So it’s a Tuesday evening, usually pretty quiet and subdued and you just happen to have planned an early dinner in the city. Fair enough, no booking required eating out is pretty straight forward. You show up, you are seated and that is that. But when your plan involves Mamak be prepared to insert a long wait in line before you are seated into your plan. For me it was just on 30 minutes, holding our place in line all by my lonesome.
Sitting on pretty much the corner of Goulburn and Dixon streets right at the cusp of China Town Mamak has attracted healthy crowds since as long as I have known about it, and no doubt long before even then. Rae tells us that in Malaysia Mamak means ‘street food’ and the fact that you need to wait patiently on the street just adds that little bit of authenticity to the whole thing, if it needed it that is.
Teh tarik – classic Malaysian sweetened tea, ‘stretched’ for a frothy topping ($3.50) / Kopi ais – ice white coffee ($3.50) / Kopi tarik – Malaysian white coffee ($3.50).
Since we were eating Malaysian we had to also drink Malaysian. I took the predictable route of Kopi ais (ice white coffee) while Lex & Rae went for the classic and uberly sweet Teh tarik (Malaysian sweetened tea) and Kieran for the Kopi tarik (Malaysian white coffee) which was like mine but not iced. Well the Kopi ais had a kick to it, not so much that utterly addictive espresso kick but something a lot sweeter and a little smoother, but it was the after taste that had me unsure. The Teh tarik was insanely sweet for a tea, reminding me of the days I used to add 6 or more teaspoons of sugar to my black tea.
Roti canai – the original roti, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside ($5.50).
Roti, it is really the main reason I had wanted to go to Mamak for so long. Only in the last 5 years or so have I discovered this gem of a dish. Lex will probably try to claim all responsibility for my introduction to Roti and I guess I will have to concede she may have helped a little. The roti canai was brilliant and exactly as described, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside what more could you ask for.
Roti telur – classic egg roti ($6.50).
This was more the style of roti I was used to, flat and a little heavy and not even close to be as light and fluffy as the roti canai. Again it was great, the egg gave it a real meaty bite but it still remained light enough. The sides you get with each of the roti courses also deserve a mention. There are the two little curries, one a dahl which is nice and rich and bursting with the goodness of pulses, then the thinner fish curry but last and not least the Sambal. Sambal belacan is my guess as it has that sensational chilli edge sambal is known for but the real depth (and acquired taste) of belacan. Belacan is the Malaysian version of shrimp paste and just like all other versions it is intensely rich and sometimes on the verge of being too overpowering.
Chicken satay – grilled over flaming charcoal for that authentic Malaysian flavour. Served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce ($9.00 for 1/2 dozen).
Chicken satay, why not. Six does not divide evenly between four so my first thought was to not worry about having a second as they are only chicken skewers. But it turned out they were tasty tasty chicken skewers and I had second thoughts about those left over skewers. With all this other food I decided to bow out and let the others fight to the death. The dipping sauce was as much of a winner as the skewers and with such a generous serving it seemed to find its way as an accompaniment to most of the other dishes.
Kacang panjang belacan – stir-fried long beans with chillies and shrimp paste ($14.00).
More belacan, some things need to be eaten in moderation, and belacan can be one of those ingredients (that is if you haven’t grown up with it) but the beans just had a way to really break through the richness and keep me coming back. As always I just love snake beans, that squeak you get in your mouth as you bite through them is priceless but they are also really able to keep their flavour and match it with things just like the belacan.
Ayam berempah – bite-size chicken pieces stir-fried with whole spices ($16.00).
Ok so we have star anise, cinnamon (cassia), cardamom, cloves and a few more I couldn’t visually identify but that I could quite definitely taste. After I had my little investigation I got right in and secured two pieces, one with masses of crispy crunchy skin and the other bulging with thigh meat. Straight into the crispy skin and it is spot on, crunch crunch crunch and a nice smoky spice flavour throughout both the skin and the chicken. I really loved dipping the pieces in the left over satay sauce from the skewers.
Maggi goreng – a popular mee goreng variation using Maggi noodles ($11.50).
I have never really been a huge fan of mee goreng but thought the maggi goreng would be cool to try. It was much like most other noodle stir-fries with a nice selection of chicken, some prawns and a good amount of bean sprouts and egg throughout. Sadly I think all of my attention was with the other dishes and I only had a small taste and never really got to experience it enough.
Roti bom – a truly indulgent roti served thicker, richer and sweeter ($8.50).
Dessert and roti all in one, Lex was ecstatic. It looked quite like a pastry snail and the sugar glaze on top just added to that visage. Dividing this thing up turned out to be quite the challenge as the glaze had all but glued it to the plate. After we had wrangled enough on our plates and snatched our teeny portion of vanilla ice cream it began. I was strangely the first the demolish this dessert, and why not it was a cross between a pastry snail, a Danish pastry, a croissant and roti all at once. Quite a feat if you ask me.
Start to finish it was an hour and a half, and that is with me patiently waiting in line while the others took their sweet time to keep me company. A really good amount of food too, just teetering on being full and that is really as good as you can get. Oh and the fact that with the drinks it was less that $25 each you cannot complain even a little bit. I will be back, and soon, as we missed out on the Rojak and I really want more roti!
15 Goulburn Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 9211 1668