like it though..

  • At 6/07/2010 8:47 pm, Blogger Von said…

    I love the names of the twistie flavours =] Why can't they have names like that here? The Hainan chicken seems so expensive compared to everything else in this post ....=] But it looks delicious! And the oyster omlette looks so good! It has so many oysters! I really want to go to malaysia one day....

  • At 6/07/2010 10:18 pm, Anonymous Forager said…

    So much tasty food! Did you get sick from the cockles? We saw tasty ones on offer in Thailand, but as they're filter feeders we thought it was safer to avoid them. And deep fried plastic bags? An unusual delicacy!

  • At 6/07/2010 11:07 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    Wow so much food on one post. Who wouldn't be happy visiting here, food on every corner. I wish the mee goreng out of a packet looked as good as the stuff in the photo.

  • At 6/08/2010 10:25 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is really a long long long post!!! SO many yummy stuffs in one post...not sure should start with which one

  • At 6/08/2010 10:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you know why I hates you..you listed the price...gee..so cheap so yummy...jealous you super!!!

  • At 6/08/2010 6:42 pm, Blogger Taufulou said…

    making me miss melaka food~

  • At 6/09/2010 2:02 am, Anonymous J2Kfm (Malaysian Food Blog) said…

    Good run.
    I like the cendol at Donald & Lilly's. Or the durian cendol of Jonker 88.

    The chicken rice ball at Chung Wah's the best, can't say the same about Famosa or Hoe Kee.

    And inside Newton's, you can actually find a rather good popiah with pork lard!

  • At 6/10/2010 4:40 pm, Anonymous Shuenz said…

    omggg I miss the chicken rice balls!! Great pics, make me miss Malaysia alot

  • At 6/11/2010 4:35 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    A metre of roti is incredible! The banana one sounds yummier though. I love the outrageously-decorated rickshaws!

  • At 6/14/2010 5:23 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi yewenyi - Cendol with palm sugar is the winner for me :) And I think the chicken would've been in brown paper as rice paper is too thin? Interesting comment on the appreciation for dry chicken - I had never really thought of it like that.

    Hi Simon- One can never have too much cendol!

    Hi Stephcookie - The sweetcorn ice drink sounded bizarre at first but hmmm I really must recreate this at home. Malacca cendol was awesome. I'm a sucker for gula melaka everytime.

    Hi chocolatesuze - 1m roti is my hero.

    Hi Ellie - I think I prefer my chicken rice uncompacted too. We drove past your home town on the way to Melaka and I thought of you :)

    Hi Minh - The Mamee game is perfect for road trips!

    Hi Hannah - We used to love Mamee noodles. So cheap too. And it was an amazing day - an amazing holiday. So much good food, it had to be!

    Hi Tresna - I love my mochi and eating it fresh is such a treat. I can't believe you got a chicken rice ball t-shirt. lol. Thanks for the link - looks like you had an incredibly tasty time too :)

    Hi Fouad - Ha, remind me never to believe anything you ever say. We had an unbelievable trip, thanks to our expert local guide. It's been fun reliving the trip, although the food cravings are a little tough late at night and back at home!

    Hi YW - The garlic Twisties were rather addictive, and yes, we spent a lot of our pocket money on Mamee as kids!

    Hi Anon - Thanks, glad you enjoyed it :)

    Hi Peter G - Oh cendol is perfect when it's hot and sticky and humid and all you want is something icy and sweet. You will have to try it, and definitely make the trek for 1m roti. 1m of happiness I say!

    Hi Karen - Ha, it was an epic post, but it was an epic kind of a day too. You've never been to Kayu Nasi Kandar - you will have to rectify that on your next trip home!

    Hi FFichiban - The Twisties flavour names did make me giggle. And alas we did ask if they could make 1m roti at Mamak but their grill is too small. Sadness.

    Hi Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook!) - I think travel is fantastic for everyone. Hope you make it to Malaysia sometime - make sure you bring your appetite!

    Hi Laura - It was a fab trip. Who knows - hopefully one day you will find yourself there too :)

    Hi Mrs Ed - Calamansi juice was good, but yes I can imagine Mr Ed would not appreciate its tartness!

    Hi Von - It's always fun to find foods with a sense of humour isn't it? The Hainan chicken fed five of us so it wasn't too bad. Malaysia was amazing for food - start saving those pennies!

    Hi Forager - None of us got sick from the cockles or from the trip. I think they were paper bags but yes, a unique way of keeping in all that flavour. lol

    Hi Mark - I don't think anything out of a packet looks as good as the serving suggestion, but yes, Malaysia is quite the haven for food lovers. And everything is so cheap too!

    Hi Anon - It was a long post, and a long day too! We had a ball. So much tastiness.

    Hi Anon - Prices were amazingly cheap. And don't be hating, just get yourself there and enjoy it too :)

    Hi Taufulou - Melaka was great for food. I'm missing the cendol already.

    Hi J2Kfm - Do you know the facebook page of #1 Jonker St cendol? We were on the lookout for popiah but I think that stall was stalled when we were there :(

    Hi Shuenz - I can understand now why Malaysians get so homesick. The food is incredible.

    Hi Arwen - The 1m roti was a sight to behold. And the rickshaws were crazy, especially the ones that blasted out pop music with a booming bass. lol

  • At 1/06/2011 3:56 am, Anonymous Winnie said…

    Hi Helen - I follow your blog from time to time, and am constantly delighted by your food adventures and your beautiful food photos.

    Lately I have relied heavily on your blog entries from "A Malaysian Food Tour - Food Blogger Style" as my husband and I travelled around KL and Penang over NYE. Today's our last day in Malaysia, and we have scheduled ourselves for a cooking class which we're really looking forward to; although glad to return home to Sydney soon, we will definitely miss Malaysia and the food haven it is.

    Anyway I just wanted to share a recent experience we had at Kayu Nasi Kandar the other night, as I was extremely curious about the 1m roti you wrote of (which I later inhaled more than half of it myself). Armed with colour printouts of your blog entries, my husband and I trekked to Petaling Jaya for a late dinner on January 3, and received a number of curious looks from the workers there. Not knowing what the Malaysian menu says, I simply pointed at the photos of mee goreng and the 1m roti on your blog to the waiters. The waiter was stunned to say the least, then slowly picked up my printouts and looked at them in awe. I explained to him I found their restaurant on the internet via your food blog. He gave us a shy smile, pointed at the guy who was holding up the 1m roti on your blog, and said to us "this is me".

    Later throughout our meal, he brought several of his other workmates to look at my crimpled printouts, and triumphantly pointed at the photo of himself. By the time we left, we couldn't help but unstaple my stack of printouts and left him with the pages in relation to their restaurant. He excitedly asks me, "can I show my manager" and we told him it's on the internet and left them with your blog address.

    It was a great evening for my husband and I. Not only did we have a scrumptious and authentic meal (not to mention very economical!) - all thanks to your blog - but I think we also made a man very proud of his own work. So I wanted to thank you, for sharing your experiences which allow us all to spread the love of food all around.

    I hope you have a wonderful 2011, keep up with your great work, and I look forward to reading many more of your food adventures.


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