Street food in Malaysia is bloody tasty as it is.
I wonder if there’s any reason to tweak it for the sake of being different.
Having spent my formative years in Kuala Lumpur, I love Malaysian street food, and why wouldn’t anyone for that matter.
Former Malaysian premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad once quipped that street food is so intricately woven as part of Malaysian food culture, it will never disappear even if Malaysia becomes a first world nation one day. Or if ever, judging by the scandal-plagued political system in the country.
Malaysian-style kaya toast and soft boiled eggs crept onto the menu of Zacharay Tan’s Devon and Devon at Danks. So it’s hardly surprising he recently chose Darlinghurst for his funky Malaysian diner.
Lucky Suzie, Darlinghurst
I am here this evening with Thelonious, Monk and Mysaucepan because the latter two have been waxing intricate deliciousness about my favourite lam mee that looked so good on some food blogs.
Sadly, this item has since been taken off the menu. I suspect its demise has to do with being lesser known compared to a mainstay like satay or char kway teow.
It is Saturday night and the restaurant is packed as we rock up at 8.15pm. Darlinghurst dictates its dining crowd and this place is no exception to the rule.
The menu showcases a few Malaysian classics like ayam percik, satay and hawker favourites Penang style (not KL style) char kway teow, pie tee and kerabu chicken.
Monk has a sweet tooth and starts with an ABC or Air Batu Campur in Malay which literally means mixed ice cubes.
Lucky Suzie‘s take on this is shaved blue pea flower ice, bubur cha cha and a big dollop of taro ice cream. Personally, I am not a big fan of bubur cha cha and would definitely prefer my ABC without it.
Thelonious and I attended an Asahi dry black pop up bar opening a couple of years ago and this is one of my favourite dark beers for its ability to literally evaporate down my throat with a nutty flavour.
Mysaucepan loves her cocktails so per usual is nursing an Aphrospice with Ketel One Vodka, galangal, orange, kaffir lime leaf, Aphrodite bitters and a stalk of lemongrass.
I bite the length of the lemongrass stalk to loosen its layers inside. It does work somewhat as a pseudo straw that emits lemongrass flavours into this cocktail.
There is some unsubstantiated claim that lobster thermidor is one of the most popular last meals of prisoners on death row in north America and Europe. If ever, it would definitely be on my death row agenda because I grew up in Malaysia loving lobster thermidor with all its cheesy deliciousness whenever my family dined out in western restaurants.
And this lobster thermidor spring roll is all class with a light and crispy pastry. On first bite, a hot molten stream of gooey cheese with little chunks of lobster meat oozes out. Paired with a tangy yuzu mayo, this is a beautiful entree irrespective of whether it is quintessentially Malaysian.
In my books, spring rolls, whether Chinese or Malaysian, should include cheese as one of its key ingredients.
I order a piece of roti out of curiosity.
It is not the light and fluffy style one would find in mamak stalls in Kampung Baru and Bangsar but rather like a crisp Turkish gözleme.
Hainanese style pork belly satay is popular throughout kopitiams in Malaysia and Singapore operated by Hainanese chefs who were later migrants after the Hokkiens, Teochews and Cantonese.
The savoury sweet potato sauce is not one I am used but then again, my personal preference is Malay style chicken or beef satay with a spicy peanut sauce a la Malay rather than Chinese satay.
Apart from a cured meat like bacon that I love with breakfast eggs, I prefer my pork belly either slow roasted or braised, definitely not grilled.
A hunk of pork hock is twice cooked – steamed / braised and then deep fried to a crunchy pork feast.
Theolonious carves this porky joint into crisp, succulent and gelatinous bites to be wrapped with fresh lettuce leaves and pickled veges, the Malaysian equivalent of German sauerkraut.
A sambal dip and fish sauce lends a bit more Malaysian and Thai influence.
The Catch of the Day is a crispy deep fried yellow bellow flounder smothered with lemongrass sambal butter.
The sambal is a little meek as I expected though a twist of lime juice elicit more flavours redolent of an ikan bakar minus the spicy charred smokiness of a fire grill.
From a food perspective, I believe the street food of Southeast Asia, such as those in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore should be cooked and presented in the tradition of how it is done in their home countries. It is cheap and so damn delicious, I say just stick with this winning formula.
Price-wise, I am definitely not against paying $25 for a lux char kway teow with crab or perhaps dragon meat provided these expensive ingredients can elevate its regular version into something special.
Indeed, the famous “red hat lady” dishing out char kway teow in Lorong Selamat in Penang offers crab meat and mantis prawns in her lux version. For me, the perceived difference if any in these kind of turbo-charged street food is marginal at best simply because the regular has been the gold standard since its genesis.
My advice for dining at Lucky Suzie is to close your eyes and imagine the food to be anything other than modern Malaysian.
Tonight, I did just that and the food actually tasted better.
So dear readers, Malaysian food has never been better in Sydney and there are so many good Malaysian restaurants in our fair city, which is your favourite one?
78 Stanley street, Darlinghurst
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 7901 0396
Opening hours: Tuesday – Wednesday 5pm to late, Thursday – Saturday 12pm – 3pm, 5pm to late, Sunday 12pm – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm