Ahhhhh Mamak, my favourite cheap 'n' cheerful, I will never tire of the wondrous Malaysian delights you dish up. Mamak is a common haunt of ours and between the three of us who dine here regularly we have ordering down pat.
First off, wine is poured, Mamak is BYO and at $2 per head it's a veritable bargain. It's frenetic, loud and sometimes understaffed so don't be shy in helping yourself to tumblers (for your wine) and the carafes of water lined up at the front of the restaurant, otherwise you may die of thirst.
We have learnt to order in two stages or else everything arrives at once and the smallish tables literally cannot cope with the sheer mass of dishes! We start with the roti canai and a dozen chicken satay. The steaming, fluffy, crispy, tear-it-apart roti is completely moreish as are the sambal, dahl and curry dips.
The chicken satays are a must-have. The chicken is moist, flavoursome and perfectly charred. The generous bowl of satay sauce is nutty, sweet and thick and is the perfect coating for not only the chicken but the chunks of red onion and cucumber that accompany the dish. We consumed numerous chicken satays from the stall on New Lane in Penang manned by Ngiom Far Luan who cooks them over charcoal and I am happy to report that Mamak's satays are right up there with those we discovered in Penang.
After we've settled in a bit we move on to ordering the mains. Usually we go for the rojak salad, mee goreng and nasi goreng. This time round I was also dreaming about the chicken curry we'd had on our last visit with some other mates so I persuaded the regulars to order this and some white rice to go with it.
The rojak salad is great to order as the fresh ingredients cool down the heat from the other dishes. Shredded yambean and cucumber is piled high together with fried tofu, half a hard boiled egg and prawn and coconut fritters and then topped with thick peanut sauce. A crispy prawn cracker of sorts perches precariously on top of this mountain of deliciousness.
The kari ayam or chicken curry packed a punch! The chicken pieces were very tender and the sauce addictive. If I'd had room I would have ordered another bowl of white rice and polished off the rest of it but alas.
The mee goreng arrived soon after and was a tangle of slippery hokkien noodles, beansprouts, egg, slices of fishcake and prawns. The fresh lime adds a bit of zing to the chilli and spice that is ubiquitous throughout the dish. YUM!
And finally the nasi goreng, something we can never pass up. The Malaysian style fried rice is tossed with prawns, eggs, mixed veges, sambal and is topped with crispy fried shallots. For me, this is comfort food. The vegetables retain a bit of bite, the prawns are crisp and the rice is seasoned with the perfect dash of chilli.
So six dishes later plus BYO and rice and the bill is still under $30 per person. Love it! Mamak is loud, fun and the food is consistent, tasty and incredibly good value. We will return time and time again with this winning combination.
Good to know:
Roti canai $5.50
1 dozen chicken satay $16
Kari Ayam (curry chicken) $16
White rice $3 (per portion)
Mee goreng $12
Nasi Goreng $12
BYO $2 per head
366 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne (Mamak has two Sydney restaurants also)
Lunch 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Supper until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays
Images: T B Southam