Malacca is renowned for many aspect of its culture, including very unique renditions of classic dishes.
Among the many varieties of Chinese food that can be found in Southeast Asia, the Hainanese Chicken Rice from the Hainan region of southern China arguably remains the most popular, including being selected as a national dish of Singapore (ours is the decadent nasi lemak if you’re wondering). In Malaysia, similar to the other local variations of Chinese food, the Hainanese Chicken Rice has also undergone some tweaks to the recipe, with differences from state to state. Now, the common chicken rice – only the pached variety with seasoned rice qualify to be called Hainanese Chicken Rice – come in various forms and methods of cooking the chicken, including braising and roasting it.
Balls of Deliciousness
A peculiar varietal of the chicken rice is the Chicken Rice Ball famous in the southern states of Malaysia. Unlike the other types which come with rice served in a plate or bowl, the chicken rice balls come in the shape of – you guessed it – balls! Although famous in Johor and to some extent Singapore, the Chicken Rice Ball is most connected to Malacca where many a chicken rice restaurants specialising in the balls have sprouted up, some even having roots for generations.
A Quick History Lesson
Now, before I go to my favourite Chicken Rice Ball restaurant in all of Malacca, let’s take a quick look into the formation of the spherical rice balls. History has it that the rice was shaped into balls to keep it warm from the time it was cooked (presumably earlier in the day) until the time the meal was eaten. Packed in wooden containers, the rice supposedly did not lose its warmth or taste when shaped into these balls. The other theory goes that the shape of the balls made for easier transportation by labourers who brought it with them (possibly in the aforementioned wooden containers) from home to eat. Honestly, both of these explications could go in hand in hand when explaining the Chicken Rice Ball phenomenon.
Although the rice balls are now merely part of the dish’s culinary heritage, heading to the right restaurant to have an authentic taste of the balls is important. Ee Ji Ban Chicken Rice Ball is famous amongst tourists and locals alike, due to its delicious chicken rice offerings as well as halal status. Expect to wait for a long time to get a seat, especially during the weekends. Don’t just order the Chicken Rice Balls – the other items on the menu are amazing too such as the kangkung belacan and prawn sambal with petai.
*Featured image via Wikimedia.