Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mamak - Malaysian Roti and Satay, Haymarket

Mention 'Mamak' to anyone and most immediately ask "How long did you line up for?" Synonymous with queues late into the night, Mamak is a Sydney institution - and the returning crowds that wait outside the battered pathway down Goldburn St night after night are a testament to this.

My patience isn't tested at all while we join the mid-week crowd outside. I'll always be in awe of the skill displayed by the roti wizards; rolling out paper thin layers and and manoeuvring each piece like it was second nature. The roti is worked until it is almost translucent and I am caught in a trance as I watch them construct the fluffy golden brown flat breads. On the downside, watching this actually makes you hungrier.
By the time you get to the front of the line you would already have taken a menu from inside or studied the the ones displayed on the windows. Once seated and settled we order the roti planta $6.50 and tear up generous pieces of this soft buttery bread. All the roti dishes are under $7 in Mamak and are served with dahl curry and a spicy sambal sauce. I tend to have roti planta just on its own enjoying the layers of buterry soft goodness.
The Teh Tarik (left $3.50) and the Teh 'O' ais limau (right $3.50) are both very refreshing drinks to cool your mouth if the dishes get a bit too hot. I find it fascinating when the staff make the Teh Tarik; they "stretch" this traditional Malaysian sweetened tea by some sort of Harry Potter Hogwarts trickery, flawlessly pouring the tea from one container to another. The result is a light and frothy texture and a fun show to watch. I dont think they do any magic tricks with the iced tea; but its just amazing how some lime can really lift a drink, this iced tea being much better than the bottled sugary varieties.
We don't stop with just one roti dish at Mamak - oh no.. that would make lining up a waste. The Roti Canai ($5.50) is also a favourite, with its crispy outside layers and the softness in the middle. Quite addictive and very very difficult to share with others. Now in the many times i've seen the roti wizards outside the window; i've never really seen how this ball of goodness is cooked and formed, more wizarding trickery i'm guessing.
Although the service is super speedy at Mamak, the roti is not guaranteed to last until the Kari Kambing ($16.50) arrives - so pace yourself! Another favorite dish, this lamb curry is super tender and goes perfectly with the buttery roti. The lamb is soft and juicy, soaking up all the flavours and curry spices.  
It's hard going past fried chicken when you spot it on the menu - the Ayam goreng ($4 per piece) satisfies those fried food cravings you might have held off at bay. It is very different to plain old boring fried chicken; the meat actually takes in most of the marinade and the batter and skin are just full of flavour. Delicious!
You tend to run out of table space here - everytime we have been we have found ourselves shuffling dishes around and trying to eat quickly to keep up with the food arriving. The pressure is always on and the service rushed - sometimes you don't get that bottle of water you ask for but I say focus on the eating!
Now you cannot possibly go to Mamak without trying their Chicken Satay Sticks ($9 half doz, also available in beef). Grilled for that Authentic charcoal street food taste; served with a sweet and spicy peanut satay sauce - they dissapear quick. I think it was Karen from Citrus and Candy who told me once that they are made bite size for optimum satay sauce coating factor - smart woman! This ain't no Greek souvlakia and the size  makes it a lot easier to cook too..and eat of course!

The Kangkung Belacan has to be one of my favorite dishes - its so stinkingly good! The steamed water spinach is cooked with chillies and shrimp paste, although I pick out the chillies because I am a wuss. I love me some shrimp paste and this dish has lots of that fishy oily goodness. 
Dessert time!
This truly awesome dessert is what keeps me and probably many patrons coming back. So so good, simple and cheap. Roti plsang ($7.50) is a sweetened roti served with slices of banana and ice cream. The outer layer is crisp but the warm banana and buttery layers inside are just scrumptious. This Mamak dish like the others is just so hard to share. 
Yes, Mamak is old news and there are several newcomers to the Malaysian food game - but the Mamak magic keeps us and many others coming back time and time again. The lines will always be there, you'll never be able to book a table but you'll be sure to get a great, cheap and quick meal each time you visit. Just remember to save room for dessert!
Mamak Haymarket
Mamak on Urbanspoon
Open 7 Days and until 2am on a Friday and Saturday night


joey@FoodiePop said...

Love the desserts here, but I still don't see the fascination with the rest of the food; good but not amazing.

Laura said...

oh gi, i'm so tempted to go here now ... again.

MelbaToast said...

I had my first Mamak experience last month and LOVED it (plus we only had to wait 5 minutes to get in). Didn't get to eat much as we were full from a morning of another trip is on the cards ASAP!

Stephcookie said...

I can never last too long without a Mamak fix! I think the lines make newcomers have high expectations about the food. It's not meant to be amazing food, but it's cheap and fast (and I love it!). Though these days I'm always at the Chatswood one, the lines seem less bad!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Ooh I do love the ayam goreng here, and no matter how full I am, I can always be tempted by the roti tisu!

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Love love love the roti tisu, must try and visit again sometime soon for a roti fix

Melissa said...

i'm getting hungry just looking at the photos. yes the roti there is amazingly good. :)

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