Aunty Lee’s Restaurant at Plaza Arkadia in Desa ParkCity is frequented by doctors from a nearby medical centre for very good reasons.
These medical professionals have taste buds that drive them to an undisputed signature dish from the entire range of authentic Peranakan Melaka cuisine that the late Aunty Lee has left behind as her legacy.
Expatriates living in Mont Kiara, Petaling Jaya and Desa ParkCity may want to know that the legendary Aunty Lee, who passed on a few years ago, started her restaurant in a simple restaurant setting in Taman Sinn, Melaka in 1997, serving authentic home-cooked Peranakan Melaka cuisine. It has since become one of the most popular places for authentic Nyonya delicacies.
When a group of us were invited to do the food tasting at Aunty Lee’s first licensed restaurant outside Melaka, now located at the posh up-and-coming shopping arcade, everyone voted the Udang Masak Lemak Nanas the No 1 Nyonya dish.
John Ong is a northern Peranakan foodie fan, while his friend, Cherise Boey is a seasoned foodie fan and food critique from Penang. Former Sun managing editor, Lee Boon Siew is born and raised in Melaka, while his wife Ann Lee is also a food enthusiast with Penang taste buds.
They were the ones who picked this signature dish as their No 1 favorite dish, while it took me a long time to decide. After the food had “settled down”, I asked myself, “Now, if I have room for more food, what would I crave?” Always watchful over my cholesterol level, I found myself pointing to this one dish!
The prawns taste fresh, but what is appealing to my taste buds was Aunty Lee’s unique pineapple curry sauce. It was so yummy that I decided to salvage (table manners aside) whatever that was left over after the prawns were gone by asking the restaurant owner, Jackson Tan if I could pack the leftover curry home to enjoy with some bread. Perhaps, because of our suggestion, you will get to enjoy it with mantao soon.
Jackson with his son
It was then that I realised that Peranakan Melaka cuisine had very much more time to evolve, as the Peranakan community in Melaka have been in this part of the world much longer (since the era of Hang Li Po in the fifteenth century) than the Peranakan in the northern region.
And being closer to Johor, which was once a world producer of pineapples, it is easy to understand why southern Peranakan cuisine love to include the sweet tropical member of the bromeliad family.
The pineapple is also used in Aunty Lee’s Kerabu Timun, which is served as an appetizer. It is a mixture of cucumber, shallots, pineapple, galangal flower served with sambal belacan, sugar and lime juice.
The fruit has an “exceptional juiciness and a vibrant tropical flavour” and according to the George Mateljan Foundation, the pineapple is one of the healthiest foods in the world.
The pineapple contributes to the great taste in the Nyonya style of cooking. If I may borrow the famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “That which we call a ‘ripened pineapple’ (instead of rose) by any other name would be just as sweet”. It brings to mind the caricature of Aunty Lee and her sweet signature smile.
Another of their signature dish is the Cili Garam deep-fried fish topped with Aunty Lee’s special salted chili paste. According to Jackson, his son, Jeremy goes to Kuala Selangor to buy the fish and prawns fresh from the fishermen directly.
The Ayam Pong Teh, which is basically chicken and potato stew Nyonya-style, is suitable for children, because it does not use the chilli. The chicken is a home-cooked Malaccan Nyonya dish using onion, garlic, potato, black mushroom, taucheow (or fermented soy-beans) and braised slowly with gula Melaka.
My Number 2 favourite dish is Aunty Lee’s Otak-Otak. This steamed fish cake is well-spiced and topped with sliced onions and chilies to give it a perfect taste to my taste buds.
For those who love anything spicy and hot, Aunty Lee’s sambal belacan complements some of the cuisine. Before I forget, their Pie Tee is also a good appetizer to begin the meal with, and it is to be eaten with hot braised julienned turnips, condiments, and homemade chili sauce.
The Acar Ikan Asin Kurau is another great appetizer to try out. For the deserts, if it is in season, a scoop of Durian D24 paste can make the difference to the cendul, served with shaven ice, gula Melaka and red beans.
Cincalok, being well-known in Melaka, one may want to try Aunty Lee’s Cincalok omelette as this is not widely offered in other restaurants.
And, as I go through the menu again, I realise that Aunty Lee has a number of other signature dishes beyond just the few that we tried recently. Being located in a posh area, it is understandable that rental has to be factored in. A dinner for six adults and two children with the number of dishes that we had costs about RM500. We felt that it would have been ideal to have another two adults on this food tasting adventure.
Their portions are reasonably large; hence, for a smaller group, instead of the regular size for their Udang Masak Lemak Nanas (RM99), you can order a Small Portion (RM59).
Rightfully, the same dishes could comfortably feed a table of 10 adults, which would average out to approximately RM50 per head. The fresh seafood is about a third of the total cost; this does not take into account the drinks/dessert/taxes/service charges.
Therefore, if a group of colleagues, alumni or friends come together to try out Aunty Lee’s delicacies here and share the cost, it is not too much especially when you can have all the signature dishes here, besides enjoying the camaraderie of good company in the comfort of modern facilities instead of taking a drive down to Melaka.
Come prepared with a camera, as you may wish to take photographs of the cosy ambience of a modern Peranakan home. Read my 9-year-old son’s blog here.
Restoran Aunty Lee is located at E-G-10 Plaza Arkadia, Jalan Intisari, Desa ParkCity, Kuala Lumpur.
Business hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11.30am – 3.00pm and 6.00pm-10.00pm
Closed on: Mondays
https://www.facebook.com/AuntyLee-KL-1945703358974529/ (Aunty Lee KL)
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/JWTCkp9Vvus
The original Restaurant Aunty Lee is located at No 385 Jalan Ujong Pasir, Taman Sinn, 75050 Melaka
HP: 019-2788653 Tel: 06-2831009
Email: [email protected]