Going Nuts Over Hotpot
06 January 2012
From what we had read on the travel guides and forums posts etc, we knew that the Satay Celup was a must-try when we went to Melaka in Malaysia.
Satay celup is a hotpot with a twist. The reddish-brown broth seen in the picture used in the hotpot is what is known as the satay sauce in the region, which is a peanut paste mixed with chili and other spices. It is slightly spicy and very aromatic because of the generous amounts of peanut in the sauce. The nuts also provide it with a crunchy texture and a rich, lingering aftertaste.
The food that goes into the satay celup are skewered on satay sticks, which are little wooden skewers. What goes in is subject to the eatery's owner's creativity, and can include things like prawn, vegetables skilfully twirled into a ball, fishballs, hotdogs, quails eggs, dough sticks etc. Bread and cucumber, which taste heavenly when dipped in the sauce, are also available.
An interesting fact, for people who have not tried it, is that the satay skewers serve two purposes. The first is for easy handling of the food, as demonstrated in the picture. Customers pick up the food they like to try from what resembles a buffet line, and when they get back to their tables, dip the skewer in the broth to cook the food, When the food is cooked, one simply pulls out the skewer and bites into the food (do wait for it to cool a little though!) With the skewers, there is no need to use your hand or any other cutlery to handle the food.
Another reason for the skewers is that when it is time to pay the bill, the eatery's staff comes along and counts the number of skewers of food you have consumed, which is a convenient measurement of the value of the food you have eaten. The price of the food on each skewer varies depending on the eatery you visit, but on average the food is charged at RM0.60 (US$0.20) per skewer.
The satay celup experience is not for the faint-hearted, as temperatures in the eatery can feel like you are sitting in a sauna, with twenty hotpots boiling away in a room that is not air-conditioned. The broth is also re-used--when a group of customers are done, they simply fill up the pot without emptying the its contents before doing so. If you like a fresh pot of broth, you should go at 5pm, when the eatery just opens, but the locals will swear that the broth is more delicious after several "rounds", which means you should only go at supper time. We also did not ask if the satay skewers are reused. However, who dares, wins, and for people who are adventurous enough to throw caution to the wind like we did, you will find this experience enriching in more ways than one!