I’m now blogging retrospectively. During this month-long home visit, spending time with my family, meeting friends, shopping and eating all took priority. Blogging took second place, in fact I completely stopped for 2 weeks! Now that I’m back in my quiet Melbourne apartment, I can gather my thoughts, harness the prodigious amount of food photos I’ve taken, and speak about food that once belonged to me. Ooooh… how I wish I could bring all of it to Australia!!! I’d happily become Fattestboo.
Melaka is a favourite destination for my family. I remember watching home videos of myself as a toddler being carried around by my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins along the streets of Melaka. My family have been visiting this city for generations, and likewise, the city’s hawkers have kept its local cuisine alive over several generations.
|Tuas Second Link|
Everytime I visit Singapore, there has to be a family trip to Melaka. This time it was with dad, mum, grandma, tua koh and teoh teoh (dad’s eldest sister and her husband). There used to be only one way to drive from Singapore to Malaysia, via the congested causeway bridge between Woodlands and Johor Bahru. But now we can use the second link. While slightly out of the way, it avoids the city of Johor Bahru and connects you directly to Melaka via the North-South Expressway. The 250km journey takes 3-4 hours from door to door now.
|Rest stop’s nasi lemak.|
|Piece of otak-otak on my plate.|
|Malaysian otak-otak being grilled.|
We had breakfast at the first rest stop along the expressway. Nasi lemak (coconut rice). You can find this dish in Malaysian restaurants in Melbourne. It is bascially rice soaked in coconut cream and steamed with pandan leaves. It is typically served with a delicious sambal, peanuts, fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies), egg, a few slices of cucumber and deep fried ikan kuning (yellow fish). This rest stop’s version was not too bad. We had it with otak-otak (grilled banana leaf wrapped fish cakes).
|Ikan kuning isn’t a big fish. It’s fried so crisp that you can eat the entire fish whole. I think it tastes extra nice because it’s marinated in tumeric powder.|
|Small packets of nasi lemak at a Melaka coffee shop. 6 can sit nicely on a regular sized plate.|
|Bigger packets of nasi lemak in Singapore, wrapped in banana leaf. Sitting in a large tray.|
From what I remember, versions of nasi lemak in Melbourne reminds me of the way the dish is served in Singapore. Big portions, quite rich and pretty filling. The thing I like about nasi lemak in Malaysia is how they are usually served in tiny little packets that fit on the palm of your hand. It nourishes me with the perfect amount of aromatic rice and ingredients without making me jerlak (sick of eating the same thing). My best memory of eating nasi lemak comes from a random street vendor in Kuala Lumpur. I think it was wrapped with glossy magazine paper.
A few days later, we found tiny packets of nasi lemak at a coffee shop in Melaka. Despite its simplicity, this humble small packet hit closer to the spot than the rest stop’s version. I think what makes a good nasi lemak is: the rice should be somewhat salty, with a firm bite and a deep fragrance without tasting overly rich. The sambal tumis should be sweet-ish yet intricately savoury with a good spicy kick. To me, freshness doesn’t matter. If the sambal and the rice is good, the fried stuff can be soggy and I wouldn’t care. I hardly even need other ingredients, although I wish this packet had ikan kuning.
|Perfect breakfast. Cup of kopi and a packet of nasi lemak.|
When tua koh saw me eating this coffee shop’s nasi lemak, she said “I like to watch Bryan eat. He makes the food look VERY nice”. Well, all I can say is, I’ve finally had nasi lemak the way I love it. Neat, small and fragrant. And it only costs RM1 (AUD$0.33) for that wonderful packet!