Don't leave Melaka without trying their signature Hainanese chicken rice dish, served with balls of rice cooked in chicken broth and flavored with spring onion and garlic.
The story goes that this dish was invented by a desperate Melakan housewife whose fisherman husband had been detained in Indonesia for trespassing on their waters. To supplement her family's income, she began selling Hainanese chicken rice lunches on the Melakan jetties. As EatingAsia tells it,
"Her customers were the men who loaded and unloaded boats. There was no such thing as official meal breaks; time was money and food had to be dished up and eaten as quickly as possible. The housewife figured that she might be able to sell more rice if it were easier to handle, and so she began rolling it into compact, bite-sized balls. She sold them for ten Malaysian sen a ball, two balls and a portion of chicken for fifty sen.
"A Melakan specialty was born."
("Melaka's Chicken Rice in the Round", EatingAsia.com)
You can't go wrong by trying the original chicken rice ball, Hoe Kee Chicken Rice Ball at Jonker Street (it has EatingAsia's vote - see above - and Jasonmumbles.com seconds the motion).
Apart from globular rice treats, Melaka is also well-regarded for its Peranakan cuisine, honed over the centuries by the Chinese community in the city. Peranakan food is spicy, saturated with coconut milk, and served in the Chinatown district centered around Jonker Street.