“A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet: he has no need for it, being filled as he is with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom.”
Malacca – And why its a must visit when it comes to the best food offered, for locals and foreigners!
Whilst we’re still on the subject of Malacca (Melaka) why dont we all listen to an artist namely Ziana Zain who’s brother is another Multi Award Winning artist, Anuar Zain – both are from Malacca.
Whilst most people flock to Kuala Lumpur and Penang first, to me Malacca (Melaka in Malay) is unequivocally my favourite Malaysian city. As a crucial trading port for over 600 years, the city reveals an unexpected mix of historical remains from the British, Dutch and Portuguese rule beside funky graffiti and wall art, Malacca is Malaysia’s hippest and most historical city.
“Why I love it above all else…..For Its Food lah!!”
In case you didnt know about why I have a “lah” at the end of the above (brown coloured) phrase…..
Now that we have come to the last part of this four part series of article solely focused on Malacca (Melaka) I’ll make myself clear that Melaka isnt the only place in Malaysia that needs discovering but since it’s the focus right now, its the only place that I know that has such an array of great food and for me, its the birthplace of what we know as Malaysia today, the rich history of ethnicity, culture, government and the mixture of all the races that have eminated from this small state.
If not for Malacca, we probably wouldnt have Malaysia as it is today and it might have ended up a very much different kinda country which is not neccesarily a good thing. So lets all be thankful for the blessings that Malacca has brought about and treasure its diversity and cultural richness and colour.
Now lets divulge ourselves into the last four delicious dishes Malacca (Melaka) has to offer. As I said sometime back, I am featuring only the most popular dishes Malacca has to offer as it would cover too many articles to go through every single dish offered in this tiny state, so as it is…..the last 4 dishes that would be considered as the most popular in Malacca!.
Malacca is well-known for its Nyonya cuisine & chicken rice-ball. Not many folks knew that Malacca is the origin of the flavoured rice-ball. These rice-balls, about the size of golf balls are taken with boiled chicken flavoured with sauce and sesame oil. The rice itself is best taken with pounded chilli-sauce.
Using traditional Hainanese chicken rice recipe, these delicious rich-balls are served with the tender and juicy chicken meat from Bukit Mertajam, which is well-known for its free-range chicken. The chicken meat is as tender as the “kampung chicken” normally found free-roaming in villages. It now appears as both Halal as well as Non-Halal throughout Malacca.
Whilst youre reading through as well as watching this cooking video…yum yum.. on how to make your Malaccan Chicken Ball Rice meal…lets listen to one of Malacca’s famous artists, Anuar Zain, the brother of the even more famous Ziana Zain, both born in the State of Melaka (Malacca). So looks like we have famous people who were born in Melaka?
This popular Malay pop song was composed and produced by Azlan Abu Hassan.
What now? Ahh….How about Ikan Assam Pedas. Btw, the Malay word “Pedas” means – “HOT” okie?. Now lets move on…and look at who’s doing the cooking demonstration?. No other than one of our legendary artistes/singer, Khadijah Ibrahim!
So whats the recipe?
Assam Fish Curry Recipe
Whip up this assam fish curry on busy nights – your family will be impressed with the results.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
- 40 grams tamarind better known as ‘assam’ locally
- 500 ml water
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 5 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 1 packet instant fish curry spice about 200g pack*
- 3 sprigs curry leaves
- juice of 1 lime
- 4 tenggiri fish fillets about 400 to 550grams
- 10 lady’s fingers (orka) tops trimmed, cut to 3 sections
- 200 grams brinjal (eggplant or aubergine) halved lengthwise and cut to 1 cm slices
- 2 tomatoes each cut into six wedges
- chilli powder to taste (I use about 1 tsp)
- salt or fish sauce to taste
* You can use your favourite brand.
- Dissolve assam (tamarind) in 500ml of water. Using a spoon, stir thoroughly until the assam is dissolved and the solution turns brown.
- Filter the assam solution (there are large seeds and long fibers) through a fine sieve so that you have particle-free assam solution. Set aside.
- Heat wok with oil. Add chopped shallots and stir fry until you smell the aroma.
- Add fish curry paste and curry leaves. Stir fry until you smell the fragrance of the curry, about a minute.
- Add assam solution prepared in step 2 and lime juice. Bring to a boil, add the fish fillets and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Flip the fish fillets to the other side with kitchen tongs. Add lady’s fingers and eggplant. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. One minute before turning off the stove, add the tomato wedges.
- Season curry with chilli powder (for the heat; instant sauce is usually not very hot), and salt or fish sauce (if not salty enough). Serve with steamed rice.
Some Cook Tips
- Instant curry sauce is usually not very hot, hence it is a good idea to add chilli powder to taste for the additional heat.
- A small dash of fish sauce added at the end of cooking goes a long way to flavour the curry.
- For a more distinctly sour assam taste, use more tamarind.
You may find some claypot chicken rice are cooked with fair amount of dark soy sauce. Apart from that, some places serve claypot chicken rice with dried salted fish. Dried salted fish enhances the taste of the claypot chicken rice.
Chinese sausage is very commonly used in rice dishes. It is a MUST add ingredient in claypot chicken rice. Without it, it would not be complete and authentic! The best part of this dish is the crusty bottom layer of the rice and the flavorful meat on the top. The meat is steamed so delicately, preserving its juices that adds a distinctive flavor to claypot chicken rice.
This is of course, what the Muslims would NOT eat as its “Non-Halal” meaning to say it has Pork meat – in the form of the pork sausages and whatnot. There again, nowadays, the Malays are picking up on it and its slowly becoming popular in certain restaurants in downtown Melaka for it to appear as the “Halal” version. What does “Halal” mean?.
What is halal?
“Halal simply means permitted or lawful. So when we are talking about halal foods it means any foods that are allowed to be eaten according to Islamic Sharia law. This means that for any food to be considered Halal it must comply with the religious ritual and observance of Sharia law”
What is halal certification?
“This means that food has been subjected to approved certification systems which guarantee to consumers that nothing in the food has any forbidden components. Halal certificates are issued, for a fee, by a certifying body”
Anyway here are the directions to preparing it and cooking this dish:
1. Mix the chicken with all the ingredients except the rice, mushrooms, spring onions and stock. Leave to marinade for at least half an hour.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and stir-fry marinated chicken meat for 1 minute. Add mushroom slices, sliced chinese sausage. Dish out and put aside
3. Put the rice and chicken stock in the cold claypot and place it over a medium heat with the lid on. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer, then leave the rice to steam for 15 minutes. The rice should be nearly cooked, with little holes in the flat surface.
4. Spread the chicken mixture all over the top of the rice, and put the lid back on. Continue to steam over a low heat for another 15 minutes, until the chicken is white and cooked through. Give it a few stir and sprinkle the spring onions over the top and serve piping hot.
Why is everything sweet when it comes to the Desserts of Melaka (Malacca)?
Gula Melaka or Palm Sugar
Gula Melaka or Palm Sugar – Nonya Cooking Ingredient was created to share with friends, relatives and those who interested in nonya cooking recipes. Gula melaka is made by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and collecting the sap. Then, the sap is boiled until it thickens after which, in the traditional way, it is poured into bamboo tubes between 3-5 inches in length, and left to solidify to form cylindrical cake blocks. Alternatively it can be poured into glass jars or plastic bags. Gula melaka is used in some savory dishes but mainly in the local desserts and cakes of the Southeast Asian region like for example, Malaysia (Malacca)
Indians have two varieties of Palmyra sugar. One is unrefined and is in the form of hard blocks of dark brown sugar. This known as Karuppatti in Tamil. Kerala in India also has this palm sugar known as karipotti and is used to make coffee known as karipotti kapi.This is used as a sweetener for making certain types of cakes and biscuits. The other is refined and is available as granules of crystalline sugar. This is known as Panam KaRkaNdu. This has medicinal value. It has the power to liquefy phlegm from the lungs. It is also profusely used in treatment of sore throat when dissolved in boiled concentrated milk. Musicians use it on a regular basis in combination with other medicinal spices and herbs.
“GULA MELAKA SYRUPPreparation Time – 10 minutesCooking Time – 20 minutesMakes – 250ml
Ingredients300g pure palm sugar, roughly chopped150ml watergrated rind of 1 orange”
***Palm sugar is often used to sweeten savory food to balance out the salty flavor of fish. Its primary use in Thai cuisine is in sweets and desserts, and somewhat less often in curries and sauces.
Dodol is a sweet toffee-like confection, popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines (especially in the Ilocos Region in Luzon and the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in Mindanao), Singapore, Brunei, South India, Sri Lanka and Burma, where it is called mont kalama. It is made from coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour, and is sticky, thick and sweet.
Types of Dodol
We have many types “Dodol” listed below..even in Malacca (Melaka).
- Dodol garut is produced in Garut, a regency of West Java province, Indonesia.
- Dodol durian contains durian.
- Dodol sirsak contains soursop.
- Dodol nangka contains jackfruit.
- Dodol apel Malang contains apple, and is a specialty of Malang city, East Java.
- Dodol susu is from Pangalengan, Bandung, West Java. It contains milk.
- Dodol China is an Indonesian Chinese version of sweet nian gao with rich coconut sugar.
- Dodol Betawi is made by the Betawi people in Jakarta, and is similar to Chinese dodol.
- Kalu Dodol (“Black Dodol”) is a Sri Lankan sweet with kithul (Caryota urens) jaggery.
The Betawi people take pride in making homemade dodol during the Eid ul-Fitr, where family members will gather together to make dodol. The town of Garut in West Java is the main production center of dodol in Indonesia.
Many flavors of dodol are available, including a durian flavor called lempuk, which is available in Asian food stores. In Malaysia, it is quite popular amongst the historically Javanese-influenced eastern states, such as Kelantan and Terengganu, while in Indonesia, durian dodol is popular in Medan and other Sumatran cities. It is also popular among the Roman Catholics from the Indian west coast, also known as the former Estado da Índia Portuguesa, which includes East Indians from Mumbai, the state of Goa, and the city of Mangalore.
So what other delicacies do we have for all you “Sweet Tooths?”
Here’s a quickie of an assortment of desserts to end your meal when youre in Malacca:
South East Asian sweets and desserts are most strongly defined by the bite sized snacks known as Kuehs/ Kuihs. Ondeh Ondeh has always been one of my favourite kuehs.
I have never been able to resist these sweet chewy coconut coated balls ever since I was young. Soft and chewy in texture, this is probably one kueh that encompasses all the essential ingredients typically used in the preparation of exotic South East Asian desserts. Sweet potato is the essential root vegetable in this dessert while glutinous rice flour imparts the slightly sticky and chewy texture.
Coconut milk and pandan juice provide the mild fragrant richness and Gula Melaka (brown palm sugar) rounds up the sweet experience with its distinctive caramel-like flavour.
A good Ondeh Ondeh should be tender yet chewy. The amount of rice flour used should be just enough to yield a bouncy softness that gives way to the burst of Gula Melaka sweetness when chewed. Very often, commercial Ondeh Ondeh loads up on the glutinous rice flour and stinges on the use of Sweet Potato which helps to soften the Ondeh Ondeh.
Want the recipe on how to make these delicious tasting tarts? Click here: Portuguese Custard Tarts
Dont forget that we have plenty more goodies to choose from……ranging from >>>>>>
What more do you want when it comes to this fascinating city of hundreds of culinary delights to choose from??
And as one traveller to Malacca (Melaka) once said:-
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”