On our last trip back from KL, I was in half a mind to stop over in Malacca for satay celup. Good sense over-ruled that, after all we were still full from lunch. But the good sense didn't last long, and I was again gripped by the thought of the missed opportunity, so one evening, we decided that, come the weekend, we will drive up for some celup. Three hours drive each way.
Surprisingly too, when I put out the call on the makansutra forum, we managed to rope in another crazy makan fella. So it came to be that the four of us, i.e. me, husband, tiantianchi (ttc) and his wife, went to Malacca for dinner.
We arrived at about 3.30 pm. The historic town was quite silent, most day-trippers have left and the shops were enjoying the lull before the evening crowds. First stop, the famous popiah stall in front of Madam King's Mall on Jalan Bunga Raya. Which happened to be closed.
Never mind. Ever-resourceful, ttc asked the nearby shopkeepers who gladly recommended another stall that was just as good but not as well-known. Because his popiah comes with less pork lard but more vegetables. For the uninitiated, pork lard is a crucial ingredient in Malacca popiah.
We backtracked a bit to the road in front of the Mimosa Hotel and came across a small crowd gathered around this man's stall.
The popiah man was very friendly and didn't mind chatting to us:
ttc: Uncle, how many pieces do you sell every day?
PPM: Over 100 a day.
ttc: Are you open every day?
PPM: Yes, except Tuesday. We start at 3.30 pm and move over to the front of the Metro store at 5.30 pm.
PPM: Do you want pork lard with your popiah?
All: (resoundingly) Yes please! .... Unbelievable as it may seem, some people actually order theirs without.
Umami: Uncle, do you make the skin yourself?
PPM: My wife makes it in the mornings.
All: (impressed) Oh.....
ttc: Uncle, what is in that mug sitting over the radish?
PPM: Garlic oil. When we fry the lard, we use the rendered oil to fry up some minced garlic. It gives extra fragrance.
All: (Heads nodding) Indeed.....
So there you have it, my abolutest favouritest street food. The popiah skin was gratifyingly springy to bite, yielding to reveal the wondrous alchemy of turnips, bean sprouts, chopped omelet, lettuce dressed with sweet bean sauce, chilli paste and generous drizzlings of garlic oil and that beautifully crisped lard. Basic down-to-earth goodness. The memory of it is still fresh in my mind, so very good, so very satisfying. So very cheap, only RM1.50 per piece. It kills me that it is good only in Malacca. ttc have eaten a very bleah fascimile of it in Johore Bahru.
Looking around, the other eating seems to be quite good around this neighbourhood too. Since the celup place is not opened yet, we decided to have a cup of coffee at one of the coffeeshops. Accompanied by some very decent siew yoke and ban meen.
By the time we thought to try some of the yummy-looking fried lor-bak at the top of the junction, it was sold out. Never mind, the celup stall should be opened so we returned to the car.
Ban Lee Hiang Satay Celup along Jalan Ong Kim Wee is where we went to for my celup fix. My friend who lives in Malacca told me this is where the locals prefer to eat at, leaving the more famous Capitol Satay to out-of-towners. No arguments here, the last time I ate here I liked it so much I had it again the following evening.
Satay celup is, like the popiah, only good in Malacca. The idea is again, rather simple. Sticks of foods are dipped into a rich, spicy satay gravy-like sauce. Unlike conventional steamboats, here in Malacca the eating is more communal. As in the pot is not changed every time new customes sit at the table. A fine practice if double-dipping goes out of fashion, ha ha, so to avoid sharing too much of other people's saliva we were advised to go early. Being the kiasu Singaporean that we are, we made sure we were the first at our table by getting there just before 6 pm.
There isn't much variety, just the basics like pork, shrimps, liver, braised pig ears, see-hum, quail eggs, assorted fish paste balls and such, yau-char kwai, kangkung, bean-skin cakes etc. , but all were chosen for their propensity to soak up the terrific sauce. The sauce was well blended, not too spicy or hot, but with more oomph than ordinary satay gravy. The eating here is not expensive. 40 cents per stick, 50 cents for the 'premium' stuff like liver and pork. We were not too hungry otherwise I would have eaten more. Four of us managed only 34 sticks.
The sky was still light when we waddled out with our full bellies. So we jalan-jalan-ed around town. The pasar malam at Jonker Walk was very diverting. Karaoke competitions, restored pre-war buildings, tourists mingling happily with locals, the wares being sold neither too kitschy nor bland. The Jonker Dessert place served lacklustre versions of cendol and laksa, but the house itself is worth a look at for its period architectural details, crammed as it is with loads of beautiful old things.
And after Jonker Walk, there was more shopping at Tesco. Finally, at 10.30 we headed back to Singapore. In the car, I thought of the celup again. Next time we will definitely stop over.