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Monday, June 3, 2013

Sydney 2013: Mamak @ Goulburn St, Chinatown

With our Sepia dinner finishing at 11pm, we needed to test Sydney’s proclamation to being one of the world’s best culinary destinations for the last time.  Eateries are still aplenty at this hour but typically consist of Chinese venues and sloppy Pub food.  One word, Boring.  But there was just one thing which Sydney has that Perth do not, and it is not called the Opera house or the Harbor Bridge, it is called Mamak.  This Malay-Indian fusion culinary subculture might be rare in Australia but is a common food enjoyed by fellow Malaysians back home.  Food usually sold includes various type of Roti, curry, satay, nasi lemak and the list goes on.   So when someone who lacks experience in such food comes and decides to quantitatively give a “1 hat” score to this restaurant, I became admittedly, suspicious. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlipping Roti to get it spread thinly is vital to making these beautiful food.  When cooked, these little pockets of air forming within each subsequent layer (which have been folded) gives the basic Roti a crisp and fluffy consistency.  The finish though requires painful effort where one slams the piping hot Roti to give it that final smash that creates airways to quickly cool and crisp the layers.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Mamak, the Roti came crisp and fluffy.  It had the basic condiments which includes a small serve of sambal, dhal (vegetarian curry) and a meat curry (sauce only).    For me, the Roti was good and fresh such that it was light and not dense like those frozen ones.  Definitely a game changer although their curry was OK only.  But what is OK for a Malaysian would be a good thing here.  Especially when Sydney is many thousand miles away from home.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next Roti we had was the one with red onions and egg.  Succulent onions in a Roti is already a charm by itself, but having eggs help complete this omelette tasting Roti.  Unlike the basic one, this do not carry the same fluff and lightness but one can distinguish between a good and bad one by identifying the inconsistencies found in the wrapping.  The one at Mamak was decent in flavor though from the half I shared with Andrew, I found large pieces of flour stuck at several areas.


The last big dish was an important one, not only to the Mamak food culture but to all Malaysians.  The Nasi Lemak with fried chicken!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA#Take 1

This delicious rice dish is easily a national icon. Many Malaysians love this true and true with the increasing population of dieting girls being its only enemy. Its rice is simply fragrant with coconut milk and pandan leaf which not only gives it a great flavor, but a certain richness too. Usual condiments are hard to fault with although many will argue on which is the right sambal. Some like theirs spicy, some sweeter and some wants a strong hint of acidity. But lets all settle for; there is no right one. Each race in Malaysia creates a different sambal which changes depending on the places it comes from. North, South, East, West. They are all different. For me, the one at Mamak was good enough to be called Malaysian with its sambal having potent spiciness and saltiness rather than sweet. Anchovies were serve crisp and the roasted peanuts were fresh. This relinquishes the disgusting left-over oily smell that plagues this dish at times.


The fried chicken came out suspiciously orange and fragrant which made me wonder what was used in the batter.  Maybe a mix of turmeric and curry powder?  The chicken here had a very tasty batter but felt like it needed a bit more sitting time to allows the flavors to seep in.  Still a good bite nonetheless.


Over all, my meal at Mamak was a good one.  As a Malaysian, it might be worth 6.5-7.5 out of 10, but as a Malaysian living in Australia, this place settle comfortably for a 9.  While the hype in Sydney revolves around fine dining establishments like Quay, Est., Tetsuya’s, Marque, Sepia and such, it is ultimately such simplistic yet culturally significant places like Mamak and Bourke Street Bakery that keeps the community eating.  It is cheap, good, and convenient.  After all, how many 4 hours meals can one do sustainably? 



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