From salmon asam pedas to New Zealand lamb shoulder, the east-meets-west menu at LeQue has Putri Zanina drooling for more
DOES the mere mention of asam pedas make you salivate? The chilli- and asam-laden broth with aromatic lemongrass and other herbs and spices can take you into a whirl of culinary thrill. And this dish is synonymous with Malacca, a state which claims to offer the best, most authentic asam pedas.
The traditional asam pedas calls for ikan tenggiri (Spanish mackerel) or ikan pari (stingray), while it’s also common to find the version with pomfret, ikan kembung (mackerel) and catfish. Much to my delight, I discover a restaurant called LeQue in Taman 1, Lagenda in Malacca city, which offers its unique version of this dish – asam pedas salmon, my favourite fish!
LeQue owner and chef Ibrahim Hamzah tells me that the dish is his own version of asam pedas.
“It’s not too hot so that more people can enjoy it,” he says. And I say yum to his asam pedas with the fresh and prime Norwegian salmon. The sourish, chilli-hot and well-seasoned broth with lady’s finger and just enough of daun kesum or Vietnamese mint sips through the richness of the fish. You need to pre-order this dish at least a day in advance.
Chef Ibrahim also offers the asam pedas with pari, beef, prawns and kupang (mussels).
“Mussels already have their own original flavour. I boil them in the asam pedas broth for only three to four minutes, that’s it,” shares Chef Ibrahim, adding that the mussels are cooked fresh on order only. I like the simple and quick cooking of the mussels as this retains the sweetness and softness. They are light, almost fluffy, very tender and do not have that ‘fishy’ taste. You get somewhat of an ethereal ‘ocean’ flavour.
“And then there’s asam pedas otak-otak, which is another unique creation of his that may appear as the Day’s Special. Otak-otak, a Nyonya fare, is spicy and aromatic fish meat wrapped in banana leaf and grilled. It is an appetiser. But adding it to the hot asam pedas, Chef Ibrahim has brought it to a different culinary dimension. It bursts with sweet, spicy, hot and sourish flavours that bring so much pleasure to eating. Each bowl of the different types of asam pedas comes with white rice, salted egg, ulam and sambal belacan.
UNIQUE NAME, CASUAL FEEL
LeQue opened three years ago in 2014, a stone’s throw from Jonker Walk in the heart of Malacca city before moving early this year to Taman 1, Lagenda opposite Aeon Mall.
Chef Ibrahim reveals that he named his restaurant after Hang Lekiu, one of the warrior friends of the legendary Hang Tuah of Malacca. LeQue is the stylised spelling for the old name. The chef, who hails from Gombak in Kuala Lumpur, chose it because others seldom use or mention this name. Many prefer to highlight Hang Tuan or Hang Jebat instead.
His restaurant is housed at a corner shop in the commercial area of Taman 1, Lagenda, with a casual outdoorsy feel. Fiery red cushions lend a contrasting splash to the predominantly white, black and grey of the overall deco. Your eyes will also be drawn to framed pictures of old Malacca and various collectibles, including the traditional wooden louvre window panels hung on the wall.
Other than whipping up Malay and Nyonya food, LeQue also offers a good selection of east-meets-west and Western fare. One of the bestsellers is chicken teriyaki pasta. The sticky salty-sweet teriyaki enhances the taste of the chicken meat and pasta. Another winner is the New Zealand lamb shoulder with mashed potato and salad, and drizzled with black pepper sauce. You can also choose to have the lamb with mushroom sauce. Try also the boneless chicken with garlic cream sauce, mashed potato, salad with vinaigrette and vegetables, which is Chef Ibrahim’s signature dish. The garlic flavour is mellow and the sauce is deliciously creamy. It gets a thumbs-up from me.
For dessert, go for the pisang bakar gula Melaka (palm sugar) with sago and vanilla ice-cream. The grilled banana with its smoky flavour blends beautifully with the melted palm sugar. Every mouthful is heavenly. End with a strong local coffee, Muar 434, and you’ll have a complete satisfying meal.
WHERE No. 14, Jalan Lagenda 3, Taman 1, Lagenda, 75400 Melaka
TEL 019-309 3214
HOURS 1pm to 11pm (daily), 5pm to 11pm (Friday). Close on Tuesdays.
FOOD Malay, Nyonya and Western.
PICK Asam pedas salmon, otak-otak and mussels, chicken teriyaki pasta, boneless chicken with garlic cream sauce and New Zealand lamb shoulder.
YOU’LL PAY Asam pedas set from RM10.90 to RM23.90. Other main dishes from RM15.90 to RM36.90 per dish.
MOOD Casual and relaxing.
SERVICE Accommodating and friendly.
OVERALL VERDICT Must try