July 22, 2010

Mamak, Haymarket - Why is it so popular?

"We should get there early, otherwise the queues will be too long", my friend tells me with a hint of panic in her voice. I get a flashback of seeing the queue stretch a whole block: "I can be there at 5pm".

Mamak, the insanely popular Malaysian restaurant on Goulburn Street in Sydney's Haymarket is showing no signs of slowing down. When we get there at 5pm, the line behind us starts growing steadily, and the restaurant doesn't even open for dinner until 5.30pm! By the time the door opens I am too excited to even look back, but by the time we step out 1,5 hours later, there are tens of people lining up and I'm sure that's how it is the whole night. Every night.

So why is Mamak so popular? I'll give you a few reasons why...

Teh tarik

We start with drinks and I'm loving the fact that the menu is full of drinks I have never heard of. I am told Malaysians love Milo (why?), which explains the large amount of Milo flavoured drinks. I love to order things I can't properly pronounce so I go for Teh Tarik, which, according to the menu is a "classic Malaysian sweetened tea, 'stretched' for a frothy topping'. I can't make up my mind about this, but end up finishing the whole glass so it must have been good.

Roti telur

I have heard so much about the rotis here, I can't wait to try some. We want something a bit more wholesome so we go for the Roti telur, which is a classic egg roti. All savoury rotis are served two curry dips and a spicy sambal sauce that threatens to blow my brains out on the first lick. I decide to leave the sambal to my friend and instead settle for the curries which are both very flavoursome, but a tad too spicy for my inadequate palate.

Roti telur

Roti telur

Chicken satay

The tender and moist chicken satay is served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce which is just the perfect spiciness for someone like me who is not yet quite up to speed with chilli-loving. I am surprised it is served with raw cucumber and Spanish onion, but apparently that's how they do it in Malaysia. I am not complaining :)

Nasi lemak with lamb

Known as Malaysia's national dish, Nasi Lemak has everything going on: coconut rice, sambal, tender lamb, crunchy peanuts (gosh I love nuts!), crispy anchovies, cucumber and hard boiled egg. I mean, what else would you possibly need?! Everything is there for a reason and together it just ends up being the most perfect taste of Malaysia I have ever had (okay, so this happens to be my first ever Malaysian dinner, but still).

Nasi lemak with lamb

Roti kaya

"DESSERRRTSS!", I squeal (like I do after almost every meal). We see a huge roti cone in the neighbouring table, but decide to go for roti kaya which is a roti filled with kaya spread (made out of coconut and pandan). I have an unexplainable fascination for kaya so I can't wait to try it in a roti. "Mmmmm", I response louder than Maeve O' Meara. It's so good. I don't know what else to say. And serve me anything with ice cream and I'm all for it.

Roti kaya

So this, my dear friend, is why there is always a queue...