Tag Archives: Malaysian food

the food that would be king

Laksa is like eating a hug.

That’s what I said to Jourdan and Tristan after we skived !!! (yes, the band, not an actual trio of exclamation marks) at the Laneway Festival. Yeah, I know, bad form, eh? Personally, I got my money’s worth seeing the lead singer from Les Savy Fav jumping into the Maribyrnong (river, yes) and drinking said river water from his shoe. Gross.

Les Savy Fav at Laneway Festival Melb by Carole Whitehead

(seriously ace photo of said band’s frontman kindly supplied by that talented @caztheturtle lass)

As Ali G would say, I digest. Mrs Malaprop and Sheridan would be proud.

Back to the food. The three of us were a bit cold, tired and totally needing sustenance and the Beatbox Shroom burger gorged down at epic speeds many hours before didn’t quite hit the spot (more on that one day). Given that we were in pho town (Laneway Festival being in Foo-tas-cray, bless Franco Cozzo), soup noodles were suggested as post-festival nosh.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how we ended up wanting pho but eating chicken curry laksa at Laksa King in Flemington. It may have had something to do with being able to confirm that Laksa King would definitely be open.

First up, I know there is much debate about how Laksa King used to be ace till it moved rah rah rah, but I wouldn’t know because I never went then. Listening to people rant about how ace Laksa King of old is, is like reading The Age’s ‘Green Guide’ letters from the people who preferred The Bill before it went all American-soapy. I loved old-school The Bill but it ain’t coming back. Move on, people.

So (sadly, some might say), my review is based on post-move Laksa King. I readily admit that my Malaysian palate is very much in training, but I dig Laksa King. The chicken curry laksa was hearty though could have done with a bit more chilli heat and the broth seemed lacking in richness? It’s a little hard to explain, but it was like the flavours weren’t as deep as they could have been. It was good (lots of chicken and great tofu), but not outstanding. All three of us had it. It seemed a good staple to try.

chicken curry laksa

However, the assam laksa I had the first time I visited with Alex and Jillian was freaking amazing. Everything tasted fresh, sour and so alive. It made the one I had at Chai – Eat Like Malaysian (which I did like too) seem quite grey in comparison. It was Jillian who recommended I try the assam laksa on my virgin visit and as she’s native to Malaysia, it would have been stupid not to listen.

I have since heard that there are better assam laksas out there (to be hunted out at a later date, for certain!). They better be gravity-defying…

assam laksa

Other things experienced at this restaurant include lobak. Tristan had ordered this pre-chicken curry laksa, bottomless pit that he is. We all got to taste and despite my only having lobak on one occasion prior, this wasn’t amazeballs.

lobak?

I was pretty shocked at the notion that they didn’t have hot teh tarik (seriously, why don’t they?!) and ordered some cold approximation of said beverage. Tristan got some soy milk, eager to evoke fond memories of the same drink in Hong Kong.

soy milk drink

It gets a bit old being that arsehole tourist who says x is so much better in <insert destination newly travelled to here>, but yeah, both me and T were.

Flemington seems to have quite the nook of Malaysian restaurants, all of which I’m keen to further explore. As someone who readily admits not being informed on its culinary authenticity, I’m a fan of Laksa King – it’s cheap, casual, friendly and has a good range of food on the menu. It’s quite stylish inside too.

Laksa King on Urbanspoon

a lo-ver-ly house of coconuts

Coconut House just outside the city centre on Elizabeth Street is cheap and serves tasty food so at some stage it seemed only fitting that myself, Tris and Ryan tried it out before catching a late screening of a film in nearby Melbourne Central a very long time ago.

tasty birds

Both Ryan and I ordered exactly the same thing – the Hainanese chicken rice with BBQ pork. The violent radioactive orange crockery is a bonus. Wow. I don’t have much experience with this dish, but it could become a favourite.

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rice

Tristan, after much agonising, had wonton egg noodles with pork.

wonton soup

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Oh, did I mention we also ordered crazy-looking drinks? Tristan of course got the biggest one – the ice cream Milo King Kong. Yep, that’s what it’s called on the menu.

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To further continue with the radioactive theme, Ryan got five layer teh tarik. We couldn’t quite figure out what the green glow worm things were, but he seemed to like his drink!

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I got the regular teh tarik – just a tad too sweet for me.

teh tarik

Even though we were bursting at the seams, we all decided to share some coconut jam toast. Tris will probably tell me off for using my own photo, but I want the ‘jam’ – more like a very sweet, gooey, honey-like paste to be visible. Suddenly, your tummy has more room. Also, if you’re at Coconut House, you have to have something coconutty, right?

coconut jam toast

I didn’t really feel I got to ‘test’ enough Malaysian dishes, so I returned for a serving of good old nasi lemak.

On this occasion, we were a few shops down at Little Coconut House which is less rushed. We sat outside and a scooter whizzing past made a sound that took me back to the Philippines, as did the smells of the food and Melbourne’s more usual (of late) humidity.

Tristan ordered the Hainanese chicken rice with BBQ pork this time. I got the mouth-searing nasi lemak with sambal prawns. I did actually want chicken but wires got crossed and I ended up with only the prawns. You might not like this if you’re a chilli wimp but if you can get past it, it’s still pretty damn tasty.

nasi lemak with sambal prawns

I can’t really comment on the authenticity as I’m still pretty much a noob to this cuisine but I do recommend it for a quick, cheap meal, especially when I need to get my spice on.

Coconut House on Urbanspoon

eat like a Malaysian here? yes please

Chai Eat Like Malaysian restaurant

There’s a good swag of Asian eateries near where I work and I felt it was about time I started to check them out. One such place on Pelham St in Carlton is the Malaysian restaurant Chai – Eat Like Malaysian. The menu is massive and it’s sleek, modern and has excellent service. The first time I went there, I ordered the bak kut teh rice purely based on its very enticing photo on the menu though I’d initially chosen something else. Would you believe it was the tofu that attracted me?

When the dish arrived, I was not disappointed. Beautiful, flavoursome soup with tofu and big, fat shittake mushrooms that soak up the broth with a few fish balls thrown in for good measure. This all came with a side of rice and some puffy balls of pastry.

bak kut teh rice

Tristan came along and ordered a rice dish – the chicken and salted fish fried rice. Very Asian and reminded me of Mum’s cooking – good comfort Asian fare. It doesn’t look overly pretty, I know, but don’t let that dissuade from trying it. Sometimes these sorts of dishes are the best reminder of everyday Asian food.

chicken and salted fish fried rice

I vowed to return as the food is fantastic and there’s heaps on the menu I want to sample.

Return I did. One freezing night after work, I didn’t feel like heading home so thought I’d visit again. This time I tried the assam laksa. The broth is sweet, spicy and sour. This laksa has small, chopped round rice noodles soaking at the base with small pieces of fish. On top, there is finely chopped cucumber and chilli. I got my chopsticks and gently submerged everything into the broth to make it nice and hot (temperature and chilli hot). This dish tastes a litlle Vietnamese inspired with the coriander and the sourness. I’m quite the chilli wimp but loved it in this. The perfect bowl of noodles for the winter! Those short rice noodles are quite hard to grab with chopsticks – I really had to work hard to get food into my mouth!

assam laksa

With my laksa, I ordered teh tarik, or Malaysian pulled milk tea. It was warming, sweet and comforting. The waiter asked me after my meal if I liked the tea – the staff here always seem interested in how you liked your chosen offerings, which has impressed me from the beginning. Chai is┬ájust around the corner from Norsiah’s Kitchen (and truth be told, I think it’s actually better than Norsiah’s). On the most recent visit, the place was very busy for a Wednesday night and so it should be: cheap, fantastic service and delicious food. I don’t know what took me so long to get into Malaysian food. Urbanspoon has its name listed as ‘Chai – Malaysian Mamma’s Kitchen’ but I can’t see this on any of their menus or the storefront hence my calling it ‘Chai – Eat Like Malaysian’ which is on the menus and store window.

Chai - Malaysian Mamma's Kitchen on Urbanspoon