Malacca, Malaysia - Dapur Cho Cho, traditional Nyonya Kueh makers
Dapur Cho Cho (literally "Great-grandmother's Kitchen") in Malacca's Batu Berendam suburb is one of those 3-generational "kueh" (Malay cakes) makers which sticks steadfastly to tradition, turning out limited amounts of "kuehs" cooked to exacting standards using the freshest locally-sourced ingredients. Dapur Cho Cho does not have its own retail shop or eatery, but supplies its "kuehs' each day to well-known Malacca dining establishments like Nancy's Kitchen, Amy Heritage Nyonya Cuisine, and the grand, old Majestic Hotel.
We made a visit to Dapur Cho Cho's domestic-sized kitchen, in the family's home in Batu Berendam. What struck me on my way in was that the rather wild-looking garden around their house consisted *entirely* of edible plants, herbs and fruit trees.
We were shown how "lepat kachang" (Malacca-speak for Malay "ketupat") was made - first the fan-like palm frond which provided the leaves used to wrap the glutinous rice-peanut "kueh", flavoured with coconut-milk and sugar. The "lepat kachang" are triangular-shaped, and boiled in water. The version at Dapur Cho Cho was delicious - sweet-salty-flavoured, with a lovely texture (most other versions tended to be too hard/chewy).
Dapur Cho Cho
84-3, Jalan Mohd Zin Dsh,
Taman Padang Balang,
Batu Berendam, Melaka.
Tel: +6012-276 8606 (call ahead to reserve & collect the "Kuehs", or to visit their home kitchen)
Dapur Cho Cho's "onde-onde": small pandanus-scented, par-boiled dumplings filled with molten "Gula Melaka" (palm sugar) and covered with freshly-grated coconut, were absolutely delicious - definitely the *best* in Malacca, and one of the best I'd ever tried in Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia (where it's called "klepon"). The "onde-onde" were served in trios, nestled in dainty, little baskets woven from pandanus leaves.
Another Dapur Cho Cho specialty is their "apom balek" - dense, eggy, half-moon-shaped baked cakes flavoured with mashed bananas. The "apom balek" were baked in an old brassware mould which belonged to the family's "Cho Cho" or great-grandmother. The aroma from the "apom balek" slowly cooking in the heavy mould was intoxicating.
The same "apom balek' mould is used to make "apom berkuah" - small white-and-blue flat pancakes, to be eaten with stewed bananas in pandanus-scented, coconut milk-palm sugar gravy.
The blue colour is from the "bunga telang", a purple-coloured flower used extensively in Nyonya cooking for tinting the food blue (photos of the plants and the dried flowers enclosed)