Friday, September 25, 2009

eating Melaka – night market

Our arrival in this Melaka was perfectly, though accidentally, timed to coincide with the old town’s night market. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night Jonkers (Jalan Hang Jebat) and many of the small streets are closed to traffic and the area becomes swamped with market stalls.

We literally walked around the corner from our hotel and plunged straight into the festivities. Luckily we had three nights of the market to get to know every inch of it. Predictably I skipped the tacky plastic trinkets and concentrated on the edible offerings.

Though it’s humid and crowded, in Melaka it’s as if everyone is on “nice” pills. There is a degree of courtesy and a lack of being hassled by the stall owners that you don’t usually get in Asia.

For a mere 0.30 RM (30 Australian cents) you can get a mouthful on a stick. From a bundle of vibrant green kangkung (water spinach) to a ball of pork or a wedge of tofu filled with mung bean sprout; this stall was our favourite smorgasbord Nyonya style. While some people had the restraint to fill a container, pay and take it away, most just hovered and ate as they went, presenting the empty skewers to be toted up when sated.

There is mee/noodles fresh from the wok, sweet treats a plenty, wantons and even sushi. The latter being the most expensive offering, freshly made while you wait. While I ate the street food without much concern, I must admit I was hesitant about eating raw fish in this setting, so stuck to a hand roll with fried soft shell crab and some eel – both of which were well executed.

At one end of the street the tri-shaw drivers huddled watching acrobats and fire dancers, while at the other the local Chinese community gathered for open air Karaoke. Small cafes blared Western hits from the 60’s and 70’s – oddly The Carpenters seemed to be on high rotation wherever we went in Malaysia.

Am told Rick Stein fell in love with the night market in Melaka almost as much as we did (episode 3 of “Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey”). An English traveller we met said she’d been inspired to visit the town from watching the show. Leave a comment if you can point me to a download of it.

On Monday night the old town is like another city. Many businesses are shut, leaving the more Western tourist oriented eateries open. In halls along Jonkers the open door show locals doing rhythmic tai chi movements or gathered to sing choral works instead of Karaoke.

But you can still find a half-decent cendol to eat, perched on a plastic stool on the footpath while soaking up yet another balmy evening.

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Blogger Christina said...

Oh Gawd, this made me hungry.

11:34 am  

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