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When it comes to Malaysian food, I am admittedly a complete and utter ignoramus.
This is no slight against Malay cuisine, just that in my 29 years on the face of the planet, I’ve never actually tried it before. As far as Asian cuisines are concerned, I adore Korean (well duh!), Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, Hakka Chinese, Cantonese, Philippino and Vietnamese food and somehow I’d managed to keep Malay completely off my radar.
So as part of my involvement with this month’s Malaysia Kitchen Bloggers Summit, I resolved to become better acquainted with the flavours from this part of the world.
My first ever experience with Malaysian food was at the familiar Petaling Street restaurant in Glen Waverley. I’d heard good things about them and saw that they were very often busy so I was rather excited to give them a go. From first impressions, the fact that the restaurant was absolutely packed out on a Tuesday evening with a line of waiting diners seemed to show that they were quite popular with the locals so I definitely wanted to find out why.
The restaurant itself is quite well laid out. The lighting is bright without being glaring, the decor aged but clean and the tables are close enough together that the ambient noise from each group of diners creates a friendly buzz without meaning you can easily overhear their conversation.
As for the service, I found that it was actually wonderful. Our tea was topped up throughout the evening so quietly that we didn’t even realize it had been done, and when I found myself absolutely lost by the 130+ items on the menu, the waiters were helpful and friendly in explaining what dishes were to help me with my selection.
Vegetarian Curry Puffs ($4.00)
We decided that we’d start off with the curry puffs and I consider this to be my best decision of the entire evening. Similar to Indian samosas, they were lovely puffy golden bundles of deliciousness. The pastry was rich, buttery and flaky and though I couldn’t determine what vegetables were contained inside, they were cooked to absolute perfection. The curried seasoning they were cooked in was wonderfully fragrant and carried a slight spicy kick that was worked nicely with the richness of this particular dish.
The other surprise here was that though the menu said that they were 2 for $4.00, we scored THREE of these beauties! I begged my brother’s grace and eagerly nabbed the second one for myself as I found them to be utterly moreish and dangerously easy to eat.
Combination Fried Crispy Noodles – crispy fried noodles with beef, chicken, prawn, BBQ pork and vegetables ($9.80)
For my main, I decided on going with the crispy fried noodles as I’d never actually had noodles like this before and I have to say that I now consider myself a devotee at the altar of the crispy noodle. Thin egg noodles fried till crunchy, they were fantastic as the sauce only coated them without making them soggy (well, not initially) and the added crunch was a textural delight against the soft meats and vegetables.
The sauce for this dish also made this a winner for me – it had a slight sweet and salty balance that was then carried through by what tasted like oyster sauce, and this also gave it added richness. It was a mild enough sauce that it didn’t overpower any of the other flavours present in the dish but rather acted as an undercurrent that mingled with them nicely in the mouth. While I’m not sure if this is authentic, it was certainly a treat!
HAKKA-style cooked pork belly with dry egg noodles ($9.80) & golden garlic chicken wings ($5.80)
As for my brother, he opted to start with the chicken wings as he absolutely adores them. While the chicken was cooked to perfection so it was moist and flavourful, unfortunately the seasoned flour that they had been coated in was incredibly salty and made them inedible for me. The garlic flavour is delivered with much gusto (so much so that it really is the predominant taste) and while this was great for us, the excessive salt in the flour really let the whole dish down.
Though my brother still managed to polish off four of the five wings that came out
As his main, my brother decided to go with the Hakka pork belly and egg noodles and I have to say that this dish caught me completely off guard. I’m fairly familiar with Hakka cuisine and know it to contain rather subdued flavours with nothing particularly strong or spicy in there, however this was very, very different.
While the sauce was very rich and unctuous, the meat was strangely tough AND tender – tender in that it fell apart in the mouth, but the pieces themselves were incredibly dry and chewy. It felt like the pork belly had been in a slow cooker for so long that after the meat broke down, it then dried out to carry this bizarre texture. The meat was also so incredibly salty that after a bite, I had to gulp down a whole cup of tea and avoid it like the plague for the rest of the evening.
Nasi lemak special – traditional hawker style coconut flavoured rice with peanuts, cucumber, egg, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and curry chicken ($9.90)
At this point of the meal we were both full to the brim (mind you, I’m not the world’s biggest eater – so much so that my friend calls me a pathetic excuse for a food blogger!!) but I thought that we should at least order a different dish – one that I was sure was authentic Malay, even if we would only be able to manage a single bite each. So bucking our trend for noodles, I decided to order the nasi lemak with the curry chicken.
Aesthetically, the dish looked an absolute treat with the chicken and ingredients scattered around the perfect white dome of rice. And as far as the chicken was concerned, it was just perfect with the red curry sauce being rich and savoury and carried well through the tender chicken. The only let down here was that the rice had no discernable coconut flavour – though it’s possible that this may have been due to the intensity of the curry sauce that the chicken came with.
Once the evening drew to a close and I plodded up to the counter to settle the bill, I was surprised to see that it came in at just under $40. Seriously? Two entrees and three mains and I didn’t have to break out a $50?
So what are my thoughts after my introduction to Malaysian cuisine?
The flavours appear to have influences from Chinese and Indonesian cuisine, but are very very different from what you expect. Full, punchy flavours that are fragrant and a feast for the senses – I can’t wait till my next Malaysia Kitchen experience!
Petaling Street Glen Waverley
Address: 111 Kingsway, Glen Waverley
Phone: (03) 9561 1388
Payment accepted: cash only
BYO: Wine only
Entrees: $4 – $6
Mains: $8 – $25.80
Desserts: $4.50 – $5