When in Malacca: If you love Hainanese chicken rice, you are in for a treat as the Malaysian world heritage city has some of the best chicken rice in Asia. And the thing which makes their chicken rice unique for a good many decades is the fact that, thanks to one genius of a chicken rice stall owner, the fragrant chicken rice is served in the shape of balls. In the heyday, the balls were bigger – like the size of ice balls. These days they are the size of fishballs and you can tell they went through an assembly line rather than hand-made.
Still, the rice balls are a novelty but it’s the deliciously tender “kampong” chicken meat that marks the quality of a good chicken rice stall here. One of the best – and you can tell by the queues they have almost everyday – is Hoe Kee Chicken Rice, easily found right at the start of Jalan Hang Jebat or, as it’s popularly known, Jonker Walk.
It’s best to go early as the stall closes like by 4pm. When you are in the queue, prepare your orders so that a server can take them, enabling you to get your table faster and the food will arrive as soon as you are seated. The restaurant has a large dining area, with quaint marble tables and wooden chairs, which reminds one of a big hall of a clan association.
But we are here for the food and it didn’t let us down. The steamed chicken was tender and succulent, slightly drenched in a light soy sauce gravy. They were generous with their cucumber and even throw in a free chicken liver for us though we didn’t ask for one (we prefer gizzard). Unlike other places, Hoe Kee only has one choice of vegetables so we went with the cabbage which thankfully was decent. As for the rice, we ordered a plate of loose rice just in case the rice balls weren’t up to standard – it was rather flat and dry at another restaurant we dined at – but Hoe Kee rice balls are flavorful and has the chicken rice taste. Even so, novelty or otherwise, I think chicken meat is best eaten with loose rice (and with dark soy sauce sprinkled on it).
There are many other chicken rice balls stalls in the city but Hoe Kee seem to be the top favorite (and they been around since 1962). Some like the Famosa chain has a few outlets and most remain open till the evening. Their chicken is not half bad and they have a wider variety in terms of roast meats and vegetables. Their chicken rice chili, for one, is really good – spicy hot with dashes of garlic and lime, as well as their char siew (Honeyed BBQ pork).
So if you are into Hainanese chicken rice, do check it out if you happened to be in the historic Malaysian city of Malacca. You won’t regret it.
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice is at 4, 6 & 8 Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.
Famosa Chicken Rice is at 21, Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.