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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Formosa Chicken Rice Ball @ Jalan Bendahara, Melaka

During my recent trip to Malacca, one of the few food that was introduced to me was the legendary Chicken Rice Ball, among the gula-packed chendol and famous nyonya dishes. Located along the streets of Jalan Bendahara, a half-hour drive from the central, Formosa boasts itself with its famous chicken rice ball made with a team of experienced staff in food and restaurant management, as well as being integrated as part of a journey into the Historical City of Malacca.

Is it worth the big hoo-ha and the long queue, or is it simply just over-rated?

Roasted Chicken (RM20 for half) has a heavier flavour as compared to its steamed counterpart, unfortunately, it's not as palatable as the latter though. BBQ Roast Pork (RM15) was okay, but packed no wow-inducing factor. Excessively oily was a minus point.

Althernatively to the roasted version, Steam Chicken (RM18 for half) was the preferred choice for myself. The tender and juicy white meat was seasoned perfectly with sesame oil, resulting in a light, savoury companion for the rice balls. Of course, pairing it with their homemade garlic and chilli was a huge plus. Do try out their Otak Otak (RM12) - spicy cake made of fish meat and spices, as well.

You see, the Chinese unlike Westerners or most ethnic groups incorporate special meaning to their dishes. For example, pomelo symbolises abundance and prosperity, eggs mean fertility and a platter of yusheng (or lohei) has a meaning to each of the ingredients (which totalled up to more than a dozen!) To the Malaccans, the round shape of the rice balls symbolises abundance and portrays the meaning of completeness and fullness.

Over the years, Formosa has developed in technical terms as well, designing and creating machines to ensure hygiene, and to produce consistent and standard-sized rice balls. Having tried several of these Rice Balls (RM0.50 each, 5 rice balls is equivalent to 1 bowl of rice), my verdict is that they are softer and mushier (but still grainy inside), which makes them much easier to consume. Flavour-wise, there's not a huge difference compared to the standard chicken rice, given that it is aromatic and infused with herbs and chicken stock.

For Mother Kook, the Chendol (RM3.50) served at Formosa has the closest similarities in comparison to the ones she had in her childhood. She's a Malaysian you see, and all the while we've been to Malaysia, she was searching food that reminds her of her childhood. Unlike Singapore's version which incorporates way more coconut milk,  green jelly noodles and a tint of pandan flavouring, Malacca's has a coarser texture to the shaved ice and has a lot, and I meant A LOT more gula melaka (palm sugar).

For non sweet-tooth, this might seems like a turnoff, but on contrary, if you can't resist sweet, sugary stuff, Malacca's cendol (that's how they spell it) is the one for you.

Besides the chicken dishes, otak and chendol, we had roast pork, veggies, thai chicken claws and several drinks on our table, which added up to be RM136 for 10 persons. Totally worth it.

At Formosa, do expect long queues during peak hours which may take up to 30-45 minutes depending on your group size. (We had a 10 pax group, so we waited for quite a while.) They do have three other branches under the Formosa's brand at different parts of Malacca as well.

Apparently, I found out later that quite a few restaurants and hawker stalls in Singapore serves this dish as well, which makes it an easier alternative for the locals to have a glimpse of the chicken rice balls. But as they always said, nothing beats the original.

Formosa Chicken Rice Ball

No 97 Jalan Bendahara
75100 Melaka