Roti canai and curry $9.20
Three pieces of roti canai bread
with lamb curry
It's taken us a while to get to Alice's. On our first attempt (after about a year of intent), we'd arrived to find it closed, ending up at bbq one instead, a tasty consolation nevertheless. After a forty minute drive on our second attempt, we were relieved to find it open, but soon discovered they were operating without electricity due to power failures from the storms buffeting Sydney. Thank goodness Alice was cooking with gas!
Hainanese chicken rice $9.00
Steamed chicken with chicken rice
drizzled with garlic oil and soy sauce
Alice's is a plain little family-run restaurant. The entrance screen door, left ajar, looks just like one you'd encounter at any suburban flat. Once inside you notice the counter immediately on your left, packed with varying towers of Alice's famous home-made kuih, Malaysian sweets predominantly steamed and made from coconut milk.
On the wall in front of you is a proudly framed letter from Maeve O'Mara, thanking Paul and Alice for their participation in an episode of Food Lovers' Guide to Australia. I remember the beautiful kuih from that episode well.
Off to your right is a modest room that feels a little like a converted garage--in the nicest possible way of course. The walls and tables are white and clean, there's a large window looking onto the street (just as well since the lights aren't working today) and an open sideboard is conveniently accessible for our additional crockery and cutlery needs.
We're in need of more bowls and chopsticks because all five of us are sharing dishes today, an attempt to cover as much of the menu as possible.
Nasi Lemak $9.00
Chicken rendang with coconut rice,
anchovies, peanuts and egg
The Hainanese chicken arrives first. The cleaved pieces of chicken are moist and succulent, the rice is faintly sweet with chicken stock. Splodges of sweet and salty garlic paste are drizzled on top; a dish of sweet chilli sauce rests to one side. I'm more used to the plain Hainan chicken served with salty ginger and shallot oil, but N and C can't get enough of the stuff.
The nasi lemak is a typically great contrast of textures. Fluffy steamed rice, creamy spicy rendang and the richness of egg are interspersed with the delightful crunch of peanuts and the honey sweetness of deep-fried baby anchovies. Slivers of tomato refresh the palate after dipping into the extra mound of sambal.
Two fresh spring roll wraps with yam bean,
vegetables, egg and Chinese sausage
Popiahs are an interesting mix of vegetable crunch and sweet bean sauce. Wrapped in sheets similar to a raw spring roll wrapper, I find them cool and refreshing.
Nasi Goreng $9.80
Rice fried with sambal paste, curry leaves,
prawn, chicken and dried shrimp
The nasi goreng is a jumble of rice, prawn, chicken, peas, shallots and corn, mixed through with sweet kecap manis, a thickened soy sauce, and fried until a pale golden hue. The corn kernels are sweet and juicy, and there are enough caramelised crunchy bits to keep me happy.
Char kway teow $9.80
Rice noodles in thick soy sauce
with Chinese sausage, seafood and chives
The rice noodles in the char kway teow are satiny smooth and slippery as only fresh noodles can be. Bits of fried egg, fish cake and Chinese sausage appear randomly throughout mouthfuls, the cleansing crunch of bean sprouts is a welcome constant.
Roti canai is the real crowd-pleaser of the day. The three flaky pancakes are fresh from the frypan, gloriously crisp on the outside and torn apart to reveal delicate layers within. We dunk them generously into the thick puddle of curry which has a delayed chilli kick. The islands of lamb chunks are superbly tender.
Sago with gula melaka $4.80
and coconut cream
For dessert we share a bowl of sago with gula melaka. The sago is a solid mass of starch bubbles. It rests on a lake of gula melaka palm sugar, so caramelly sweet it almost makes my teeth hurt. The coconut milk is slightly salty. The green jelly beans are sweet and crunchy.
Homemade pandan strands, red bean and jelly
in coconut milk and gula melaka
We all adore the cendol, a dessert-like drink that includes layers of green noodles, cooked soft red beans, coconut milk, palm sugar syrup and plenty of shaved ice. We've always called the pandan noodles "green worms". I'm a huge fan of the round tubs of worms and coconut milk you can get from Vietnamese grocery stores.
The worms aren't particularly sweet (cooked pandan-flavoured dough is pushed through a sieve into iced water) but that just makes the palm sugar syrup such a welcome toffee kick.
We raid the kuih counter on our way out. Unfortunately there are no onde onde coconut balls left today, but we do pick up boxes of kuih lapis, a soft sticky rainbow cake of steamed red, white and green layers; kuih serimuka, a layer of green coconut custard over coconut sticky rice; and kuih talam, a dark green layer of mung bean jelly topped with a thin salty layer of coconut cream.
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Makan at Alice's
Shop 3, 262 Pennant Hills Road, Thornleigh, Sydney
(turn into Bellevue Street and it's on your left)
Tel: +61 (02) 9484 8288
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am - 2.30pm
Dinner Thursday to Sunday 6.00pm - 9.00pm
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Makan at Alice's, Thornleigh (CNY Banquet 2009) and (2008)
Cafe Kasturi, Haymarket
Kopitiam Malaysian Cafe, Ultimo, April 2007
Kopitiam Malaysian Cafe, Ultimo, April 2006
Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney, April 26, 2007
Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney, April 03, 2007
The Malaya, Sydney
Tan's Malaysian, Ultimo
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6/17/2007 11:57:00 pm