Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Melaka - Day 1

Sultanate Palace - Melaka
Sunday, March 2, 2008

I woke up feeling pretty well rested. It was a nice sunny day and the view from our hotel room was nice. Jim suggested breakfast at a place his co-worker recommended from the day before that served a really good pho soup. We were game so off we went, and walked, and walked until we got to the street where the restaurant was located. Most everything was closed, not a good sign. And sure enough, the pho restaurant was among the closed places. However, the restaurant next door was open so we gave it a try.

We ordered fried noodles, roti and coffee. I particularly like the roti, a thin multi-layered Indian bread with an egg cooked into it that you tear into pieces and dip into curry. It was so good! The rich curry with all it's flavors and the delicate roti that just soaked up the curry was a combination I would enjoy many more times on this trip. The noodle were typical for the area, flat noodles with a few vegetables like bean sprouts and green onion seasoned with soy sauce. Very tasty as well as surprisingly filling.

Coffee is pretty good in Malaysia. Most of the places we went to served a freeze dried variety that came two ways. Black coffee was refered to as coffee zero. Coffee with milk was order just like that, coffee with milk. However, the milk is sweetened condensed milk. Normally I would say yuck, as it would add too much sweetness to the coffee for my taste. But here, the coffee is strong, put hair on your chest strong so a little sweetness is good......very good. I took one sip of the coffee and was immediately in love. It was like a coffee mocha drink. I ordered a second one and would enjoy many more over the next two weeks.

After breakfast we made our way back to the hotel via the Sultanate Palace, a replica of a Melaka Sultan's palace. The building itself was quite beautiful with lots or rich dark wood, wide open interior and great views of the gardens out front (and our hotel). The exhibits ranged from beautiful displays of clothing worn by various members of the sultan's family to glassware to weaponry. Most were well done but there were a few displays that bordered on cheesy. For example, this display of merchants from another country used mannequins which in itself isn't so bad. But when one of the mannequins is a dead ringer for Yul Brynner and another is sporting a cock-eyed wig, you can't help but giggle like a little kid. Then there were the displays of beautiful pieces...... with green Styrofoam packing peanuts adorning the bottom of the display case. What's with that?

Overall the place was very nice, if not a little quirky and the gardens out front were beautiful.
After we finished walking around the palace and gardens, it was actually close to lunch time and Jim had a place in mind that served chicken with rice balls. This is somewhat a national dish in both Malaysia and Singapore. In most areas, it's Chicken rice, while in Melaka it's chicken and rice balls. The difference is the rice in other parts of the country is served loose. In Melaka it's compressed into small balls and served with the chicken. Jim noticed this place during his first week here. He saw a banner over the entrance that had an article about the restaurant written up in a local magazine or newspaper. He figured it must have been a good place to try and he was right.

To make chicken and rice balls, you boil or roast a whole chicken with seasoning and vegetables. Basically as if you were making chicken stock or soup. Then the rice is cooked in the chicken stock. The chicken is sliced, skin and all, and served with the rice balls and a side dish of the stock. It was very moist and flavorful. We added some sauteed vegetables and a prawn omelet to round out our meal.

After lunch we went back towards the hotel. We stopped at a new mall that had a Carrefour which is similar to a Target or Walmart superstore. We picked up a few snacks and some bottled water and I got a small purple notebook to use a a journal for the trip. I knew I'd never remember everything from the trip otherwise.

Once we got back to the hotel jet lag reared it's ugly head and I had to take a nap. Jim went to the pool while I napped for a few hours. I was still pretty groggy when I woke up but knew if I slept any longer I would have trouble the next day getting used to the time change. We were 13 hours ahead of DC.

When Jim got back to the room, we discussed what to do for dinner. We brought along a Lonely Planet guidebook and it recommended Restoran Ole Sayang, which served nyonya style food.

On our walk to the restaurant, we spotted this place and took a picture for my family (my maiden name is Groves). The place never seemed to be open while we were in Melaka otherwise we would have stopped in to check it out.

Restoran Ole Sayang was just about 6 blocks from our hotel.
We got there fairly early so there was still plenty of seating. It looked like we may have been the only tourists in the place which we took as a promising sign.
On the waitress's recommendation, we ordered the Fish Head Stew. Fairly pricey for what we got but it wasn't too bad. A halved fish head and some filets in a nice, spicy broth.
Also ordered was Black Pepper Beef. A richly flavored dish of beef that's been stewed until it falls apart. Slightly spicy and tangy, it was our favorite dish of the night.
And to be sure we got enough veggies for the day we ordered kangkung belacan (spicy sauteed water spinach).
While the food was good, it wasn't as good as we were expecting since Lonely Planet raved so much about it. And throughout dinner we kept hearing very loud pops. More than once I nearly jumped out of my seat. We found the source of this annoyance. When they cleared the table they gave everyone a little sealed bag with a moist towelette in it. Rather than tear it open, folks would squeeze them til they popped open. And having it happen all through dinner was a royal pain.

A short stroll back towards the hotel and we were pretty much ready to call it a night. And around 9:00, I could not keep my eyes open any longer and went to sleep.

So most of my first full day in Malaysia was spent eating. And I didn't complain, it was all such a tasty experience and I was looking forward to the next few days to see more of Melaka.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is so dangerous to read about exotic food like this on an empty stomach. Everything sounds and looks great. Especially the coffee -- ooooh boy, that sounds good!


Oh, sorry, just sat on my moist towelette on accident! ;)