The very long queue in front of Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball extended down to Singapore. Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but it was long enough to push my friends Ces and Asta and me to deliberate for several minutes whether we would like to try this evidently popular restaurant or not. While the long line was truly convincing, a testament to how good their food could be, it was also very discouraging.
There we were in the middle of Jonker Street, under the bright and fierce Malaccan sun, wondering how long it would take us to secure a table if we chose to dine there now. Our minds were saying “Go for it!” but our grumbling stomach was disagreeing! It was already 2pm and we were hungry, no, famished. We hadn’t had any meal that day. The tummy prevailed. The group decided to just save it for tomorrow and just find a quick restaurant instead.
The next day, we were the first in line. It was 10 o’clock in the morning and we were ready for lunch! Or brunch.
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball Restaurant is one of the two most popular chicken rice ball places in the city of Malacca; the other is Chung Hwa, not very far from the former. It’s not very difficult to see just how tourists and locals adore this resto. The long queues are an unmistakable sign. The light blue notice is another; it warns customers that they would be serving “loose” chicken rice along with their rice balls on weekends and public holidays, primarily because rice balls take much more time to prepare.
A waitress took our order while we were waiting in line, which was a smart and efficient move, I reckoned. Our instinct pushed us to have half chicken (RM 15), rice balls (RM 0.2 per ball), liver (RM 0.5), and cabbage (RM 1). It wasn’t long until another waitress led us to a corner table. We could not help but notice just how busy the place was. The servers were totally restless, entertaining so many tables one after another. Everything was fast paced here. I guess they had to make it work given the number of customers that flood through their door every day.
Five minutes later, the waitress approached our table, bearing light green plastic plates that cradled our lunch (or brunch)! None of them were remarkably appetizing as far as plating is concerned. It was just like your typical food-spooned-into-the-plate set-up. But I guess the taste would make up for the presentation.
The most unusual thing on our table, of course, was the rice balls because here in the Philippines, we don’t really do much with our rice. These rice balls are cooked with chicken stock and were hand-shaped into golf balls. I am not really a fan of dense rice so I still preferred the loose version to the balls. Quite honestly, the rice was just OK. Nothing wrong with OK, though.
The Steamed Chicken, however, was another story. Served with slices of cucumber on the side, the chicken was so tender and soft. It was also so smooth and juicy that I could imagine it just slide down my throat every time I took a bite. The soy sauce and chili sauce served with it also added to its delightful taste! It was so good. It was great. It was perfect.
The cabbage was also a great surprise. We ordered a plate of cabbage just to balance out the meat but we got more than what we bargained for. Like the chicken, it was perfectly cooked. It was soft and flavorful, with the right saltiness to it. I don’t really like vegetables but I really enjoyed it.
The liver and gizzard were just okay, too. Nothing special.
As much as we’d like to stay longer and talk about everything there was in the world during that time, the queue outside the restaurant was starting to grow and grow. While we hoped the rice were something more unexpected, we left the place with a full tummy and with new appreciation of chicken and, surprisingly, cabbage.
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball
4, 6, 8 Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street),
75200, Melaka, Malaysia