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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mamak, Haymarket Chinatown

Teh ais $3
Iced milk tea

Mamak is a cheerful splash of red on Goulburn Street, a slick and stylish eatery that is filled with Malaysian students on a Saturday night in Sydney. Mamak refers to the cuisine of the Tamil Muslims of Malaysia, whose 24-hour snack stalls usually include flaky rounds of roti, meat-filled murtabak, nasi lemak and mee goreng.

Kari ikan $12.00
Tangy fish curry cooked with fresh tomatoes, okra and eggplant

There are no bookings taken here, but our group of eight manage to grab a table just after 6pm. Throughout the evening we note the constant queue of people out the door.

The staff are all smartly dressed in black t-shirts and pants; the wooden tables are shiny with laquer. It's a happy bustle of people tonight, groups of students, clusters of friends and the occasional family sharing a meal, the children meekly perching on the edge of their stool.

Our drinks mainly comprise of teh tariks, the Malaysian sweet tea aerated by pouring from a great height from glass to glass. I order the teh halia ($3.00) which promises a hint of ginger. It's refreshing and sweet although I wish the ginger had a bit more kick.

Kari ikan fish curry arrives in a generous-sized portion that is instantly aromatic. Chunks of fish are soft and tender, the curry is sweet, salty and a tad sour. The thick tangy sauce is delicious on rice ($2 per person).

Sambal udang $14
Stir-fried tiger prawns with fiery sambal sauce

The sambal udang prawns look a little naked on the plate (a bit of greenery required perhaps?) but they are reasonably plump and smothered in sambal. The sambal is more a warm hum than the promised fire, but I take delight in scraping the remainder of the sauce on my rice regardless.

Sambal sotong $14.00
Stir-fried calamari with fiery sambal sauce

We also order the sambal sotong, strips of calamari that are surpisingly crunchy, as if they'd been dried and rehydrated.

Beef and chicken satay sticks $10.00

The satay sticks are swooped on by the crowd, thin strips of beef and chicken cooked over charcoal until caramelised and smoky. It arrives with chunks of cucumber and red onion as well as a deep bowl of satay sauce.

Nasi lemak with fried chicken $9.50
Coconut rice with sambal, peanuts, crispy anchovies,
cucumber, boiled egg and fried chicken

Nasi lemak as a prettily plated ensemble of coconut rice, fried chicken, boiled egg, anchovies and dry fried peanuts.

Kangkung belecan $10.00
Stir-fried water spinach with chillies and shrimp paste

We order both versions of the belecan, one with kangkung water spinach, the other with kacang panjang snake beans. Both make use of belecan, a fermented shrimp paste that is traditionally feisty in nature, potently hot, sweet, garlicky and decidedly fishy. Again we find this rather mild in temperature.

Kacang panjang belacan $10.00
Stir-fried long beans with chillies and shrimp paste

Rojak $10
Malaysian-style salad with prawn cakes, fried tofu,
hard boiled eggs, potatoes, bean sprouts and cucumber
topped with a thick spicy peanut sauce

There's only one vegetarian dish available on the menu, kari sayur vegetarian curry that is totally sold out, we discover to our dismay. The only alternative, our waiter advises, is the rojak Malaysian salad minus the prawn cakes. The lack of vegetarian options surprises me, but the rojak is tasty if a little rich, what with the fried tofu drenched in rich satay sauce.

Roti canai $5.00
Served with two curry dips and spicy sambal sauce

The roti is one of the last dishes to arrive, two young men on roti duty busily frying out the front. The roti is soft and feather-light, although not as crispy and flaky as I'm used to. We tear off small pieces and dip them into the curry dips and sambal provided.

We also order the roti bawang ($6.00) which arrives as four roti pockets folded into quarters and filled with thin slices of Spanish red onion.

Murtabak $8.50
Roti filled with chicken or lamb curry, eggs and onion

We order both the chicken and the lamb murtabak, a roti crepe that holds a mixture of meat, eggs and onion. This version is more omelette-like, both the chicken and lamb encased in a thick padding of beaten egg.

Ais kacang $5.00
Red bean, sweet corn and grass jelly topped with shaved ice,
rose-syrup, sweetened milk and palm sugar

The dessert train pulls out with two traditional desserts. Ais kacang is sweet and refreshing, a mountain of ice atop cubes of grass jelly, sweetened red bean and corn kernels.

Cendol $5.00
Starch noodles made from fresh pandan leaves
served with coconut milk, gula-melaka syrup and shaved ice

The cendol is topped with a ladle of coconut milk that is saltier than usual. Just as well the gula-melaka is sweeter than usual too, although the palm sugar crystals are crunchy on the tongue, rather than a thick caramel syrup.

Roti kaya $6.50
Roti filled with kaya pandan and coconut spread
and served with ice cream

Roti kaya is a crowd pleaser, a dessert version of roti with its heart of pandan and coconut jam. We're happily satiated until we see the roti tisu sail past, a giant upside cone of roti that towers with great spectacle on the plate.

It's amazing how much the appetite can grow.

View Larger Map
Mamak on Urbanspoon

15 Goulburn Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 1668

This has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.

Open 7 days (no reservations)
Lunch: 11.30am - 2.30pm
Dinner: 5.30pm - 9.30pm
Supper: till 2am on Friday and Saturday

BYO $2 per person
10% surcharge on public holidays

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Mamak Haymarket
(30Jul09), (15Jul09), (Nov07) and (Oct07)

Malaysian -- Kopitiam, Ultimo (Dec08), (Apr07) and (Apr06)
Malaysian -- Makan at Alice's, Thornleigh (Feb08) and (Jun07)
Malaysian -- Malay Chinese, Sydney (26 Apr 07) and (3 Apr 07)
Malaysian -- Mc Lucksa, Haymarket
Malaysian -- The Malaya, Sydney
Malaysian -- Tan's Malaysian, Ultimo

Malaysian -- Temasek, Parramatta (Jan09) and (May08)
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/14/2007 11:09:00 pm


  • At 10/15/2007 12:01 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have been eagerly waiting for this eatery to open. But from the sound of your review, it's not up to the standard of a 'traditional' Mamak eatery, but rather catering for the local Aussie taste bud?
    Did the satay dish have the option of the coconut rice cubes?

    Now I'm wondering whether it's worth the trip into the city to try.

  • At 10/15/2007 10:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    at last, there's rojak in sydney! (not the indonesian type with fruits)

    when i was in singapore, i loved their indian rojak - is that the same as the malaysian type? if not, do you know where they would have indian rojak in sydney?

    p.s thanks for your recommendation :)

  • At 10/15/2007 11:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi helen

    looks and sounds pretty good. how does it compare to kompitam and alice's which i've tried? i hope to check it out soon with my camera in hand.

    simon :-)

  • At 10/16/2007 12:51 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi \/b - I can't say I'm an expert on Mamak eateries, but I was disappointed with the lack of heat, especially since the menu promised "fiery". I would recommend you try it firsthand yourself though, and would love to hear your feedback when you do.

    Hi Anon - I'm not altogether familiar with rojak, let alone Indian rojak. Hopefully a fellow Grab Your Fork reader will be able to help :)

    Hi Simon - I preferred the kangkung belacan and prawn sambal from Kopitiam - both were stronger in flavour: salty, sweet, garlicky and hot. The roti from Alice's is hard to beat I think.

    I do like the fact that Mamak has a good dessert menu :) Would be keen to hear your take on Mamak too.

  • At 10/16/2007 1:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Finally a place where we can have a nice teh tarik in sydney!!
    Loved the teh tarik over there.. I have tried so many around Sydney..i believe they serve one of the best in Sydney.. Some are too tasteless like the one in kopitiam.. thumbs up for the tea but i believe the portion for 'sambal udang' is kinda little..dont you guys agree? =p


  • At 10/16/2007 11:34 pm, Blogger Juji said…

    i believe the cuttlefish curry might have been made with the squid that has been treated with ash (so my mother says!) which she often buys to accompany 'yong tau foo' (the fishpaste stuffed vegies and bean curd etc)

    i know it's popular in malaysia, which might explain the use of this particular variety of squid!

  • At 10/17/2007 1:41 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - The sambal udang did look a little sad on the plate. Some green leaves would've pepped it up a little, I think.

    Hi Juji - Aha, that may go some way toward explaining its bizarre crunchiness. Thanks for the lead :)

  • At 10/20/2007 3:55 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Oh wow, the prices are pretty costly i say. Especially the Roti Canai. $5 bucks, in Singapore we can get like 5-6 pieces. Hahha.

    Well personally i think the kangkong is a must-have especially when you eat with hot steamed rice. goodie!

    For the Rojak, that's more like Gado-gado in Singapore/Malaysia. Rojak is usually served with shrimp paste + peanuts, and more darker and thicker sauce with a squeeze of lime juice. Produce quite a stench though.

    I would also go for the Satay ;)

    Have a good day!

  • At 10/21/2007 3:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Being from malaysia i can tell you that this place has the most authentic roti in Sydney. It is also the only place which makes it fresh and not using the frozen prepackaged pieces.

    Then again i find most of its food to be on the average scale.

    I will probably visit this place a dozens times though as this is the only true mamak stall we have here in sydney. AT ten times the cost of course.

    - renditionwmc

  • At 10/21/2007 8:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ahhh..! a taste of home.. ;) away from home.. ;) it will surely be a hit with both malaysian.. and singaporeans.. ;)

  • At 10/21/2007 6:12 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Wana - Oh I'd love to go to Singapore. The food looks so great and so cheap! I like the sounds of a darker fishier rojak too. Sounds great.

    Hi renditionwmc - Thanks for your feedback. Always great to hear a local's take.

    Hi Mama Bok - The place is very busy! And yes all the clientele looked very happy!

  • At 10/22/2007 7:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Greetings from London (Lisbon tomorrow - Pasteis de Nata galore!!). I went to look for mamak before I left Sydney but it didn't seem to yet exist at the Goulburn St addy so I'm glad that you've put it back on my radar. Shall try it when I get back!

  • At 10/23/2007 6:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was so dissapointed after trying Mamak. I was really looking forward to fish curry with okra, tomatoes and eggplant. But when it arrived, it was lukewarm and there was no okra, tomatoes or eggplant. I also ordered nasi lemak with chicken curry which was fine except that the curry served was two measly pieces of chicken on the bone, which had little meat on it at all! plus it was cold!

    i must admit the roti was really good and satay was pretty tasty. I would go back just for the roti!

  • At 10/25/2007 5:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi aptonym - Lucky you! I still dream of those still-warm crispy pasteis de nata dusted with icing sugar. Would love to hear your thoughts on Mamak too. You must try it on your return.

    Hi Anon - It seems that the roti is indeed the star of this joint. It's a shame about your fish curry - ours was very good.


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