Before you think that we're one of those celebs who claim to eat lots and never grow fat due to high metabolism (which in my view is absolute crap and a complete lie, by the way), we balanced out the 6-meals-a-day diet with hour-long runs at the gym, twice a day. Seriously.
Malacca is known for, amongst other things, Chicken Rice Balls. There are a few big names that will invaribly be mentioned, namely Chung Wah, Hoe Kee and Famosa, so we tried all 3. They're all located within 100m of each other at Jonker Street (Jalan Hang Jebat), the Chinatown of Malacca. Very accessible to try them all on the same day, one after the other (which was what we did!).
In my view, the Best Chicken Rice Ball is at Chung Wah. But the Best Chicken is at Hoe Kee. Famosa is probably the most business savvy, being the cleanest and having a comparatively nicer ambience than the other 2.
Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball
Chung Wah has the longest queue of them all, and it sells out the fastest (they were turning away customers by about 2.15pm on a Sunday), so arrive early to avoid disappointment. Oh, remember to bring along an umbrella because you will be waiting in the open/sweltering sun/pouring rain.
The Chicken Rice Balls (RM0.30 each) were moist, slightly sticky, and the most flavourful of them all, so much so you can eat it on its own, without chicken or the soy-based dipping sauce. These one and a half inch wide balls are hand-rolled, so they won't look uniform (here's where you cross your fingers that they practise good after-toilet hygiene habits). This is an absolute must-try.
Chicken Rice Balls are always sold with chicken, so we got the Poached Chicken (RM8 for medium portion) for 2 persons. Please note that Chung Wah only sells poached chicken. Despite the haphazard chopping style of the chef, it tasted better than it looked. The chicken was juicy and the soy-based dipping sauce was delicately salty (it tastes lighter than Hoe Kee's).
Chung Wah's Chili was "all bark and some bite", it was saltier than it looked, and a lot less spicy than its fiery hue suggests. Somehow, it was brilliant with the chicken and rice ball. Malacca's chicken rice chili is generally more watery, more piquant, less spicy, and saltier than its Singapore counterparts.
Chung Wah's interiors are the most rustic of the lot, but their stellar food spoke for itself.
Chung Wah's unassuming exterior
Chung Wah Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball
Kedai Kopi Chung Wah
Lorong Hang Jebat
(Where Jalan Hang Jebat and Lorong Hang Jebat intersect)
(The first building on the right just after the bridge over Melaka River from The Stadthuys (Dutch Square))
(Also opposite San Shu Gong, a big red 5-storey building selling Chinese foodstuffs)
Open daily from 7.30am to about 2pm
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball
If carbs are not your thing, then head to Hoe Kee to load up on protein instead. Like Chung Wah, Hoe Kee only sells Poached Chicken (RM8 for medium portion for 2 persons). Their chicken is incredibly moist, succulent and flavourful. The soy-based sauce (darker and slightly richer than Chung Wah's) liberally slathered over the chicken is also to die-for. Metaphorically and literally. It's light but salty (oxymoron, I know), and heart-cloggingly oily. I loved it.
Their Chicken Rice Balls (RM0.20 each, but the minimum order is 10 balls) aren't as moist and flavourful as Chung Wah's, but it was still yummy with a liberal drizzling of the soy-based sauce. The rice balls (only slightly bigger-sized to Chung Wah's) are similarly hand-rolled.
Hoe Kee's Chili was slightly spicier than Chung Wah's, but just as salty. They were little fireworks on the tongue when paired with chicken and rice.
Hoe Kee's exterior. The queue, if any, isn't very long. They also sell other cooked food, which are available till their official closing time of 5.30pm. Please note their chicken sells out by about 4.30pm.
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball
No. 4,6 & 8 Jalan Hang Jebat
Tel: 06-283 4751 / 012-623 8431
Open daily from 9am to 5.30pm, but the chicken rice sells out by about 4.30pm
Famosa Chicken Rice Ball
Famosa is strictly reserved for tourists or people who have never had chicken rice before (so they won't know any better). As aforementioned, Famosa has the nicest premises, with dark red walls and traditional Chinese architecture. They're also probably the most business savvy because they are the only ones who have (somewhat) kept up with technology. They've got a website, their rice balls are machine-made, they serve a variety of roast meats apart from the usual poached chicken, and they have the most extensive menu out of the 3 restaurants. That might explain why Famosa has a total of 6 branches.
We ordered the Roasted Chicken (RM8 for a quarter) and Poached Chicken (RM8 for a quarter).
They were fairly ordinary, something you could get at most ordinary chicken rice joints in Singapore, and rather unspectacular. The soy-based sauce is the darkest and richest of the 3 restaurants.
Famosa's Chicken Rice Balls (RM0.30) were a huge letdown. These are machine-made, so you get near-perfect round globes. They are also the biggest of the lot, but they were dry and bland.
The Chili tasted and smelled slightly rancid that day, but I wouldn't know if it's supposed to taste that way. Suffice it to say, we didn't take to it.
The non-airconditioned but relatively cool interiors.
Famosa Chicken Rice Ball Shd Bhd
21 Jalan Hang Jebat (opposite Melaka Heritage Square (Medan Warisan Melaka))
Tel: 606-286 0120
Open daily from 9.30am to 9.30pm