Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Portuguese Settlement Seafood at J & J Corner Malacca Ujong Pasir JK1272
Today, my friend Kurt brought me to try Portuguese style seafood at J & J Corner at Malacca's Portuguese Settlement.
J & J refers to Joan and Juliet, the ladies who founded the stall here over thirty years ago. J & J Corner is now in the third generation, run by sisters Claudine and Defene.
In the picture - front row left to right, Defene, Claudine and her daughter. Back row, Christopher (Defene's husband) and Kurt, my friend.
J & J Corner is located at the popular food centre at the Portuguese Settlement. I have not been here for at least 20 years and the seafood restaurants were then wooden houses on stilts instead of this contemporary food centre.
There are 10 Portuguese style seafood stalls here, prominently numbered 1 to 10. The type of food offered by the stalls are similar but each have their closely guarded recipes and following. This style of cuisine is unique to the Kristang community here which are descendants of Portuguese and local marriages during the century of Portuguese rule from 1511 to 1641.
We came here by meter taxi which costs RM17. The journey took just 10 minutes from the city centre. (There are taxi drivers who will not use their meters and they charge more.)
J & J Corner is stall #10 at the far end of the food centre, furthest from the car park.
The moment we alighted from the taxi we were approached by men who tried to usher us to their respective stalls. We just politely told them that we already have a reservation ;-D
Every morning, Christopher who is better known as Pher among family and friends, goes to the Malacca Straits in his small fishing boat.
Pher brings in the day's catch in the late afternoon, selling his catch to restaurants and fish mongers.
Needless to say some of the handpicked fish ends up at the family shop, J & J Corner.
This was the Portuguese Baked Fish (RM35) made with the fresh red snapper which Claudine just showed us.
I love this. Very much.
The fish was so fresh and sweet as Pher caught it just hours ago. The spicy gravy smothering the tender flesh was most impressive - the savoury, sweet and spicy flavours were gentle and finely balanced so that it was delightfully delicious. If you like a little natural tanginess in the gravy, you can squeeze in a bit of fresh lime juice.
Claudine told us that for most dishes, the amount of spices and ingredients used were estimated by eye and feel, but for this Baked Fish, her grandma Joan insists on exact measurements.
I have tried spicy baked fish at other places before and this is one of my favourites.
Curry Debal or more famously, Devil's Curry (RM18). Every Portuguese family have their own recipe for this signature dish, each with their different levels of punishing spiciness.
J & J Seafood Corner's Devil's Curry is savoury and spicy but not at the masochistic levels of spiciness of some other family recipes. Claudine said that the level of spiciness is tuned to be acceptable to most people.
JJ's Devil Curry is made with fresh chicken and they are cooked till tender and well infused with the blend of curry spices, candle nut, galangal (ginger) and vinegar.
J & J's Calamari Fritter (RM12).
The fried calamari (squid) rings were typically spongy with a slight crisp outside and tender inside. What makes this dish interesting is the homemade dipping sauce which is a blend of savoury, sweet, spicy and a little bit of tanginess.
I love egg plants (brinjal) and the Portuguese style of cooking this spongy juicy vegetable is a must try.
The halved egg plant is deeply scored and then seasoned with salt and black pepper. The egg plant is then fried in a hot saucepan till it is slightly caramelised outside but still juicy inside. Claudine did a great job as the brinjal was evenly fried.
The sweet spongy vegetable is balanced with savouriness and a slight peppery note.
This delicious dish costs RM8.
As I have another dinner appointment back in the city, we didn't try many dishes this evening - just enough to whet my appetite and rekindle my curiosity about the Portuguese Settlement and their unique cuisine.
I will definitely be back to try more dishes at J & J, the other stalls here, learn more about the Kristang (Portuguese Eurasian) community, and also watch the famous beautiful sunset over the Malacca Straits.
Restaurant name: J & J Corner
Address: Stall #10, Medan Selera Perkumpungan Portugis, Melaka (Malacca)
GPS: 2.183238, 102.267461
Hours: 5:30pm to 12:00am (closed on Mon)
Tel: 012-618-5082 / 012-608-1724
No pork, no lard, no Halal cert
Date visited: 20 Oct 2015
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