Oct 21 2012
Every day Restoran Famosa in Melaka serves up hundreds of plates of its signature chicken rice balls. Some see the restaurant as a local institution, but others consider it a tourist trap. Is it worth the hype and should you seek it out from among Melaka’s other restaurant offerings?
Our first observation, and one explanation as to why it’s so popular with tourists, is that Restoran Famosa is ridiculously easy to find. The restaurant occupies multiple buildings on the shopping strip of Jonker Street and, between the massive sign (in English and Mandarin) and the cooked chickens hanging in the window (heads and feet still attached), it’s impossible to miss.
Inside, the restaurant has a much simpler style with round tables, stool seating and some red Chinese lanterns. The walls are plastered with photos of famous people eating at their restaurant, but we didn’t recognise any of the chicken rice-loving celebrities.
A waitress quickly appeared with the menu but seemed to expect us to be ready to order milliseconds later. Thankfully, it’s pretty straightforward: you can order chicken by the quarter (9 ringgit), half (18 ringgit) or whole (36 ringgit). Rice balls cost 0.30 ringgit apiece. You also choose whether you want roasted chicken or the more traditional steamed chicken. Since there’s no bulk discount to tempt you to over-order, a half chicken and ten rice balls is plenty for two people or makes a light meal for three. Though it’s not what they’re famous for, Famosa also serves roasted pork, stir-fried veggies, tofu, wonton soup and ice cendol for dessert.
Since the chicken and rice balls are pre-cooked, the meal appeared within minutes. While the perfectly round balls of rice are a novelty, they were flavourless on their own and quite dense, perhaps because they’re made by a machine. The chicken fared better – we went with the roasted version – with crisp skin and a rich flavour from marinating in soy sauce and sesame oil. On each table is a metal cannister filled with garlic chilli sauce — it’s not particularly fiery, but adds some much needed zing to the rice balls.
While it wasn’t a meal that will go down in history, we enjoyed the food and ate up every last rice ball slathered with chilli sauce. The bill for two people came to 26 ringgit including two cups of lime juice.
We understand why locals turn their noses up at Restoran Famosa – they serve average chicken rice balls at slightly inflated prices – but it’s clear why you’ll find queues of hungry tourists waiting to eat here every weekend: the service is efficient, the prices are reasonable, the location is convenient and there’s an English menu. Moreover, Restoran Famosa has long opening hours, so you can try Melaka’s famous chicken rice balls for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Restoran Famosa Chicken Rice Ball
28/30 Jalan Hang Kasturi
T: (06) 286 0121
Open 08:00–21:00 Mon–Thurs, 08:00–22:00 Fri–Sun
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.