Friday, June 17, 2005

NO BALLS PLEASE!

Melaka is under sieged - this time by hordes of tourists! It's amazing how bus and car loads of them swarmed this tiny state famed for its rich historical past and super-hyped up Peranakan and Portuguese food.

Despite numerous visits to Melaka in the past, we have never had the chance to sample its famous chicken rice balls - a novelty and really major draw for any visitors to this part of the world. I kid you not!

So we were determined on that very weekend that we would get our hands on some, by hook or by crook. Maybe it was the unbearable scorching afternoon heat, the endless stream of holiday makers or maybe it was just plain complacency...I knew we were suckered into the hype of these so-called famed chicken rice balls the minute we sat down and were very much welcomed with some really bad attitude from the lady server.

While the foursome ahead of us were kind enough to vacate their table for us (we had our cranky seven year old girl in tow) rather speedily, one of the workers who helped to clear the table gave us a taste of the ugly Malaysian inhospitality.

Her unsmiling face and surly manner were quite enough to curdle your blood - obviously she reckoned we were undeserving of some simple, basic courtesy despite being paying customers. When we placed our order for half a chicken and four portions of rice balls, she haughtily told us off that she was most certain it would be insufficient for us three adults and a kid, and rudely warned us that should we even dream of asking for additional orders of the chicken and rice balls, then we had better be prepared to wait!

I was shocked and irked by her rudeness but I stood my ground and told her firmly that we were satisfied with our decision, thank you very much.

As it turned out, the meal was really nothing much to shout about. We just could not figured out what was all the fuss about ... ok the free-range chicken tasted so-so. It was not spectacular - the meat was lean and tasted all right with soya sauce and fragrant sesame oil but that was about it.

The novelty of seeing the chicken rice done up in smooth ping-pong balls (only these were slightly larger) soon wore off and we were not induced to eat more of it. Seriously, it was quite tasteless and greasy which made the experience of eating this specialty a non-event. Children being children, my kid ate up most of her portion thanks to the fact that they were rice balls and not the usual heap of steaming rice one would get else where.

I had to lace mine with lots of chilli sauce - at least the condiment was above average - it was a perky concoction of vinegar, ground chillies, garlic and shallot.

Let's just say the next time we return to Melaka, we won't be hankering for chicken rice balls that's for sure. Ah, but happily our visit did end on a happy note. After feasting on the superb local durians at this small, makeshift stall along the old road leading to Alor Gajah, the King of Fruits presented us with a completely different experience altogether...looks like we will consider returning to this little state after all.

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