Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Melaka Dec 2011 Pt 3

Looking at the Moon

This was the night of the lunar eclipse and Mei and I had a grand view of it from our room balcony that night. The pics are not so good at all but I was glad for a relatively clear sky, giving us a nice starry-night view we can’t get anymore in Singapore.

We can't see so many stars in Singapore anymore due to light pollution. Here you can clearly see Orion's Belt - the 3 stars across. And errr that's the moon in the upper left.

Just that wee bit left of the moon.

A longer exposure brought up the reddish glow of the moon with only that tiny sliver left in full sunlight.

Nothing beats Roti in the morning... except perhaps Roti with friends.

The next morning I had an early start meeting up with two old friends, Singam and Amaran. I think I last met Amaran when I cycled through Melaka in 2007 so it was a very welcome meet up for breakfast at the Saravana near the hospital Amaran is a gynae at. It was great catching up although for just a short while. Amaran was on call and was actually inducing a patient when we met up. I made a comment about smelling of roti chanai and dhalchar in the delivery room and he said he’d rather it be the other way around. Uhm his opinion anyway…

I had a small breakfast - fortunately, for the Lams went on a gastronomic rampage today. We met in town, had some dish which vaguely resembled Bak Kut Teh with Yam Rice but it wasn’t very satisfying. Even my Teh O was a little dull.

A 70-year old list

Mei’s Dad had last been in Melaka as a teenager during the war. He accompanied a relative’s truck up from Singapore. They owned a tea business and the young man had ridden up on the goods truck then spent a short while around Melaka. It may have been a short trip but he took notes and wanted to take his wife back to explore one day. Alas they never did, but he kept his notes and came to Meleka with a small piece of paper bearing the names of various landmarks he’d noted down.

One of those was Jalan Bunga Raya which was just around the corner from where we were and as we wandered off in that direction I asked him what was significant about the road. He said ‘Char Siew’ so not knowing what to expect, we strolled along what seemed to be an old but relatively nondescript street. Despite the fact that many things in this part of town have been there years, the pace of change in Melaka has picked up quite a bit and I didn’t figure we’d have much chance finding this ‘char siew’ place.

But we did. In an alleyway between two rows of shops was a little food street. A curved metal roof between the two corner shops transformed the lane into a sheltered oasis with 3 pork shops and a fourth stall which had tables and chairs laid out before it. The 3 pork stalls sold a mix of roast and barbecued pork, dried sausages and even dried sliced meat. I noticed some duck meat in one too. The meat all look extremely yummy and but only one stall had a few stools in front of it for patrons to eat. Then we discovered that we could buy what we wanted and sit in the coffeeshop next door to eat it, provided we bought some drinks as well. So Jeff bought us RM10 worth of Siew Yoke (roast pork) and we nipped over to the coffeeshop next door… which we discovered had yet another pork stall!

Looks OK and tasted so-so. It certainly whet our apettite for more though!

Jeff hadn’t bought any Char Siew (barbecued pork), but with my prompting bought some from the stall in the coffeeshop and more roast pork. The Char Siew had some fat which made it very delicious indeed and both batches of Siew Yoke were still warm and tasty too. I’m glad my father in law kept notes and now I have two places to go in Melaka for good, but probably unhealthy, food.

Yes, I think there's a duck mixed in with all that pork.

Now you know where to go, eh?

We’d had our fill and decided to wander around Jonker Street again whereupon we were promptly tempted by another round of Chendol. We succumbed of course.

Shredding (at least that's what I think it's called) coconut. Or is it 'Shaving'?

The trip back was easy and despite a detour to Lima Kedai to pick some stuff up from my brother’s place, and subsequently turning up at immigration just about when we expected the crowds to arrive, the traffic was smooth and quick at both sides of the second link and we were home in Singapore in good time. A very nice weekend trip indeed.

Melaka Dec 2011 Pt 2

We wandered around Heeren and Jonker Streets for awhile and managed to sneak in some Chendol at one of the shops. The more popular one next door had too long a queue so we opted for seats and the risk of an inferior dessert but as it turned out it wasn’t bad at all. And the interior of this typical deep Peranakan shop was cool and interesting. Most have one airwell and inner courtyard and a fresh water well too but this one was so deep there were two airwells.

It was a warm day and the Chendol and the short rest was very welcome. We walked around a bit more after then made our way back to the hotel (which Mei and I had passed but still not checked into yet!) and had a clean up and rest before heading back into town for dinner. A quick word about the hotel - they call themselves a boutique hotel but are really a mid-sized one with a not so successful mix of old and new. The hotel is well maintained and very pleasant indeed though we could tell it was designed very much for SIngaporeans - the lifts had ‘1’ marked for the ground floor instead of the more typical ‘G’. It was a comfortable, generally friendly place whose only drawback (besides the suspect interior design) is the location. Not far as the crow flies, but cars in Melaka do not go in straight lines for long and the short (by distance) trip out to the hotel took quite a few minutes by road.

In Melaka the one-way streets are a mess to navigate but it turned out there was an easy way back into town via the coastal flyover so we were back in the old part of town much quicker than it had taken us in the opposite direction. On one of the little streets, we came across a row of eateries including the famous Nancy’s Restaurant which had a long queue. We opted to try our luck instead at a place called Eleven which was part-bistro and part Eurasian Restaurant. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much but as it turned out we had a lovely meal. There’s an Eurasian restaurant in Singapore, Casa Bom Vento, right near my office which we’ve tried and bitterly disappointed with. So we could be forgiven our scepticism… and were grateful to be proven so wrong.

Here are some shots of what we did before, during and after dinner.

Sitting down to Chendol...

Going through the menu at Eleven.

After dinner we took in the sights and sounds of Jonker Walk.

Selling things the old fashioned way.

Melaka Dec 2011 Pt 1

When Mei’s Mum was ill with cancer, her Dad curtailed his regular holidaying to be by her side. After she passed away he began going on holidays again, though as a nod to his advancing years, he went on packaged group tours rather than on his own. In recent times he’s been to Hanoi, parts of China, Hong Kong and Macau. As we’d never been anywhere much with him,  we brought up the idea of a holiday in Ipoh and he initially agreed then decided he’d rather not.

I thought perhaps he’d become used to holidays on his own (well, without his family in tow) and was surprised when he agreed instead to a weekend trip to Melaka with Mei’s sister, Wei Yen, her husband, Jeff and Mei & I. Mei and I had been thinking of a trip to PJ to see my Mum as well as we had not been up in some time so in double quick time we planned a Melaka overnighter with them after a quick one-night trip to PJ for Mei and me.

PJ to see Mum

After trying various hotels in PJ, I opted to try the horribly named PJ De Inn this time and the experience, though not excruciating, will certainly not be repeated. Rooms were clean enough but the overall feel was of slight seediness. Still, we did get to see my Mum and spend some time with her on one of her better days - she even remembered some details of her holidays in Europe when Mei and I showed her the pictures of our recent Switzerland and Italy holiday.

My Mum has lost weight and she has many poor days now from what I gather. When we were there however, she was relatively alert and had her wits about her. Some time ago I had let her play a piano app on the iPad which was entertaining for her, and this time the intuitive interface meant she could attempt to navigate the photo albums - though her hands weren’t always as cooperative as was ideal. Still we had a pleasant time looking at pictures and she even remembered the time my niece was with her and they met the Pope at St Peter’s Square.

Here's a picture of Mum some months ago playing with a piano app on my iPad.

While up in PJ we did our usual swing by Taman Selera for a dinner of Chinese Satay, Yong Tau Foo, Braised Pork Trotters and Ice Kacang. Yes, all that for dinner! For the two of us! And as if that was not enough, for breakfast next morning we headed to one of our favourite coffeeshops in New Town for Prawn Mee and more Yong Tau Foo for me… Malaysia is always a gastronomic excursion!
Here's Mei enjoying her breakfast at one of our favourite eating places in PJ.

Then Melaka for food and traffic jams 

I had anticipated a quick run down to Melaka to meet the others who were coming up from Singapore but traffic had other ideas. We were caught in bad jam near Nilai then again near Seremban. Worse was to come though - the road off the highway leading into Melaka was bumper to bumper and crawling. Weekend and school holidays in both Malaysia and Singapore all converged on this one road and thousands were invading Melaka like the Portugese did 500 years before. What was hoped to be a one-and-a-half hour drive stretched to well over 2 hours.

The others had reached the hotel, the Arenaa Deluxe Hotel along Ujong Pasir, despite it proving to be elusive no thanks to the maze of one-way streets that is Melaka. We eventually found our own way there and went to pick up the others who had wandered off, in true Singaporean tradition, to the nearest shopping mall after checking in. Everyone in our car, I took them to my favourite food place in Melaka. Remarkably, I don’t know any good Peranakan food places. But ask me about Satay Babi and I head out to Kota Laksamana and the Sun May Hiong shop.

From what I understand, the old couple who started the shop in or around Jonker Street ran it for years until the business was split among two of the sons who set up separate shops. The parents joined one - the one at Kota Laksamana - while the other shop is somewhere around apparently. OK this isn’t a food blog so I’m not going to do any investigative journalism.

The way it works at Sun May Hiong is you sit down and they set up your table with a metal container of satay sauce (with the pineapple puree stirred in), your plates and your drinks, then they bring the satay to you. The regular pork satay is delicious and the liver as well. They’d run out of intestines which I love and we were all a little disappointed at that. I had no idea there was chicken as well and we ordered some but we all thought it wasn’t half as nice as the pork. When the supply of satay falls, just ask for more and before you know it another 20 or so sticks land on your plate.
Here we are enjoying our satay babi.

The liver has bits of fat stuck in between to give it extra flavour. It must have worked!

Been doing it for years. And am I ever so glad he's still making it just right!

And so it went on. Mei’s Dad is the eat and run type but we stayed here for some time. I gathered he really liked the Satay and there was even talk of another trip there the next day just to get a taste of the intestines…

I do like food establishments run the old-fashioned way - eat first and pay later being one example of this - and this particular setup is run according to the very oldest of satay shop traditions I.e. they count the sticks when you ask for the bill. In this age when the implication is that the customer is not to be trusted, this quaint tradition is a warmly appreciated throwback to a different age. And very much in keeping with the ancient image of this part of Melaka at least.

Mei's Dad with a look of quiet satisfaction on his face.

Mei and Jeff likewise.

Counting satay sticks. Just like before.

How long more though is a worrying thought. The area around Kota Laksamana now has a huge hotel and a lot of work is going on around the river bank so I expect the next time I’m back in Melaka there’ll be quite a few changes to get used to. I just hope the Sun May Hiong satay is as good as it has been and that they still count the sticks when you’re done.

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