Like many of you out there, trying out local food is an essential part of our travels. For me there is no greater joy than when I find that one place in a city where the food is just great! It doesn’t necessarily (and rarely ever is) a fancy expensive restaurant but quite the contrary. Of course when you’re not too fussy about what you eat then the whole city is for your taking but there is something still magical about those restaurants where you sit down look around, have your first bite and say now that’s a great meal! For some it’s the ambience, others food, maybe a chatty helpful waiter or even the hottie at the cash counter but there’s always that extra reason that leaves you coming back for more. The one thing such places have in common is crowd, and the more locals in the crowd the better! We all know these kinds of eateries and everyone usually has his or her favourite in their own city.
While staying in Melaka in Malaysia, we were lucky to stay just round the corner from one such place – Capitol Satay. This place is an institution when it comes to their food. Is it something unique and that can’t be found anywhere else – no. In fact there is an identical place 2 doors down from them which is sadly always empty whereas this place has scores of people waiting in line for a table from the minute they open!
We saw it on our first evening here and seeing the long line of people outside I knew – we just had to eat there! Sadly the first time we tried we were too hungry to wait in the line but 2 days later I was determined to stand as long as it took to see what all the hype and food was about. It took us only 40 minutes waiting outside the restaurant but it was definitely worth it.
The category of food is ‘Satay Celup’ – satay referring to various meats marinated and cooked in a peanut based sauce and celup in malay means to ‘dip’. How it works is you go and pick up the food (most of them raw) you want to eat which are displayed in skewers. Each stick costs 80 sens (about .25 $) which is a bargain. The food displayed ranges from raw meats like chicken, pork, shrimp, mussels and boiled chicken/duck eggs in various forms to some veggies like okra stuffed with tofu and plain fried tofu.
Once you’re done picking your food, you seat yourselves at the table and wait for the big pot of spicy peanut sauce to be placed in the centre of your table. There is a stove and gas cylinder beneath each table to keep the pot boiling hot at all times. This ensures that your food is thoroughly cooked within minutes so you can feel at ease if the sight of all that raw food worries you :). The servers periodically come and stir the pot adding more bowls crushed peanuts into the sauce. It’s all very exciting really!
Depending on what you have on your skewer you dip your food in wait for the appropriate amount of minutes and eat away! Sea food – 7 mins, meat – 5 mins and veggies and tofu just need 2 mins.
Tip: You might want to avoid wearing white or your cleanest clothes for this dinner. You’re bound to spill some on it, especially if you’re as dexterous as I am.
Info: The place is open from 5.00 pm until late night. Location: Bukit China, Melaka.