Strolling along the Chinatown of Melaka
What is Jonker Walk?
Jonker Walk is the Chinatown of Melaka, Malaysia. Just like most South East Asian cities have a Chinatown, so does Melaka. Jonker walk lies in Jalan Hang Jebat a.k.a. Jonker Street. Known as the ethnic and cultural hub, it houses a number of food stalls, tourist attractions, shops and other places to hang out.
How to get there?
If you stay at the city centre, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to get there. A number of hotels and good properties around the area arrange a free shuttle to Jonker Street. Option three would be to take a trishaw ride. Once you get there, you’re on your own feet. Walk, walk, walk! Make sure you enter every lane and by-lane if you don’t want to miss out on the happenings.
The best time
Jonker Street operates thrice a week, when the traffic is cut off and the street translates to a walker’s zone. Rest assured, you won’t be bothered by cycles, horns and traffic. Fiday – Sunday : 5 – 10 p.m. or so.
Things to do
Eat: Jonker’s street is also commonly called Hawker’s Street. This explains why you ought to try every snack and dish at the stalls and restaurants surrounding it.
Shop: A shopper’s paradise, especially for those looking for artifacts, pieces of craft, cane-work, clothes, junk jewellery, unbranded bags, watches, sunglasses etc.
Drink: A number of cafes and bars adorn the street, especially after the hawker’s street stretch that leads to lanes on either sides.
Visit galleries and museums: Jonker Street houses a number of interesting galleries, museums and places of worship like the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum, Hang Jebat Mausoleum, House by the River Living Gallery, Cheng Ho Culural Museum, Tamil Methodist Church, Kampung Kling Mosque, Kampung Hulu Mosque and Jonker Street Library to name a few. Look them up online to check their timings, days of operation and exact location as they are scattered through Jonker Street (and not just Jonker Walk), and make for a great plan for the day.
Enjoy: The stroll might be tiring, but you get to savour delicacies from different parts of South East Asia and Malaysia. Unwind at a bar, dine at a resto or stop to watch some dance performance at the stage closer to the restaurant line-up.
What to eat?
While there are a whole lot of cafes, restaurants and food stalls to eat from, let’s confine this post to street food – for the flavours of the street in Melakan air!
- Apam Balik: You must try the crispy Apam Balik or Turnover Pancake, available a few meters before Jonker Walk, along Pehlawan Walk Market and in a few stalls of Jonker Walk. This pancake is soft and fluffy inside, and crispy outside. The ones we had were tossed with peanuts, mmm.. a crunchy delight to begin with. The soft peanut pancake is version 2 of the turnover pancake, that has it soft on the outside as well. Coated with butter and sugar, peanut sprinkles complete the toothsome bite.
- Dorayaki: This Japanese sponge pancake composed of red bean paste is made in small patties. Choose your favourite flavour to sandwich between the two layers – strawberry, peanut, kaya, chocolate, butter.
- Fish and chicken rice balls: While fish balls are found in most parts of Malaysia, Melaka boasts of chicken rice balls. Served in sticks or bowls, dips and sauces generally accompany them.
- Coconut: We are talking not only about coconut ice cream, but the entire coconut shell in which ice creams are served. Variations include salads in coconut shells, peeled coconut ball and coconut shake.
- Bread: Breads, buns and puffs with stuffing ranging from curry chicken, sweet potato, yam and coconut are sold at many stalls. Make sure you try one of each kind.
- Thailand mini pineapple: Who ever thought they could gobble down a pineapple at one go? Well, you can! These baby pineapples are sweet-sour and taste a tad different than their mommy counterparts.
- Egg tarts: These gooey bite-sized egg tarts with a flaky, crunchy base are finger-licking good. Have them hot!
- Quail egg-fry sticks: This egg fry is made of quail eggs, cracked open and fried in deep-scooped moulds, served with mayonnaise or hot sauce.
- Taiwanese pancakes: An interesting mould holding dozens of pancakes in concentric circles is quite a sight. Watch your pancakes being battered and baked in different flavours – red bean, corn, chocolate, cream, durian or peanut.
- Fruit sticks: Have your dose of fruits with dribbling sugar or chocolate coats. These sticks contain grapes, berries, apples and more hidden beneath the sinful coat.
Chocolate and other fruits sticks
- Nitrogen-infused treats: Also what the hawkers call ‘Bite and Blow’, these treats are corn puffs subjected to a blast of liquid nitrogen, to make them cool and crunchy. Topped with melted chocolate and sprinklers, watch your breath of air as you blow out after every bite.
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- Dimsums: Dimsums dimsums all the way – think of every possible colour, meat and variety and you have them being made fresh in front of you!
- Potato sticks: These sticks are made out of a whole potato, with its rim retained. They are deep-fried for an extra crunch, tossed with salt and chilli if you wish.
- Watermelon juice: This is no ordinary watermelon juice, we are talking of a watermelon with its top scooped out and its pulp whisked and churned into a blended juice, with its seeds retained. How is it served? Well, in the watermelon itself!
- Beverages: Choose from a refreshing range of beverages from citrus flavours, green tea, lemon drinks, syrups and jellies, all iced and served in a plastic glasses.
Tips and tricks:
Bargain all the way: Do not hesitate to bargain. The more you bargain, the more items you can buy, for the same amount of money you had put aside. This holds good for hand made goods, trinkets, craft work, clothes and all that you can think of in a flea market.
Cling to your belongings: Please hold on tight to your personal belongings as it’s literally a shoulder to shoulder walk, as you brush past the crowd to make way to your favourite stall(s).
Comfortable footwear: Put on comfortable walking shoes. If you are tired of closed shoes all day, slip into some flip-flops or strappy sandals. Heels and fancy wedges are a big no-no!
Clothes: Wear light clothes, with fabrics that let you breathe. While tees, cotton dresses, strappy tops, simple shirts and shorts do the trick, jeans and jackets may not work well.
Must carry: Please carry paper napkins to wipe your hands after eating, as the hawkers do not give you any. Take a face towel to dab your sweaty self dry. Have enough change on you. Denominations of MYR 1 (1 Malaysian Ringgit) work the best, followed by MYR 5 and Sen (coins).
Plastic bags: Preserve the first plastic bag you get when you buy some savouries in the beginning. You can add some snacks to it, stop half-way, go to the side walk along the craftsmen shops and eat in peace. You could then use the empty bag to dispose used napkins, seeds from fruit drinks, toothpicks and sticks later on.
Water: Bottled mineral water is available at the beginning and end of the walk, and in nearly every restaurant and beverage stall. Pick one up to stay hydrated and to avoid choking ( 😉 trust me, you are going to eat a lot!)
Stay tuned for more updates on Melaka and alternate places to dine at!
Till then …. Read – Drool – Eat! 🙂