Mamak is a Malaysian café/restaurant that serves food usually found at a gerai mamak (mamak food stall). The word mamak originates from the term used to describe Malaysians from an Indian Muslim background. Unfortunately, over the years, the word itself came to be occasionally used as a derogatory slur. However, as far as I can tell, gerai mamak is a pretty neutral word. In Malaysia, the local mamak stall used to be literally a stall set up by the side of the road, and everyone went there to meet with friends any time of the day, to catch up on gossip and to just hang out. In fact, these stalls are so popular, a lot of them are no longer roadside, but have moved into larger digs and there are now mamak restaurants that are open 24 hours!
Back to Sydney, and over in these Mamak restaurants, you’ll find the requisite roti canai (fried flat bread) and nasi lemak (coconut rice), but they’ve also added satay to the menu (not usually part of the fare in the original mamak stalls). On top of that, you can find a small selection of Malaysian dishes comprising curries and vegetable stir-fries (you can check out the full menu on their website). I couldn’t tell you what these dishes taste like because we usually go for what we miss most - roti, nasi lemak and satay. And teh tarik, teh-o-ais limau, cendol and ais kacang. ☺
Our Chatswood mamak experience started with a mini hunt to find the actual restaurant – it’s actually tucked into a corner of the new Eat Street area. Once you find it, it’s pretty obvious. I was actually looking for the long queue outside the front (a hallmark of the city based Mamak), but was pleasantly surprised that we were whisked off to our table within 5 minutes of entering the premises, even with two other groups waiting before us. Mind you, it was a Saturday lunch, we were earlyish (about 12.15), the restaurant is only a week old, and the weather was foul (icy cold winds). I’m willing to bet that the queuing will come, but I think this Mamak will be better equipped to handle the hordes as they have seating for 110 (or so I've heard). And as a testament to their popularity, the restaurant was almost full given the conditions I mentioned above.
A photograph of the queue at the other Mamak. So postmodern ;)
As mentioned above, we ordered our favourites and the food didn’t disappoint. The rotis were flaky, the nasi lemak piping hot, and satays fragrant and delicious. And all very authentic, the flavours are like what you’d find in Malaysia. I love the satay sauce here, in fact I was eating forkfuls of it once the meat and cucumber had gone. Being only a week old, there were a few minor teething problems, some of the staff might still be learning the ropes. It took us three tries to get some water for the table and I observed a diner across from us try a few times to catch someone’s attention before he could successfully order. But like I said, the place is still new, and it was pumping, so these minor hiccups were easy to excuse.
And while we still freak out at paying $5 for a roti (only because they cost about RM0.70 (70 cents) in Malaysia), overall value for money is pretty good too. Our bill for 3 rotis, 2 nasi lemaks with add-ons, ½ dozen satay and an ice-kacang came up to $50. Sure beats the price of a plane-ticket! ;P
Nasi lemak with chicken curry
Nasi lemak with sotong (it's written as nasi lemak with calamari but the sotong is actually a dried version of the squid, which is rehydrated). This one was oh-so-soft! When handled wrongly, it's likened to eating bicycle inner tubes ("macam getah basikal" as locals would say).
Roti, how I love you
Beef satay and THAT sauce.
Ais kacang (Shave iced dessert - Mr. Kitchen Hand sat out this course)
Because it contianed things like these red beans and "cincau" (herbal jelly)
We rolled out of there very happy and contented, and since it’s much easier for us to get to Chatswood than the city, it looks like we’ll be able to get our roti fix much more ofter. Joy!
Hope you have a great start to the week everyone ☺
Don’t forget, if you’d like to participate in our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, please send your entries in to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummies who’ll be hosting this month. Thank you!
Shop P9, 1-5 Railway Street Chatswood 2067.
T: (02) 9411 4411.