MALACCA, July 20 — When I take my friends from out of town on a food hop in Malacca, my hometown, it’s generally done on foot. It’s easy when there are so many eateries, restaurants, kopitiams, cafés and food stalls within spitting distance of each other in the Jonker Street (Jalan Hang Jebat) and Temple Street (Jalan Tokong) area.
But to get a real taste of the diversity of flavours Malacca has to offer, you really need some wheels. A couple can do it on a tandem bicycle or a motorbike, but since I was bringing my colleague and his family from KL around town, we needed to go on four wheels. Two vehicles, in fact; one a Mazda CX3 and the other a Mazda CX5 for my colleague’s family.
Instead of heading straight into town once you pass the Ayer Keroh toll area, I usually advise my friends to take the back roads and take a slower, indirect approach. Less traffic that way and you’re more likely to pass by a bucolic kampung scene or two.
Start with breakfast at Lui Chiu Coffee Restaurant, a kopitiam hidden within the residential area of Taman Pertam Jaya, not far from town (but far enough so you won’t see many, if any, tourists here). This corner-lot shop always has a decent crowd (a sign that the food is good) without being so packed you can’t find a table.
Locals come here for the charcoal toast smeared with butter and kaya (pandan-flavoured coconut egg jam) and half-boiled eggs, which are kopitiam staples they execute well, and the curry laksa, which is rich without being too cloying. Expect generous helpings of cockles, taufu pok (tofu pouches) and an addictive sambal paste with every bowl.
Continue on your approach towards Malacca town by stopping by the just-by-the-Straits commercial sprawl of Taman Melaka Raya. Along the main Melaka Raya road, where there used to be numerous Chinese restaurants where Malaccans would host their wedding banquets, there are now franchise coffee shops instead. Fret not, for there is a decades-old remnant of the area’s former glory that serves affordable, delectable Nyonya fare — Jeta Groves.
Run by the same team that used to run the iconic Kenny’s Delights, Jeta Groves has been around since the early 2000s and is famed for their durian cendol. Parking can be challenging in Melaka Raya, but I found the Mazda CX3 very manoeuvrable. Squeezing into the tiniest parking bay proved to be easy. I was rewarded, as would you, by a bowl of aromatic durian cendol made with fine shaved ice, rich gula Melaka syrup and real durian flesh!
For lunch, it’s a quick drive to Taman Kota Laksamana for Hainanese-style pork satay. Sun May Hiong Satay House has been in this quiet neighbourhood for more than a decade but the old master in charge of grilling the satay has been at it for over 40 years. Their original shop was in the Jonker area before they had to move due to a hike in rent. Enjoy juicy, charcoal-grilled pork on skewers here, perfect when dipped into a spicy-sweet gravy with bits of pineapple.
Fans of Nyonya kuih will run amok at the next stop: Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake in Tengkera, about five minutes away. I was surprised by how well the Mazda CX5 managed to fit in the rather narrow alley where the shop is located. It’s actually a single-storey house refitted so that you may select your favourite Nyonya kuih — from colourful ang koo kuih to nutty kuih koci — in one room and join the queue to pay in another.
By now you might just be filling a little stuffed, so there’s no better time for a mid-afternoon coffee break. The best brews in town can be found at The Coffee Jar, located along Lorong Hang Jebat (which runs perpendicular to Jonker Street).
Barista-owner Chong Joe Yee roasts her own beans in small batches so that whatever strikes your fancy — an espresso, a filter brew, a flat white or even a cold drip coffee — is the perfect cuppa. Don’t miss out on the scrumptious pies, available with chicken or mushroom fillings, baked by Chong’s boyfriend Ivan Teh; this Malaccan boy is a baker to watch out for.
Come nightfall and there’s no better way to enjoy dinner than alfresco, on plastic tables and chairs under the stars. Head to Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan in Taman Kota Laksamana for well-marinated and juicy tandoori chicken. Even my order of breast meat, usually dry in most tandoori spots, was pleasantly moist. They also have a wide variety of naan here — the garlic butter naan, in particular, goes well with the chicken.
Oh, what a day, what a delicious day!
Lui Chiu Coffee Restaurant
88, Jalan PJ 18, Taman Pertam Jaya, Malacca
Open daily 7:30am-3pm
Tel: 06-337 3490
115 Taman Melaka Raya, Malacca
Open daily 7:45am-4pm (except Mon closed)
Tel: 06-282 1526
Sun May Hiong Satay House
50/50A, Jalan Kota Laksamana 1/1, Taman Kota Laksamana, Malacca
Open daily 10:30am-7pm
Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake
72, Lorong Tengkera Pantai 2C, Kampung Tengkera Pantai Dua, Malacca
Open daily 10am-3pm (except Thu closed)
Tel: 019-666 2907 / 06-284 7209
The Coffee Jar
38 Lorong Hang Jebat, Malacca
Open Sun-Wed 10:30am-6pm; Fri-Sat 10:30am-10pm; Thu closed
Tel: 012-281 5100
Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan Restaurant
58 Jalan Kota Laksamana 2/4, Taman Kota Laksamana, Malacca
Open daily 5:30pm-1am (except Mon closed)
Tel: 012-601 5876