I ended yesterday’s post on a cliff hanger.
The hostel I had booked was looking decidedly deserted. A quick search of Maps.Me indicated several nearby hostels but I quite liked the look of the one I had seen at the bottom of the street.
It was called Three Little Birds and had a mural painted on its walls. For someone who likes street art as much as I do, it was found to be a sign.
I presented myself at the door and Jerome, the owner told me that yes, there were plenty of beds for a couple of nights.
From discovering the shut down hostel to finding a solution – a clean room with a friendly owner – took a total of five minutes.
And it barely interrupted my plan for Melaka (or Malacca). I came here to eat and for the last 24 hours, that’s mostly what I have done.
Everyone has told me about the food so off I went to try some.
First stop, icecream – Gula Melaka(which in no way leaves me stuck with a certain song from The Lion King stuck in my head), flavoured.
I often choose food according to whether the name makes me laugh or intrigued me.
I was also impressed by the claim that icecream was was invented here. Could that be true? Apparently everyone claims to have invented it.
Marco Polo apparently brought it back to Italy from China and there is a huge Chinese community in Malaysia that has contributed to fusions of cuisine here. (Emelyne had told me this when she was suggesting dishes to try)
So Melaka (Malacca) may have been an early beneficiary or developer.
As I travel, I notice how often countries fight over being the recognised inventor of certain desserts. I’m looking at you New Zealand and Australia.
Nobody fights over claims for creating fried liver and onions (which personally, I love).
Back to the Gula Melaka… It’s basically ‘Malacca sugar’—Malaysia’s version of coconut palm sugar and its taste is slightly coffee, slightly smoky and slightly caramel. It’s really good.
After walking around the old town, dinner at Peranakan Place…
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular in the Peranakan cuisine of Southeast Asia and especially around Melaka which is the home of the Peranakan people – descendants of Chinese settlers who married Malaysians.
The dish consists of thick wheat noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup based on either rich and spicy curry coconut milk or on sour asam (tamarind or gelugur) and it is really tasty.
The morning I started the day with a coffee stop at the Calanthe Art Cafe where they offer thirteen different types of coffee.
What to choose…
When in Melaka, I naturally wanted to choose the Melaka but went for the Perak. It was the ‘hints of caramel’ that sold it. I’m fickle that way.
After a walk to and from Kampung Morten, a traditional Malay village in the centre of Melaka and a chat with Mr T (not that one) about the monitor lizards that live in the Malacca River, Famosa Chicken Rice Ball Restaurant where I ordered…
… the chicken rice ball, as advised by Emelyne.
I had naively expected it to be a chicken-fried ball with the chicken inside the rice, rather like a dumpling. My mistake – should have read up really.
As you can see, rather a sizeable amount of chicken. I had expected the amount to be dished up according to the fact that I was on my own and had ordered only four rice balls.
It was delicious and the owner of the restaurant nodded approvingly as she watched me add generous amounts of chilli sauce.
I like spicy food and, without the chilli sauce, I would have found the chicken (though beautifully roasted) rather bland after a while.
After another walk, this time to what remains of St Paul’s Church, I decided it was time to try dessert.
Malacca was ruled by the Portuguese for a time and where the Portuguese went, they took pastels de nata… custard tarts.
I love custard tarts and this was served warm. Beautiful.
After seeing Sago Lane in Singapore, I’d had a hankering for dessert so called back to the Calanthe.
Unlike the Hong Kong version this sago was served as a sticky stack rather than a looser more fluid version.
It stood in a Gulu Melaka sauce and was covered with coconut milk. It also came with a generous scoop of vanilla icecream which, in my opinion, was unnecessary.
So, to avoid falling into a food coma, I decided to go for a walk in search of Mr T’s museum. When he had been telling me about the lizards, he’d also mention that he was the curator of a very interesting museum.
I thought it would be a shame not to visit but when I arrived I was locked up and dark.
After a couple of photos in the Sanduo Temple, I was feeling the heat and almost as soon as I thought: “A fruit smoothie would be good,” I stumbled upon JCool – a food delivery and smoothie company run by three undergraduate students.
The menu is limited but looks good with very low prices. Unfortunately, the students and I didn’t have enough shared language for me to be able to find out more.
One day in Melaka ensured I was very well fed.