Straits of Malacca - Melbourne CBD

Straits of Malacca on Urbanspoon

Hot tea latte on a wooden table.
Please note that this restaurant has since closed from time of writing of this blog post.

With a wall mural literally a photographic snapshot of a Malacca heritage institution and a location in busy Swanston Street, I reckoned this must be a mecca for university students form Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.  It lies within the radius of the university precinct, also overlapping with tourist walkabouts and office workers looking for quick and easy snacks or meals.  It provides low sitting tables and easy, unassuming food presumably inspired by the cultural, trade and migration confluence that is, and was, Malacca.  Malacca, which once had an empire in South-east Asia and controlled the trade and shipping routes between East and West, has now been recognised as a UNESCO heritage site.

But that is just history.   The reality is that the Straits of Malacca restaurant offers their version of street food and strikingly simple lunch combination menus, with a food dish of your choice and a drink, usually the favourite teh tarik.  We chose the bee hoon siam and ayam masak merah (red coloured spice paste cooked chicken) to test out the place.  My Kuala Lumpur mate and I wondered if the food had been toned down to suit mainstream tastes or the increasing China market.  They were okay for a mid afternoon snack but we did indeed expect more. A Sydney mate later said, when listening of my encounters of Malaysian styled food in Melbourne CBD, that he heard that the good stuff in this cuisine had moved to the Melbourne suburbs, unlike not long ago.

Bee Hoon Siam, or at least the southern Malaysian Peninsular version of this dish. I did not find the vermicelli
chili hot but it was okay.

I noticed a particularly good serving of roti canai and curry on another table.  We heard much chatter in Mandarin and Cantonese. We sensed the presence of regular and repeat customers, people who need not even look into the menu and ordered their fav dish immediately upon sitting down. The customers want their food reliable, consistent and accessible.  The staff were friendly and the place, once opened, welcomes people any time until they close at night.  Sitting inside, you could look out at the goings-on on the main street, with trams, strollers and other traffic providing both the backdrop and activity that epitomises Melbourne itself.

The Ayam Masak Merah was obviously under, or maybe I hoped for more kick in the taste

When one badges a restaurant with associations of Malacca, I sort of half expected unique delicacies from this long established  port city.  The Straits Indians and Chinese of Malacca left indelible imprints, together with the Eurasian Portuguese community, the Dutch and the British.  I expected opportunities to savour Devil's Chicken,  satay celup and braised mutton, for example, but they were simply not there.  Haha, I reckon I was expecting too much.  Instead it was another outlet offering the usual street food menu from Malaysia - the Hainan chicken rice, the curry laksa, the fish curry and stir fried noodles.


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