Next on Jenkins and my Asian adventure stop was Melaka, Malaysia. We decided to make it our first stop in Malaysia because it was relatively close to Singapore and more importantly, it was where some of Jenkins’ cousins lived and we’d be able to see them for Christmas. After picking us up from the bus station, Jenkins’ cousin asked us what we’d like to eat. I guess she wasn’t sure what type of food we’d be into so she seemed almost relieved when we said we wanted to go to a hawker centre. We ended up at Newton Hawker Centre, which is pretty close to Melaka’s city centre and was bustling with people looking for dinner.
Newton Hawker Centre was just like the ones Jenkins remembered from his trips to Malaysia as a young boy with open air seating and hawker stands of every variety surrounding a main area of tables. Drink orders were made at the table but we had to visit each hawker stall to order individual dishes, which were delivered and paid for at our tables.
Jenkins and I were pretty ti red after our bus ride from Melaka so we let Jenkins’ cousins do all the ordering, which turned out fine because they were real connoisseurs. First up was some fresh young coconut juice, which was perfect for the sweltering and humid evening.
There were six of us so we were able to order a large variety of dishes. First came the rojak, which was made slightly spicy. The sauce here was not overly sweet and was slightly tangy. It looks a bit of a mess but the combination of Chinese doughnut, guava, pineapple, jicama (I think), and other fruit mixed with ground peanuts and the rojak sauce really worked.
Next came some prawn rice rolls, made in the Cantonese dim sum style. The prawns could have been more crunchy but overall, it wasn’t bad…although not comparable to what we were used to in Vancouver.
I really liked the grilled chicken wings, which were simply made with some soy marinade but grilled nice and crispy. I think the fact that it was grilled also made it less oily, which I really appreciated. The chicken meat itself was quite juicy and flavourful.
Jenkins’ cousin told us that the mee siam here was not as good as some other places, but would at least give us an idea of what it was like. The rice vermicelli was tossed in some soy-based sauce and topped with an abundance of deep fried shallots, egg, cucumber, and of course, some chili sauce. It is a classic South East Asian Baba Nonya dish, which is the name given to Chinese immigrants who arrived in the region around the 15th-16th centuries and married the local Malaysian inhabitants. I really enjoyed the combination of sweet, savoury, and spicy in these noodles along with the differences in textures.
The deep fried dumplings were not one of my favourites but that was only because I was trying to stay away from too many deep fried things. The dough was slightly chewier but actually worked with the pork filling inside and the vinegar-based dipping sauce.
Jenkins’ cousin told me that this curried fish was another Baba Nonyan specialty. It was actually quite spicy and the curry used could be classified as half way between the typical Malaysian curry I was used to in Vancouver and Indian curry. The white fish was perfectly cooked and very silky. It also soaked up the flavours of the curry very nicely and I think this would have been great with a bowl of white rice.
Jenkins’ cousin knew we were big satay fans so they ordered a huge pile of chicken satay for us to all dig into. All the skewers below ended up costing about $0.30 CAD each! This was definitely some of the best satay we had had on our trip so far. It was perfectly chargrilled and very juicy. The blend of spices complemented the chicken and once we dipped the whole skewer in the accompanying satay peanut sauce, we were in heaven.
As you can imagine, we were more than full at this point but we were encouraged to try the last dish, which was an oyster omelette. Although I probably should have stopped eating a couple of dishes ago, I was really glad I tried the oyster omelette, which was chock full of juicy small oysters. There were also some sweet onions and some gelatinous stuff that I couldn’t identify but added to the dish’s overall flavour. It was accompanied with some sweet and spicy dipping sauce, which went really well with the omelette.
Jenkins and I had a great time for our first meal in Melaka, which also turned out to be our Christmas dinner. If this meal was a preview of what there was to come, we’d definitely be in for a treat! Unfortunately, we were driven around during our stay in Melaka so I am not sure of the address for this hawker centre but due to its popularity, I am quite certain you can ask some of the locals and hopefully, they can point you in the right direction.