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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Temasek, Parramatta

Hainanese chicken (half) boneless $11.80

The rumours are true.

The Hainanese chicken at Temasek is gloriously good.
Incredibly moist, succulent and silky in texture, it ranks among the best I've ever tasted. The only thing missing is the chicken rice, a mound of rice cooked in chicken stock that is served only with individual servings, not the half-chicken platter we've ordered for our table.

I'd been meaning to head to Temasek for ages, this long-standing Parramatta eatery often cropping up in conversations about where to find good Malaysian or Singaporean cuisine. I'd heard the chef from Temasek now manned the woks at Ginger and Spice in Neutral Bay, but we were still keen to see if Temasek lived up to its reputation.

Temasek means Sea Town in Javanese and we're looking forward to a little bit of seafood. The restaurant itself is hidden down a little arcade (Roxy Arcade) that runs off George Street, the decor inside dominated by aging tourism posters for a Visit Singapore campaign.

Sambal balacaan kang kong $16.80

After waxing lyrical over the Hainan chicken, we continue with sambal balacaan kang kong, a feisty combination of water spinach stir-fried with balacaan dried shrimp paste, and generous with garlic and chilli. It's not as salty or as fishy as I've had before (I like this dish extra strong in flavour) but the water spinach is fresh and green, and there's a fairly healthy afterkick of heat.

Chendol drink $4.00
Chendol (green jelly) mixed with red beans, palm sugar
and coconut milk served with crushed ice in a glass

This is where a refreshing glass of chendol--listed under desserts but equally acceptable as a drink--comes in handy. A tall glass of chendol noodles, pale green in colour from the flavour of pandan, is layered with red beans and then drenched in a good soaking of palm sugar syrup, coconut milk and crushed ice. A good chendol for me is underlined by the quality of the gula melaka, or palm sugar syrup. This one is wonderfully rich and caramelly, its intense sweetness tempered by the coconut milk and the shaved ice.

I find that cendol acts like a good lassi in an Indian meal, or che ba mau three-colour-drink with Vietnamese cuisine: a handy palate refresher in between mouthfuls of various dishes.

Bak ku teh $17.80
Blackboard special

The bak ku teh, a blackboard special, is a comforting hearty soup of pork cooked in a herbal broth. This is the kind of dish you crave on a cold winter's night, bathed in the aromatic wholesomeness of star anise, cloves, garlic and cinnamon. Plenty of meaty bones complete with pork skin never go astray either.

Ngor hiang $17.80
Five spice meat roll

Ngor hiang is a type of pork and prawn sausage made with, yes, five spice powder, rolled up in bean curd skins and deep-fried. Some of the Malaysians at our table thought this dish had been fried for too long and was a little too crispy. I enjoyed the crunch of this dish, and dipping it into the accompanying chilli sauce, but in one sense it felt a little bit like a gourmet meaty spring roll.

Assam fish cutlets $19.80

Assam fish cutlets arrived in a huge bowl, generous chunks of fish bathed in a hot and sour soup. We found plenty of tomato and pineapple chunks, revelling in its tanginess.

Singapore chilli crab $84.70 (2.3 lbs)
Market price on day we dined $36.80 per pound

But the main act of the night was our order of Singapore chilli crab. After personally approving our hapless victim straight from the tank, it emerges from the kitchen stacked up high on a platter that could double as a satellite dish, smothered in sauce. The crab itself isn't particularly sweet (we find it a little flavourless, in fact) but the lake of sauce is enough to feed a small army.

Which is why a plate of plain white sandwich bread, carefully sliced into handy quarters, arrives for a thorough mopping up of the tomato and egg sauce. The ribbons of fried egg are my particular target, but despite our best efforts we still end up leaving one-third of the sauce behind.

Bobor cha cha $4.00
Sweet potatoes and yam cooked with
coconut milk and served in a bowl

For dessert I choose the bobor cha cha, a bowl of coconut milk soup filled with chunks of sweet potato and yam. I'm not particularly enamoured by it, my impression of it vindicated when some of the Malaysian locals have a taste and declare it significantly undercooked. The sweet potato and yam, I'm told, are supposed to be simmered until it is super soft and squishy. Whilst both are cooked, they're not really mashable.

Ice kacang $4.00
Combination of red bean, grass jelly, pineapple and palm seeds
served with crushed ice in a bowl and topped with palm sugar,
red syrup, evaporated milk and sweet corn

On the other side of the table are three orders for ice kacang. A motley combination of fruits cavort with sweetened red beans and cubes of grass jelly. An ice shaving mountain is splashed over with gula melaka palm sugar syrup, a squirt of red syrup, a drizzle of evaporate milk and a crown of creamed corn. I have more than a few spoonfuls from my neighbours, whooping with delight when I succeed in securing a palm seed or two, these clear crunchy fruits always reminding me somewhat of white jelly beans.

We'll be back.

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The Roxy Arcade, 71 George St, Parramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9633 9926

Open Tuesday to Sundays (closed on Mondays and public holidays)
Lunch 11.30am - 2.30pm
Dinner 5.30pm - 10.00pm (last orders 9.30pm)

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Temasek, Parramatta (Jan09)

Parramatta - Hooters (yes really!)

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 -- Mamak, Haymarket (Nov07) and (Oct07)
Malaysian -- Mc Lucksa, Haymarket
Malaysian -- The Malaya, Sydney
Malaysian -- Tan's Malaysian, Ultimo
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/04/2008 11:51:00 pm


  • At 5/05/2008 9:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    phwoar that sure is a truckload of food! next time try the oyster omellete and the butter prawns!

  • At 5/05/2008 9:46 am, Blogger A Table For Two said…

    hmmm... crab... so good.... by the way, Temasek is the old name for Singapore before independence. Thank god I pay attention in History classes. :P

  • At 5/05/2008 12:49 pm, Blogger hazchem said…

    how would you rate the Hainanese chicken against the one at Kopitiam in Ultimo? That's my current favourite.

  • At 5/05/2008 4:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If I'm not mistaken, Temasek is also the old name for Singapore.

  • At 5/05/2008 4:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OMG! When I die and go to heaven they will be serving Temasek Hainan chicken.

    BIL's eyes will be glazing over.

    Yum yum yum.

  • At 5/05/2008 11:29 pm, Blogger Rachel said…

    yaay! Glad you finally made it there. I have always been interested to hear your take on it. My personal favourites there are the mee goreng and the oyster omelette. Although to me the food tends to be a little on the greasy side, I find the flavours authentic. Btw, I chanced upon this cool blog http://www.singapuradailyphoto.blogspot.com and it has made me soooo homesick! It does give you an idea of the wide variety of cuisine that makes up singapore food though. Hope you can check it out. I think if I moved back it would be my Singapore version of your blog - handy food directory :) but have drooling napkins ready.

  • At 5/06/2008 4:31 pm, Blogger Gun said…

    "We'll be back!"

    When??!! :)

  • At 5/06/2008 6:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unfortunately there is still no restaurant in Sydney that can really make Malaysian/Singaporean dishes more authentic. I suppose Temasek and Kopi Tiam is the closest you can get in Sydney, which is such a shame because there are so many Malaysians and Singaporeans in Sydney that would support it.

    I find Temasek overpriced for reasonable food. $16.80 for Kang Kong belacan is crazy! It is one of the easiest dishes to whip up, so I personally think it's a rip off, and I agree they don't put enough sambal belacan in the dish.

  • At 5/06/2008 7:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    if you thought temasek's chicken is good, then you should go and try Istana's at Thornleigh..!

  • At 5/06/2008 9:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm a big fan of Temasek. I work nearby, so I often go there for the lunch specials.

    Have you tried Istana? It's on Church Street in Parramatta. While Temasek's chicken rice is good, I think Istana's is better.

  • At 5/07/2008 12:34 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - There were six of there, but yeah, we all have healthy appetites. There was a little bit leftover but not much! :)

    Hi Billy - Ahh thanks. Wikipedia mentioned it was the name of an old city but I didn't realise that city was recognised as the old Singapore :) And good boy for listening! lol

    Hi hazchem - To be honest I haven't tried the Hainanese chicken at Kopitiam yet. We always get waylaid into sharing dishes but I'll have to try it next time.

    Hi Anon - Thanks. My new fact for the day :)

    Hi divemummy - It was really really good :P And you don't need to wait for heaven - just head on over to Parra. lol

    Hi Rachel - Ooh an oyster omelette sounds good, and you can't beat a good mee goreng either.

    Hi Private Chef - Thank you and good luck with your blog!

    Hi Gun - When are you free!?! lol

    Hi Anon - Maybe there's a niche market in there for you to open your own restaurant? :)

    Hi Anon - I've heard about Istana before. Sounds like another case for research!

    Hi Diana - Okay it's settled, we will definitely have to investigate Istana :)

  • At 5/09/2008 8:43 am, Blogger Y said…

    What a feast! Haven't been to Temasek in years. Just a bit out of the way, I guess. Usually if I have to trek to Parramatta, it's to meet friends - none of whom are very interested in that kind of food, so we always end up at some Italian place that could well be on The Chopping Block!

  • At 5/10/2008 9:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi helen!! as soon as i saw ur review i went all the way to parra to try the hainan chicken.. not bad! :) been searching for a good singaporean/malaysian resto here in sydney. perth has got a few they used deep fried matou bread for chili crabs instead of just white bread though :) i had a hanain chicken take away for P. haha


  • At 5/11/2008 12:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I should have married an australian eh..?

  • At 5/12/2008 10:20 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hi augustus, i'm usually always agree with your review, but unfortunately not this time. Me and 2 of my mates visited Temasek few months ago. I ordered their Chicken Rice, my mates ordered Nasi Lemak and Prawn Mee, and we also shared Sotong with Kecap Manis.

    The waiting time was about 25m… pretty long since we ordered quite simple foods.

    I was really disappointed with my chicken rice. It was REALLY cold, almost felt like it’s just been taken out of the fridge or something. OK maybe not THAT cold, more like room temperature cold… but that was the coldest chicken rice I’ve ever had. I couldn’t even finished it….

    The sotong was pretty good (around $18 I think), I also tried a bit of the nasi lemak & prawn mee…. They’re good as well, I was the only one that’s disappointed.

  • At 5/14/2008 10:38 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - lol. You'll have to accidently lead your friends into Temasek one day then :)

    Hi Kay - Ooh fried mantou bread would be even better! And glad the Hainan chicken was a hit, and I'm impressed at the speed at which you made your way over to Parramatta too!

    Hi Mama Bok - lol. I think so!

    Hi synthz - That's disappointing. Usually the Hainan chicken I've had has been tepid/room temperature but I prefer it cool. Sorry to hear you seemed to have gotten the only dud dish! :(


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