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Friday, December 17, 2010

Malacca Straits, Broadway Ultimo

I like cereal for breakfast, for supper, and as a snack, but the best kind of cereal is served on prawns - Singapore style.

Cereal prawns is a dish not often found in Sydney, and it is only as we exit Malacca Straits that I notice this dish on the specials menu taped to the wall. Here too I find salted egg yolk prawn. I vow immediately to return. On my next visit I see the sign for assam laksa on Fridays and Saturdays displayed by the register. I make another mental note to come back.

Penang assam laksa available on Fridays and Saturdays

In fact I end up returning several times, slowing making my way through my menu wish-list at this busy casual eatery. Popular with students and local office workers, the place is always heaving at lunchtime, the crowds vanishing like clockwork at 2pm.

Malacca Straits

Chinese tea $2 per head

The menu offers a mix of Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai dishes, but I find the Malaysian dishes most rewarding. I end up making four visits in total for a smorgasboard of photos.

Char kway teow with vegetables $8.50

Char kway teow is a glorious tumble of wok-fried flat rice noodles, slippery ribbons that have the charred caramelised tinge imparted by searing over extremely high heat, a characteristic known as wok hei, or breath of wok.

Vegetable Penang curry $11.50

Vegetable Penang curry is a spicy red curry, filled with tofu and mixed vegetables and slightly sour with kaffir lime leaves.

Chicken satay $12

Skewers of chicken satay are plump and tender, but the use of lemongrass is rather overwhelming. The peanut sauce is a little on the sweet side, although chunks of cucumber and red onion offer relief.

Assam ikan fish in tamarind sauce $16.80

I find myself returning to the assam ikan, a heady concoction of fish, okra, tomato and onion in a vibrant sauce of chilli and tamarind that is hot, sweet and sour. The sauce is fantastic on plain rice.

Coconut juice $5

On my next visit I have the cereal prawns firmly in my sights. Coconut juice starts off the meal in style, a fresh young coconut that yields sweet juice and silky curls of scraped coconut flesh.

Cereal prawn $23.80

The cereal prawns arrive with a spectacular cascade of Nestum cereal, a mix of wheat, barley, rice, oats and corn that is purported to be high in vitamins and often softened and fed to babies.

Babies or adults, I guarantee that you will go ga-ga over this one. The prawns are deep-fried in their shell so they become an edible crisp, heightened by the rubble of cereal flakes sweetened with sugar. You will taste curry leaves, chilli, egg yolk and butter, all enveloped in the satisfying crunch that comes with deep-fried happiness.

Nestum cereal prawns

Makes sure you order your prawns with the skins still on, and don't forget to eat all the lettuce leaves on the bottom, bountiful receptacles of cereal remnants.

Kangkong belacan $11.50

Kangkong belacan provides the perfect counter-balance to the deep-fried bonanza. Stir-fried with belacan, or shrimp paste, the fresh stalks of water spinach leave a fiery trail on the tongue.

Thai fried rice $11 with fried egg $1 extra

Visit number three and we go for broke. Five hungry mouths feast on Thai fried rice -- enticingly crispy and crowned with a runny fried egg -- and a disappointing Pla Goong, confusingly described as a Thai prawn salad but looking more like a prawn stir fry doused with sweet chilli sauce.

Pla Goong Thai prawn salad $14

Kari kambing lamb curry $14.80

Much better received is the kari kambing lamb curry, cubes of lamb cooked to a fall-apart-in-the-mouth consistency, and the martabak, a parcel of roti-wrapped beef mince that someone at our table likens to a Malaysian version of gozleme.

Murtabak $10.50

Martabak is thicker in depth than gozleme of course, the pastry buttery and flaky in texture. An accompanying bowl of curry sauce makes this less of a snack and more of a meal.

Otak otak $12 for 3 pieces

Otak otak is not the airy fish mousse I'd hoped to find. Despite the newspaper clippings on the wall heartily endorsing its virtues, the otak otak we're served tastes more like a fish fritter, audibly dry and crunchy around the edges. Perhaps it's an off day, but at $12 for 3 pieces it's a considerable gamble to risk again on our next visit.

Salted egg yolk prawn $26.80

But happiness can be found in the salted egg yolk prawn, a pile of battered prawns smothered with a rich sauce of butter and salted duck egg yolk. It may be high in cholesterol but it's high in deliciousness too.

The kitchen here loves to cook to with seafood. We notice a sign that explains that staff will cook you Singapore chilli crab. Simply bring your own mud crab and they'll cook it for $20 per crab, a quality-control concept that's common across South East Asia.

Hainanese chicken rice $9.50

Our fourth visit leads us to Hainanese chicken rice, a worthy version of poached chicken that is soft and velvety. The chicken rice -- cooked using the stock from the chicken -- is flavoursome and satisfying.

Penang assam laksa

Of course the final visit is on a Friday and I immediately order the assam laksa, one of my favourite Malaysian dishes.

Penang assam laksa

Unlike traditional laksas, assam laksa is devoid of coconut milk, instead using lemongrass, galangal, tamarind and mackerel as a base. The clear colour of the soup confirms my fears - it's not as fishy and sour as I'd hoped, but the dish is still sprite and lively on the palate, the thick ropes of noodle savoured with flakes of mackerel, chunks of pineapple and a hot and sour soup. It's not a patch on the assam laksa at Malay Chinese Takeaway on Hunter Street.

Dessert? Of course we did.

The dessert menu is an impressive list of eight dishes, each priced at only five dollars. Traditional Malaysian favourites include Air Batu Campur (ABC), a tower of shaved ice over a bed of grass jelly, red beans and doused with rose syrup, palm sugar and coconut milk; as well as Bo Bo Cha Cha, a sweet tribute to starchy vegetables with cooked taro, sweet potatoes and sago pearls served in a coconut milk soup sweetened with palm sugar. Gandum or sweet wheat porridge with coconut milk is listed but unavailable on the day we try to order it.

Banana fritters $5

We order banana fritters instead, two small bananas hiding inside a crisp blanket of golden-fried batter. The vanilla ice cream is a cold contrast to the hot banana fritter, even if it is cloyingly sweet.

Sticky rice with mango $5

Sticky rice with mango is everything you want it to be. Sticky rice that is moreishly chewy and laced with coconut milk, and a mango cheek that is sweet and refreshing.

Kuih ketayap $5

The lurid green hue of the kuih ketayap is perhaps a little heavy-handed with the food colouring, but its filling of toasted coconut and palm sugar is a reminder that it's what's on the inside that counts.

Four visits down and all I need now is to find me a mud crab.

View Larger Map
Malacca Straits on Urbanspoon

Malacca Straits on Broadway
66 Mountain Street, Broadway Ultimo
(enter the Quadrant Building courtyard)
Tel: +61 (02) 8021 7069

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 11am-10pm

Menu is halal.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Malacca Straits, Broadway
Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney (fave assam laksa in Sydney)
Now that's what I call an assam laksa
(Malaysia - April 2010)

Broadway - Happy Lemon (Rock salt and cheese drinks)
Broadway - Hot Wok Master (Chinese)
Broadway - Shalom (Indonesian)
Broadway - Sunflower Crepe Cafe (Taiwanese)

Malaysian - Kopitiam, Ultimo (Dec08), (Apr07) and (Apr06)
Malaysian - Makan at Alice's, Thornleigh (Jan10), (Feb09), (Feb08) and (Jun07)
Malaysian -
Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney
Malaysian - Mamak, Haymarket (Jul09), (Nov07) and (Oct07)
Malaysian - Temasek, Parramatta (Jan09) and (May08)

21 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/17/2010 01:49:00 am


  • At 12/17/2010 2:44 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    I admit, I wanted to scroll through the post first just to perve on the Assam Laksa before reading the rest. How disappointing it looked! Light and clear? :(

    I like my assam laksa to be dark, almost black, cloudy, murky like lake water and thick with flakes and chunks of fish and crushed pineapple. I'm learning to make it because I've given up hope of ever finding it in a restaurant in Australia. Sigh...

  • At 12/17/2010 8:03 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I've been here quite a few times as it's so close to work. I really like the martabak and the roti canai...drool. Going to try the cereal prawns next time though.

  • At 12/17/2010 8:31 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Cereal on noodles? Interesting! I do love Char Kway Teow though and it sounds like it was good stuff

  • At 12/17/2010 8:57 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    The Penang assam laksa sounds great - will have to keep an eye out fot it - especially when I'm in Penang!
    That green crepe is downright scary though...

  • At 12/17/2010 9:38 am, Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said…

    That's it. I so need to go.

    It's the use of cereals that is intriguing me most.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • At 12/17/2010 9:54 am, Anonymous Wendy @ Obesebaby said…

    Helen, how many foods u order?? god.. I am heading there tonight, was planning to try the Happy lemon but now have 100 reason to go after dinner in here!

  • At 12/17/2010 10:09 am, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said…

    i'm so jealous. i worked near malacca straits for ages and always asked them about assam laksa. now i move away and they bring it in!

  • At 12/17/2010 10:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The food looks good, I'm now so tempted to visit that place too :) nice post!

  • At 12/17/2010 10:27 am, Blogger Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said…

    cereal prawn...one of my abslute favs!!!!

  • At 12/17/2010 10:29 am, Anonymous Amanda said…

    I first had cereal prawns last year in Singapore and loved them! It is certainly not something I would have thought of, but it works very well indeed.
    Deliciously crunchy.

  • At 12/17/2010 12:26 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    This is slightly off topic, Helen, but I blame you for the fact that I find Luke Nguyen's Vietnam TV series boring - because he never seems to showcase desserts. Seeing as, over the years, you've shown me how wonderful and diverse Asian desserts can be, I can't countenance Nguyen's behaviour on that show. :P

    And I want the assam ikan, too!

  • At 12/17/2010 10:40 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    I need to get back down to this place. Haven't been for ages. gotta try those cereal prawns!

  • At 12/17/2010 11:00 pm, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    Cereal prawns in Sydney!
    its like a dream come true helen..thank you!!
    Now i can finally satisfy those cravings from my last trip to singapore - and I thought all hope was lost!

  • At 12/19/2010 3:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great review of what I reckon to be the best Malaysian restaurant in Sydney. Been here countless times and each time we've never been disappointed.

    Their hainan chicken rice is really sensational, but they do a to-die-for fish head curry, which they serve in a claypot. The heady aroma of the curry as the lid is lifted up sure brings me back to the memories of the 'nasi kandar' foodstalls in Penang.

    The other favourites of mine is their hand-made silken tofu with mince chicken, angel-hair prawn (in my opinion even better than the cereal prawn), hainanese eggplant belachan and special beef curry (made with beef brisket) - the last two not listed on their menu but if you ask, they'll serve them.

    I can't wait though to have again the 'Yee Sang', the raw salmon salad usually served at Chinese New Year. This dish is actually available at year round at the Straits but I never ever managed to rustle up the 8 companions needed to order this in advance - the friends/relos always averred that this is a Chinese New Year dish :(

    Never tried the BYO crab as yet but I hear their versions of the Singapore Chilli crab and dry curry crab are top-shelves as well.

    - Lyn

  • At 12/19/2010 8:09 pm, Anonymous food sponge said…

    Oh my gosh, this all looks so incredibly delicious & brings back good food memories....
    Wish there was something equally as authentic in Perth!! The photos are tasty enough to eat ;)

  • At 12/19/2010 10:34 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    I tried this when I was back in SG as well... have yet to make a version of it here.

  • At 12/20/2010 12:59 pm, Blogger Nigel said…

    helen.. i figured you love the cereal prawn alot... 3 photos of it? haha

  • At 12/20/2010 3:40 pm, Anonymous Nora said…

    Great info here. I hope that everyone has a fantastic holiday season!

  • At 12/21/2010 10:43 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Oh wow the mud crab concept is something I want to try.

  • At 12/23/2010 10:33 am, Blogger susan said…

    I really want to try their Hainan Chicken. I love that stuff

  • At 1/16/2011 1:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Found out on my first visit to this place last week that the owners were Hainanese from Malaysia which explains why the Hainan chicken rice was so darn good. We also ordered the assam laksa, but unlike yours, our soup was thick with all the tamarind, fish stock, onions etc goodness. Definitely is recommended. But the piece de resistance was the hand-made silken tofu with mince chicken. The tofu pieces were crunchy on the outside but were pillow soft inside. Malacca Straits also serve teh tarik, but only if you ask as the waitress advised that they use real Boh tea leaves and not packaged pre-mixed 3-in-1 satchets like some other places and as such takes them longer to make, hence it's not written in the menu. This was another winner on the night as the tea was 'pulled' at our table and its frothy richness is a good you'd find in Malaysia.


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