Thursday, February 09, 2012

Melaka Diary # 7 : Food, Drinks and Chinese Tea

Chicken balls are not to be missed at Famosa Restaurant in Jonker Street
Melaka can be a foodie’s paradise. It is home to some authentic Malaysian, Chinese and Nyonya food. Jonker Street and the areas around it offer many good outlets where you can enjoy almost every kind of food available in Melaka- be it sea food, cakes, shakes, white coffee, fried rice varieties or some good chicken. And especially on weekends, when Jonker Street is having night market, you can have very cheap but delicious food at stalls put up there. Such is the charm of these food stalls, the business elsewhere in Melaka gets on a slow track on weekend nights. Apart from food stalls in the night, there are some restaurants which are hugely popular among locals because of their specialties and are always full of customers. Restoran Famosa is one such place which is famous for its chicken rice balls that are served hot in plain soup. This recipe looks bland but- believe me- it is delicious and fulfilling.

And to have good Baba Nyonya food, every single soul in Melaka seems to be heading towards Donald & Lily’s. It is a quiet little place (that is what it seems from outside) on a street which is just two streets away from Jonker Street and next one from Millionaire Street. But as you climb up the stairs, you find a jam-packed restaurant. Such is the popularity of the place among locals and tourists… that you should be lucky enough to get a seat without waiting. And as the aroma of food being prepared over there fills your nostrils, your gastric juices are sure to make you restless.
Nyonya food at Donald & Lily's is a rage among locals and tourists.
And for good Indian and South Asian food in Melaka, let’s head towards PakPutra. It is quite a walk from Jonker Street, but it is worth it. It is situated at Jalan Kota Laksamana, and is being run by three Pakistani Punjabi brothers. I was not aware of this place until I met the eldest one Sohail at Raz Kashmir- a souvenir shop being run by Kashmiri lad Zaffar Chapri in Temple Street. Since, it always gives you pleasure to talk with someone in your mother tongue while you are at place where English is the only common language, I soon found myself engrossed in chitchat with Sohail in chaste Punjabi. He only told me that their restaurant is among the best in Melaka as declared by TripAdvisor. He extended me an invitation to have food at Pak Putra, which I readily accepted. Though it was raining that night, I was at PakPutra for my dinner. And, yes, the food was very tasty. It felt like being at home. And what’s more, Sohail refused to take a single penny for the food, saying that I was his guest and like a brother. I was touched, I was overwhelmed!!   
 
And now, how about sipping some authentic Chinese tea in Melaka… and that too while experiencing tea ceremony and subtle hospitality? Sounds interesting, no? For this, we have Zheng He Tea House on Jalan Kampung Kuli, two streets away towards river from Jonker Street. The owner is Pak Siew Yong. I had met her on my first day in Melaka at St. Paul’s Church, where she was offering ice tea to guests at the inauguration of MAP Fest. Yuko had introduced me to her, and I promised to visit her tea house during my stay. And, I was at her tea house on the last day of my Melaka visit.
Pak during Chinese Tea Ceremony at her tea house on Jalan Kampung Kuli.
Pak showed me around for a while, and then we sat down for the tea ceremony. Pak told me that there are six types of tea and all are imported from China, and it is the art of consuming tea that makes it taste differently and has an overall soothing effect. Pak called it mental spa, and how right she was! I chose Oolong tea. And it took us more than half an hour to finish our tea. During the ceremony, you don’t consume tea in one go but in many installments. And you can feel a change in taste with every next pouring. Mild first, then bitter, and then sweet… What an experience it was for me! It soothed me from within. And, as I am writing this article, I feel happy to know that Zheng He Tea House has gone to top spot in TripAdvisor’s latest ratings of Melakan restaurants.
  
Text and Photos by Ajay Garg

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