Simply Mel’s, Malacca Portuguese Cuisine
The Sphere, Bangsar South
*photos courtesy of Riz Ainuddin
How do you even begin to write a ‘review’ of your own restaurant?
My blog has remained suspended in time because I’ve not been writing reviews about restaurants, but trying to run one instead. I feel terrible to the point that I do not even accept invitations to write about other restaurants. That is, until the Time Out Food Awards KL 2011. In the past, I’ve nominated and voted for my favourite restaurants in the Awards because each and every single one deserved that *CLICK*.
I have to say, never did I expect to be in this position, until now. Nominating our own family restaurant. I have to say, that even if I had nothing to do with it, I would still nominate it for a new category in Time Out KL Food Awards – the Blogger Choice Awards – because the food is just that good!
The restaurant is a family effort, but it’s really my mum’s… Melba Majella Nunis. It’s her food, her personality, her passion for cooking, her desire to keep our Eurasian family recipes alive…
In a nutshell, it’s just her. It’s Simply Mel’s.
“Auntie Mel’s lovingly prepared food _ including assam prawns _ is a valentine to anyone who adores wholesome recipes handed down through generations of women who wanted to feed their families as best as they possibly could.”
I grew up with this food. My childhood was spent getting home after school in Alor Setar, anxiously awaiting my favourite “Porku Tambrinhyu”, a tangy lemongrass curry with sweet savoury undertones. I love Inchementu, which is a coconut curry with tasty meatballs stuffed in cabbage. Even at such a young age my tastebuds screamed out for comforting ingredients like coconut milk and fresh, fragrant spices like lemongrass and galangal. Never once was that plate of my favourite food not waiting for me on the table.
Throughout my time abroad I grew to love and cook European food, but never once did I miss the opportunity to call and tell Mummy over and over again, the exact time I was arriving at the airport. “So what shall I cook for you?” she would ask. And everytime my answer would be the same. “Nasi Lemak, with Kangkung Belachan and Assam Prawn pleeeeeeeeeeeeease!” I didn’t know about the Serai Chicken until recently, a dry, fragrant curry with oodles of kaffir lime leaves. The perfect complement to coconut rice, or even as a dish on its own.
Without fail, my favourite dish would be waiting for me. Mel’s Malacca Laksa is another dish I can never get enough of!
Slurping up the smooth coconut broth, cooked with fishballs and ‘daun kesom’, ladled over a bowl of rice vermicelli,chicken, beansprouts, shredded cucumber, egg, tau pok, and spring onions is such a treat! The complexity of flavours and textures is just happiness in a bowl! Extremely comforting…
Nothing beats picking up a fork and spearing into a crisp, crusty layer of Mummy’s (Mel’s) freshly baked Crab Stuffing.
“Freshly picked crab meat, prawns & minced chicken stuffed in crab shell. Tastes lovingly homemade; soft and fluffy, with diced carrots, onions & turnips for extra texture. And hurray for any crab recipe that doesn’t force us to use our fingers to scrape for flesh.”
Or, for the true Malaysian returning home, “Dali Cu Mang!” (eat with your fingers). One of the highlights of Mel’s cooking is the unusual Keluak Curry.
I have not come across another restaurant that serves this intensely flavourful nut everyday.
“(…) one will never escape the popular Keluak Curry. The keluak nuts are hard to come by so Mel’s sources them from a supplier in Malacca, who gets his high quality Keluak from Indonesia(….) dig out the contents from within(…) black, soft and velvety with a nutty and slightly bitter aftertaste.”
It is a tedious process to cook ‘Keluak’. The nuts in their raw form have to be soaked for at least 48 hours to remove toxins and make it edible.
Each one has to be cracked open individually, and Mel handpicks the ones that make the cut in terms of quality, then proceeds to cook them in a rich, meaty, sourish curry.
Even more laborious is her Keluak Sambal, where she digs out the flesh of each nut (very time consuming!) and fries it up in her homemade chili paste with fresh prawns. The result is a thick, velvety paste, intense in flavor with a kick from the chili. It’s addictive, and if you fall in love with keluak, you’ll never be able to get enough!
Another one of my mum’s outstanding dishes is the “Black Sotong Sambal”. Succulent Squid cooked on a slow heat ‘til tender, with the ink bags still in so they burst, flavor the sambal and colour it a rich, almost black.
Don’t miss out on trying the Petai Sambal with Prawn. Crunchy stinkbean cooked in a sweet spicy sambal.
Of course we serve more familiar dishes like ‘Devil Curry’, with chicken cooked in a fiery gravy of chilies, galangal and mustard seeds. I remember this as being a dish more for festive occasions like Christmas, or celebrations like weddings, birthdays or just family get togethers.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Simply Mel’s is all about spicy food. There’s plenty of mouthwatering mild dishes like Mel’s Chicken Pongteh, a delicated balance of blended garlic, onions and black bean paste, simmered over a low heat and served with ‘Sambal Goreng’.
There’s ‘Soy Limang’, which is a soya sauce gravy infused with lime, and you can choose from ‘Terung Soy Limang’ or Fish ‘Soy Limang’. Chuan Chuan fish has been another hit!
This deep fried Bawal Hitam (Black Pomfret) doused in a ‘tauchu’ sauce will get you licking your lips and wanting more…
Cornbeef Meatball Stiu, Chicken Seybah, Saltfish Taugeh, French Beans with Tau Kwa and Egg… The list goes on. A particular favourite amongst guests was very aptly summed up by a famous blogger not known to mince his words…
“OHHHHHHHHHHH, TONGUEEEEE!!!! Ox Tongue Semur. Mel simmers the tongue for hours until it is tender. I want this dish named after me. I love tongue. I must have tongue.”
He was, of course talking about Mel’s Ox Tongue Semur, which is so tender it just melts in your mouth like butter. There is also a beef version of this for the less adventurous, and in the olden days this was a favourite amongst Eurasion men, who would eat it simply with bread, and wash it down with a cold beer. The vinegar base makes it very moreish, and very addictive!
I could go on an one about the homemade Saltfish Pickle, and Homemade Kaya served with Pulut.
Both of those are now available for you to take home in a bottle, to enjoy whenever you want!
I could go on and on about Mel’s rich Pulut Hitam, bursting with longan, or her delicate Sago Biji Gula Melaka, a light but satisfying way to end the meal.
There’s so much on the menu at Simply Mel’s that I’ve barely even begin to scratch the surface!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of work goes into Mel’s cooking, but so does a lot of love. The key words to remember here are ‘FAMILY RECIPES’ and ‘HOMECOOKED FOOD’.
“…you’ll find that Mel’s cooking is well marinated and seasoned by the memories of her childhood and is what she would serve to her family at home, as did her mother.
(…)” Simple, honest, and from the heart.”
Mel cooks every single dish at the restaurant exactly how she would cook it at home for her friends and family. It has always been her dream to open a restaurant, and now finally, standing in the kitchen from early morning ‘til the wee hours of the night, her dream has come true.
As most of you who’ve been there know, she always makes an effort to speak to every guest if possible, and will always go out of her way to make sure you leave with a smile on your face.
Simply Mel’s tagline is “BENG NAKI KUMI!”, a phrase heard often by Mel as a child, and of course, by me, and still used today with her grandchildren.
Translated into English, ‘Beng Naki Kumi’ simply means ‘Come here and eat!’
Well, what are you waiting for?
Simply Mel’s Malacca Portuguese Cuisine
OPEN EVERYDAY FROM 10AM TO 10PM!
– PORK-FREE –
WE SERVE WINE AND BEER! HAPPY HOUR FROM 5pm-8pm, BUY 3 BEERS GET 1 FREE. Tiger, Carlsberg, Hoegaarden.
AVAILABLE FOR EVENTS, BIRTHDAYS, AND MORE! SEATS 60 PAX.
CAKES AVAILABLE ON PRE-ORDER – Sugee, Fruitcake, Old Fashioned Chocolate, Butter, Marble, Carrot, Coffee. Custom Fondant design for Sugee cake also available.
LUNCH SET MENU – From Monday to Friday, between 1130am-3.30pm, enjoy Simply Mel’s DISH OF THE DAY @ RM12.90, which includes an appetizer, main course and a glass of Homemade Jelly Rose Sirap. Also on offer are its Signature dishes as a set with rice and vegetables,
Introducing NEW DRINKS @ RM7.90 – Barley Laici, Laici Mango and Laici Selasih.
This Sunday 25th September, from 12noon – 3pm, come feast on our Keluak Buffet!