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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mamak, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney

The boys are back in town.

After three long and painful weeks of renovations, Mamak is open again for business.

I don't often head to Mamak these days, turned off by the huge queues every evening (is Mamak the new old Spice I Am?) but it's funny how a little bit of reverse psychology works its magic. Closed and unavailable? I want it now.

We headed to Mamak last Friday, its third day of business since its re-opening on Wednesday. Mindful of the imminent crowds, Suze, Simon and I meet outside at 5.45pm, our planned guarantee of getting a table immediately.

A shift in kitchen set-up and a re-orientation of tables and chairs means the seating capacity has now effectively doubled. In spite of this, by 6.02pm, Mamak is full.

Teh halia $3.50
Teh tarik with a hint of ginger

Our drinks arrive not long after we order them. I stick with my favourite teh halia, the frothed and strong milky tea that has the added warmth of ginger.

Teh tarik $3.50
Classic Malaysian sweetened tea, "stretched" for a frothy topping

Simon has the traditional teh tarik stretched tea, whilst Suze goes for her favourite half coffee/half tea concoction.

Cham $3.50
Half tea, half coffee

Though I like to call cham Suze's "crazy drink", the version here is suprisingly drinkable. It tastes like a milky diluted coffee or a smoky tea that is cold and super sweet.

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

The live roti action out the front whet the appetite for the roti that is to come. We order two serves of the roti canai, the roti thin and crispy and clumped into a fluffy cloud. It's all finger action here and we tear the roti off in strips, to be doused liberally in curry sauce and fiery sambal.

Lamb murtabak $10.50
Filled with spicy meat, cabbage, eggs and onions

The lamb murtabak is as omelette-like as on previous encounters, and hence disappointing. I'm pleased when Suze reassures me that the filling in murtabak should be wetter, meatier and more curry like, than the solid omelette version here.

Kangkung belacan $13
Stir-fried water spinach with chillies and shrimp paste

I'm pleased to taste a fair amount of belacan in the kangkung, the shrimp paste which even Poh described on last night's MasterChef Australia as "funky". There's plenty of heat too amongst the salty fishiness although I'm pining for a touch more sugar to give it better balance.

Nasi lemak $7.50
with curry fish $3.00
and sambal prawn $4.00

On the multi-offering plate of nasi lemak, it's funny that the roasted peanuts and crunchy ikan bilis fried anchovies, are the first things we all go for. Two generous chunks of mackerel smothered in curry sauce are rich and oily in texture. The coconut rice is rich on the palate and on the tongue with coconut milk. Sambal prawns are a highlight, swathed in a sweet and spicy sambal, although at two dollars each they should be savoured slowly.

Ayam goreng Malaysian-style fried chicken $12 for four pieces
marinated with herbs and spices and full of flavour

Our ayam goreng fried chicken arrives following a good fifteen minute lag in dishes. I notice too, that the table next to us have to chase down their roti which arrives as they finishing their meal.

The fried chicken has a odd orange hue but the skin has plenty of crunch. Suze and Simon report that the chicken legs are disappointingly dry. I'd cleverly gone for the thigh and suffer no such problems.

Mamak crowds

Roti kaya $7.50
filled with a traditional spread made from pandan and coconut

Dessert? With Suze around, that's definitely a rhetorical question. Despite Suze's hopeful plea for extra kaya, we find there's not much of the sweet pandan-flavoured coconut jam within our roti kaya. It's barely discernible outside of a rectangle within the very centre.

Roti tisu $9.00
Paper-thin, extra crispy and served tall

The roti tisu, on the other hand, is all kinds of joy. There's something so majestic yet playful about its impressive stature, and it creates a pitter patter of excitement every time I see one head past our table. Suze calls this her "party hat" and because she's never averse to a photo opp, she dispatches me with camera to capture her "wearing her party hat" at the table. As the plate bearing a roti tisu makes the slow ascent toward the top of her head, patrons behind us turn their heads, bemused by the spectacle of a roti tisu spaceship magically levitating.

Roti tisu with condensed milk

On the menu, the roti tisu is usually served with ice cream, but as Suze advises, it's best to order it the Malaysian way and ask for condensed milk instead. We annoint the roti tisu mountain, the condensed milk running down in little rivulets like melting snow down the alps.

Roti tisu destruction

Oh it's good. Suze and I are in heaven, the thin tiles of sugar-glazed roti crunching in our mouths with the sweet creaminess of condensed milk.


We relinquish our table to the growing masses outside, pausing by the kitchen for another viewing of the roti live performance. It's mesmerising, awe-inspiring, and somehow making me hungry all over again.

Friday night Mamak queue

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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), (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)
30 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/15/2009 12:14:00 am


  • At 7/15/2009 8:33 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Haha I was exactly the same, I haven't been in ages because of the queues but when I heard it was closed I suddenly could think of nothing but eating their roti. Getting condensed milk instead of ice cream with roti tisu makes it just that much better don't you think?

  • At 7/15/2009 9:16 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah! Mamak is back! It's cruel to look at all my faovurite food on your post and not able to taste them. Love to start my day with reading a great post like this! The odd orange hue on ayam goreng....... from malaysian curry powder? hehe.. some of the malaysian meat curry powder is orange, not yellow.

  • At 7/15/2009 9:27 am, Anonymous Trisha said…

    Oh this is fabulous, fabulous timing! I am parking my bum outside their doors at 5.45pm on Friday before heading to the cinemas for HP! My precious roti, here I come!

  • At 7/15/2009 9:34 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Ooh, i'm drooling at the pics!
    Can't wait to try it out, thanks for the post - now i'll know what to try and what to avoid!

  • At 7/15/2009 9:49 am, Anonymous Yas said…

    Ahhh yes!! Mamak is baaaack!!
    And I'm soo bummed that I couldn't come with you guys!

    That's a pretty long queue - apparently they were missed by many people eh? well come back Mamak!

  • At 7/15/2009 10:08 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    heh heh levitating roti mmm so nommy indeed next time we bring a can of condensed milk...

  • At 7/15/2009 10:17 am, Anonymous Chris said…

    Wheee! We'd only just recently 'discovered' Mamak - or more accurately, worked up the courage to tackle the queues outside their door, but we were definitely back on the first night of their reopening. I agree there can never be enough kaya in the roti kaya! Or sweetened condensed milk in anything ;)
    Great pics of the twirling, my poor camera couldn't handle it..

  • At 7/15/2009 10:57 am, Blogger Forager said…

    Mmm. That roti tisu sounds delicious! Will have to get down there early and beat the dinner crowd rush!

  • At 7/15/2009 11:21 am, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    $9 for a roti tisu?? heartbreaking.
    i'm sure in malaysia it's like, 90sen. ;P

    i really don't think the chinese uni students manning the roti here do as good a job as the indian mamaks back home. my pre-renovation experience of the murtabak was a flaccid, sodden, and above all, bland, affair. sob.

  • At 7/15/2009 11:21 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    good to hear Mamak is back although the only thing I've really enjoyed eating there is their roti.

  • At 7/15/2009 11:23 am, Anonymous Leona said…

    I'm drooling over all of the food! the chicken looks soo crunchy almost like kFC yumMm.

    lol it was nice bumping into you lot. The bf was like "OH thats grab your fork and thats chocolatesuze".


  • At 7/15/2009 11:58 am, Blogger einna said…

    OMG! You have just reminded me that I need to go back! Everything looks soooo goood. Thanks for the reminder!! :)

  • At 7/15/2009 1:37 pm, Anonymous sam said…

    i am soooo there :)
    good thing they're back! :)

  • At 7/15/2009 2:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So how has Mamak changed? is it bigger?

    OH you missed the best part SATAY STICKS!!


  • At 7/15/2009 2:51 pm, Blogger yewenyi said…

    it is a pity the crowds are so big. Yes, get there early. The roti is the best I have had in Sydney. It should be called Roti Heaven.

  • At 7/15/2009 3:11 pm, Blogger Two fit and fun gals said…

    wow is that the line?? o.0

    they should really take bookings????
    i mean, whats the loss
    if ppl dont make it to a booking on time (strict time) then give the table away?

    im usually not a fan of waiting in line for food i hate waiting!! but will note* the opening times...

  • At 7/15/2009 7:52 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Hooorayy, time to queue for rojak and roti tisu again, yumyum!

  • At 7/15/2009 8:48 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Woo hoo - they're back! Can't wait to join the Friday night queues...
    I have Malay friends who want to kill me when I mention the roti... apparently we're paying too much but for that roti canai - it's worth it!

  • At 7/15/2009 9:30 pm, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Oh yay! I was so disappointed when I finally got the chance to go to Chinatown and Mamak was closed! Wahh! :'( Anyway, it looks like it's back with a vengeance! Btw, GO POH! I want her to win!! :D

  • At 7/15/2009 10:06 pm, Blogger panda said…

    that queue still looks huge!

    and yeah i was the same, i stopped going because of the queues...do love the food there but i wish the queues would go away :P

  • At 7/15/2009 10:57 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    the cham or campur is my favorite drink too! I guess you have to grow up with it to reall appreciate the tea/coffee acquired taste. u can have all the fun at mamak, I am going back to msia for the real deal! LOL :P

  • At 7/16/2009 5:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Haven't set foot at Mamak as yet. Meanwhile, loving the satay, rojak pasembor and penang laksa at Abang Sam in Kensington.


  • At 7/16/2009 1:50 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Look at that queue! I love the party hat pancake, and served with condensed milk sounds lovely.

  • At 7/16/2009 4:23 pm, Anonymous Minh said…

    That roti tisu looks amazing! I have the worst craving now... will have to go back to Mamak soon

  • At 7/17/2009 1:30 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Stephcookie - Oh condensed milk is such a revelation. I don't know why ice cream is even on the menu! And yes, I'm a total sucker when it comes to reverse psychology!

    Hi Ellie - Good thought on the Malaysian curry powder. I guess I was expecting a more KFC brown. lol. And yes, no better breakfast than a food blog post aye?

    Hi Trisha - Ooh enjoy your Mamak dinner. It opens at 5.30pm so don't be afraid to get there even earlier!

    Hi Betty - You have to have the satay too. We meant to order it but then forget, although just as well because we ordered one dish too many as it was!

    Hi Yas - Did you make it to Mamak the other night? Shame you couldn't make it, but hey, the queue just go crazy from 7pm and I hate waiting, hungry, for food. lol!

    Hi chocolatesuze - The look on the people's faces behind us was priceless! A can of condensed milk is a good idea. Or would you prefer dulce de leche? lol

    Hi Chris - The roti tossing is such a joy to watch isn't it? And ha, you should've just turned your flash on. Don't worry too much about blinding them. lol.

    Hi Forager - The roti tisu is so good. I must time my dinners so I can make it to Mamak when it quietens down so I can have dessert!

    Hi Bowb - I'm sure everything is cheaper in Malaysia. Must go sometime! I want the real deal!

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - I think the roti is definitely the drawcard for Mamak. Their satay is quite good too.

    Hi Leona - It was quite funny to bump into you and your bf. I hope he has been placated that you really are quite tame compared to the spectacle of three SLRs and countless photos at our table!

    Hi Einna - No problem. Make sure you go early or be prepared to queue!

    Hi Sam - Ahh you must've made it back there by now? Hope you had fun!

    Hi sydneyguyrojoe - There's definitely more seating. I think almost double? And I know, we meant to order satay sticks but forget but then perhaps just as well because we over-ordered by one dish although it did mean I got a tasty dinner of leftovers to take home!

    Hi Yewenyi - Roti Heaven? lol.

    Hi Betty - Yup that was the line. I guess "no booking" policies are painful, but as long as people are prepared to queue I don't think Mamak would change?

    I'm not a big fan of queueing either, so yes go early or pick days earlier in the week.

    Hi YaYa - Time to queue alright. So great to see so much excitement too!

    Hi Tina - Haha, I'm sure prices are higher here, but then so are wages! lol.

    Hi Min Ai - Yes nothing worse than turning up to find a place closed! And ooh the MasterChef final is so exciting. As George would say "it's going to be a CRACKER!". lol

    Hi Panda - The queue was insane. And nothing like being inside and watching the growing queue to make your roti taste even better? lol.

    Hi Billy - I remember trying cham in HK and being totally weird out by it. Maybe I will have to work on liking it. lol. And argh, so jealous!

    Hi Gobsmack'd - Haven't been to Abang Sam but thanks for the tip :)

    Hi Arwen - The roti tisu is definitely my must-order. Photos with it above your head optional. lol

    Hi Minh - I saw that Howard was there the other night for dessert! Hmmm... now I'm craving another one myself!

  • At 7/19/2009 1:25 pm, Anonymous Eurasian Sensation said…

    Nice to know that there is more freshly-made roti around. Here in Melbourne there are a few places that make it fresh, but still most places are using pre-packaged stuff, even in restaurants which claim to be Malaysian/Indian and therefore should really do better.

    Just came back from Malaysia and am fiending like a junkie for a good roti chanai.

  • At 7/20/2009 2:10 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Eurasian Sensation - There's certainly an element of theatre with the roti made fresh on the premises, although I can understand that with our high labour costs, it's why it is so rare in Australia. Would love to go to Malaysia sometime - so many eats I would love to find!

  • At 9/01/2009 11:06 am, Blogger The Ganasons said…

    I am heading to Sydney soon and this is God sent! Just looking at the photos make me drool, imagine what will happen when I am seeing the real thing???

    Mamak - here I come!

    Any suggestions for good Asian grocery shopping in the city?

  • At 9/02/2009 1:05 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Shagen - Chinatown is just down the road from the main CBD, in fact Mamak is at its doorstep. There are a few Asian grocery stores along Sussex St but for the biggest variety, I'd go to Thai Kee in Market City (above Paddy's Markets).

    Hope you enjoy Mamak!

  • At 1/16/2012 10:00 pm, Anonymous Sir and M'Lady said…

    Well worth the wait to get in (as long as you get there early to limit it - like you did) - we'd kill for their roti!


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