Cafe Malacca

A night of messy salad tossing

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There are moments in life when you have to pick a side. Religion or science. Tom or Jerry. Musical theatre or human decency. Hong Kong or Singapore.

I, as a three-year resident of our South China outpost, have been fully indoctrinated with the passive aggressive indignation one is expected to feel towards Singapore. I’ll now take the ramshackle chaos and fishball fragrance of Honkers over the cleanliness and equanimity of Singers every time.

So, it was with a slight hesitation that I accepted an invitation to celebrate Chinese New Year with the Singapore Society of Hong Kong. The dinner was to be held at Café Malacca, Hotel Jen’s signature restaurant.

Café Malacca is heralded as a little piece of Singapore in Hong Kong. And in a way with its strip lighting, utilitarian design and disappointing wine menu is exactly what you’d find in many a Singaporean eatery. Along with its reputation as the purveyor of Hong Kong’s finest Malaysians fare, in its spare time Café Malacca also operates as hotel Jen’s breakfast room. So, the wonderful sights of the varied buffet was somewhat marred by huge vats on cornflakes.

The evening commenced as you might expect; niceties, smiles and exchanging of business cards. But quickly took an unexpected turn as our compere announced we’d indulge in a traditional salad toss. Now, where I come from ‘tossing the salad’ (see Urban Dictionary if you must) is not discussed in polite conversation, let alone performed on mass. However, I quickly found out that the tossing of the prosperity salad (Lo-Hei Yu Sheng) is a Cantonese tradition on the seventh day of the New Year. We received an enormous plate of raw fish, shredded vegetables, pickles and fine noodles and instructed to chuck it all up in the air with our chopsticks while recounting an auspicious saying. This was all very jovial, especially as our table had consumed more wine than the rest of the restaurant put together.

The salad would have provided ample sufficiency but the extravagant buffet still lay ahead. As the aroma of charred, sticky satay had been filling the room while we were flinging noodles about, that was my first port of call. If the beef and chicken satay was the only dish I ate that night I would have left a very happy man. That was until I mopped-up the remaining satay sauce with roti prate. This was deliciously crispy, yet moist and buttery and completely moreish.

I reluctantly moved away from the satay station and, as I was rocking an exceptionally overpriced shirt which narrowly escaped the Lo-Hei massacre, I skipped the laksa station and headed straight for curry action. I quickly lost track of what I was eating but the mixing of various sauces and meats provided a wholly satisfying experience (especially when scooped up in yet more prata!). The meat was perfectly tender and gravy was rich in texture and flavour, providing a perfect end to the meal.

 

How much? $500 all you can eat (without alcohol)

Where? Hotel Jen, 508 Queen’s Road West, Hong Kong

Who goes? Homesick Singaporeans

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