Baba Charlie Nyonya Kuih is a must if you’re visiting Melaka. Operating in a traditional wooden house located in a tiny alley opposite the Masjid Tengkera, the location may be easy to miss; but do look for the red “Baba Charlie” signage on Jalan Tengkera and that will help point you to the right direction.
If all else fail, there’s always GPS/Waze. That would certainly end all your navigational woes.
The road (should I call it a lane instead?) is pretty small and secluded. It allows at most only one car to pass through at any one time so it’s advisable to park on the main road and walk in.
But be assured in the knowledge that down this lane good nyonya kuih beckons.
I know some of you may feel skeptical about Babe Charlie since it can be considered to be quite a commercial venture now. But be assured that even the locals here recommends Baba Charlie when it comes to nyonya kuih. I found out that shops plus some local hotels stocks their buffet counters with Baba Charlie kuih too!
Baba Charlie Nyonya Kuih was established in 1988 in Melaka. This business was passed down by Baba Charlie’s grandmother to his mother and then himself. They started off as a door-to-door business and became one of the leading traditional nyonya kuih manufacturers in Melaka today. Baba Charlie started his business selling just Nyonya Popiah (Spring Roll) and less than five types of Nyonya Cakes in a night market. Over the years, he expanded his business to include a variety of nyonya kuihs.
See the picture below? This is what you’re looking for. Push the gate and walk in.
Don’t forget to smile alright? The people here are usually very friendly and welcomes everyone.
Once inside you’ll be awestruck with either the kitchen or the production area. If you’re anything like me and are curious about how things are made or cooked, you’ll naturally gravitate towards the kitchen area where you can catch a glimpse of how the nyonya kuih are made.
And then there’s the “retail area”. Here is where you can select any kuih that suits your fancy. Frankly speaking, I was more interested in the production process. Seeing this made me indulge in the fantasy of rolling, stuffing, frying, wrapping and making my own nyonya kuih.
I do love baking & cooking; though unfortunately for me, time is a rare commodity. My hectic schedule does not permit such “frivolous” activities at the moment.
This lady wasn’t too friendly. She must be having a bad day. Either that or she’s just camera shy.
She snapped at me for taking her picture while she was making Kuih Dadar.
Kuih Dadar is a cylindrical shaped kuih with caramelized grated coconut flesh stuffed within a green pancake skin. The picture is not so clear, but I think you can see that she was preparing the green pancake skin to wrap around the coconut filling in front of her.
Here below is Pulut Inti. It is made from steamed glutinous rice in coconut milk topped with caramelized grated coconut flesh and wrapped in a cut banana leaf to resemble a small pyramid. Yups, Kuih Dadar and Pulut Inti actually shared the same filling/topping.
Amazing isn’t it? With one type of filling, one could create more than just one variety of nyonya kuih.
The variety here is good and pretty constant. I’ve been here 3 times and pretty much saw the same type of kuih-muih sold.
Ah, isn’t this a sight for sore eyes? Now, which one should I buy??
Prices ranged from RM0.60 – RM2.00. Very reasonably priced, considering that these are freshly produced everyday following old age recipes – no short cuts on the coconut milk or preparation methods, which in turn guarantees the authentic taste.
After so many visits, I daresay most of the kuih here are good, but do keep a lookout for the special Kuih Bongkong, something you don’t see often in the markets of Penang, KL, Terengganu or anywhere else. I often indulge the auntie in me and I visit wet markets a lot but I rarely see Kuih Bongkong sold.
Kuih Bongkong (some call it Kuih Jongkong) is made with fragrant gula melaka and has a smooth and silky texture – almost like the texture of a bean curd or chilled pudding; wobbly soft and decadent of coconut milk.
Some may find this kuih a tad too sweet, but that’s ok once in a while right?
Personally for me; as much as I like Kuih Bongkong, I’m crazy for the Baba Charlie Durian Apom more than anything else!
The Durian Apom is thick with durian flesh blended in the batter to make this kuih. Though no actual durian pulp is seen, the moist, dense pancake is sweetish and pungent enough to satisfy the durian lover in me.
I like pancakes, I love durian. So this durian apom is a definitely a must buy for me!
Fancy something heavier and savoury? Packet meals such as Mee Siam,Nasi Lemak or Nasi Kunyit are sold as well.
That day I was there there I was informed that the Mee Siam and Nasi Lemak will only be ready by 2:30 pm. But I couldn’t wait so I went back another day for it. I shouldn’t have bothered though.
The grains were hard, there was barely any aroma of coconut milk and the dull sambal didn’t help.
Urgh. You’re better off getting Nasi Lemak elsewhere. Just stick to the kuih if you’re in Baba Charlie’s place.
This is the onde-onde -glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar and rolled in fresh grated coconut flesh. The fun part of eating these is when you bite into one and having its sweet syrupy content flooding your mouth. Hmmm!
From right: Kuih Lapis and Kuih Seri Muka.
Kuih Lapis a rich kuih consisting of thin alternating layers made of (among other ingredients) flour, coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Each layer is spread and steamed separately. Quite a fun kuih to eat as you can peel each layer off and eat them individually. It’s supposed to have 9 layers and multi-coloured, but there’s no hard rules about that so this can be considered kuih lapis as well.
Kuih Seri Muka on the other hand consists of only two layers. The top green layer is made from green pea flour and extract of pandan leaf while the bottom layer is made from glutinous rice, coconut milk and coloured with bunga telang extract.
This blue one is the sago (tapioca pearls) kuih; cooked til soft, coloured with bunga telang extract as well while the brown layer is due to added brown sugar.
This is another one of my favourite.
Bingka Ubi (steamed cassava cake) is a type of baked nyonya kuih made from tapioca mixed in coconut milk. The caramelized crust at the top is caused by the baking process. The Bingka Ubi is fragrant and chewy with ample cassava flavour, just the way I like it.
Another mention-worthy item from Baba Charlie’s shop is their Yam Cake.
I’m wary of yam cakes as there’s usually more flour than yam in the cake. This one is good, though. The texture of the cake itself is springy with tiny cubed yams. The Yam Cake was topped with a generous amount of deep-fried shrimps, shallots as well as spring onions and complemented with the homemade chilli sauce.
The texture of this yam cake is firmer and denser than common ones, but with good flavour of yam overall so no complains here. I still prefer the one at Penang One in Kota Damansara though. (Do note that this Yam Cake is a Penang version of the kuih)
Apart from their kuih, I bought Baba Charlie pineapple tarts too. You can read about my 8 pineapple tarts table of comparison HERE.
Lastly, here’s a bit of a tip on how to shop here.
Grab a “shopping basket” and put everything in. Then queue (yes, queue !) to pay. This lady will calculate. And just like all people that are in this trade, she calculates really fast. Minus a calculator.
Take a look at my loot.
Talk about gastronomic indulgence! All of the nyonya kuih here are delicious, fresh, authentic, and wonderfully homemade.
So yes, Baba Charlie’s shop is definitely a must visit if you’re a big fan of nyonya kuih.
Here’s a picture of me, having my lovely tea time on the balcony in my suite in Casa del Rio.
To date, Baba Charlie is selling more than 35 types of nyonya kuihs. All kuihs are still traditionally made til this very day. This is to maintain the authentic traditional taste. Fancy indulging in the nyonya kuih the way I did? Here’s the address for it:
Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake
72, Jalan Tengkera Pantai 2,
Phone : 06-2847209/6019-6662907
Business hour : 10am-4pm Daily except Thursday
Also if you’re on Instagram, I’m giving away Cielo Dolci gelato (ever tried Nasi Lemak gelato??) and myBurgerLab burgers! Check out my Instagram @wackybecky !