Are you in love with those famous chicken rice balls from Melaka? Or getting all curious with what is the chicken rice ball? Apparently this local delicacy is one that speaks so loud and clear for the culture of the Hainan people namely the Li people. All the way in China, we often refer to them as the Hainanese because they are the Chinese from the southern island province of Hainan. How did the delicacy ended up in the Malaya?
It started from when the Hainanese migrated from the Hainan province in China to Malaysia (known as the Malaya then) and Singapore. It is easily well said that when in Malaysia, please have the Hainanese chicken rice. But when in Melaka, have one of those Hainanese chicken rice balls. Here, chicken rice is served as rice balls. This is one of the early version of dish where it had the rice compacted into golf ball sized orbs and not any difference from the usual chicken rice, would be served with chili condiment and chicken. Preserving the culture and partially evolved with the influence of the local culture and economy revolution, this dish is now considered as a delicacy with so much joy to relish. Not to mention how it would be attractive to children with their fun shape.
Chicken rice is always served with steam or roasted chicken, but the authentic Hainanese chicken rice would be served with Wenchang chichen . And influenced by local culture and preference palates, chicken liver, heart and gizzards are also available.
Some claimed that the reason why it was served as such is to keep the rice warm till meal time. A pioneer seller told me it was to enable simpler portability for labourers and workers as during the olden time most were striving to survive and they have to work really hard. No time for lunch break or tea break back then, only eating quickly for the energy you needed for the rest of the day. That is also why the dish is made as such so rice would have an immense flavour and even more with the chili sauce. Of course it was sized like the tennis ball instead of the current golf ball. This came from the history of the Hoe Kee Chicken rice in Melaka whereby selling chicken rice ball also contributed to the name of the street, Ji Chang Jie – ‘chicken market street’ aka Jonker street.. Somewhere in Singapore called the Jalan Besar, you would still find this authentic sized rice balls. I look forward to tasting the flavour of the rice.
(Photo adapted from The Silver Chef )
Hoe Kee is up till today still dominating the chicken rice ball businesses in Jonker Street and ever more with the beautiful preservation of the heritage building. Of course there are many which I wouldn’t call them the imposters, but those are definitely not as good as the Hoe Kee. But then again, this can be rather subjective as palate is rather distinguishably varying individually. However, the place is always packed and fully seated with people both local and tourists.
This time around, we have the Heng Hainanese Chicken rice which is located in Melaka Raya. They are the second generation of the Hoe Kee and preserving the family recipe of what determines the perfect chicken rice- the rice and the chili, you get the same taste at a better dining atmosphere. No need to line up and easy car parking here.
On top of being gloriously shaped and how they are supposed to taste, the rich flavour of the rice came from those fully infused with ginger and garlic, and of course, chicken fragrance from the grains that have been pre-fried in chicken fat and then cooked in chicken broth.The balls themselves still manages to maintain a slender grainy texture but yet soft enough to swallow effortlessly.
Instead of the white chicken, alternately roasted chicken is another local favourite. Also serving in the restaurant is the Asam Fish and Black Bean Soup which is refillable.
The soup would promise satisfaction to the meal and not to mention how you get all nourishment and goodness from the black bean soup which would take a long time if to be boiled at home.
Remember, if you only have one day in Melaka then this is a must have for you don’t find this anywhere else.
The Heng Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball is located at :
No. 536, Jalan Melaka Raya 10,
Taman Melaka Raya, 75000,
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Read previous ‘Eat and Drink Melaka’ chapters to find out what and where to eat in Melaka here: