Published in the City Hub, Bondi View and City News.
Michelle Dick is a fourth generation Aussie with a Chinese-Malay Mum. She can’t speak Mandarin but has learnt the names of her favourite Asian foods by rote. She’s fond of saying she’s just “fluent in Yum Cha”. Her Mum is from Melaka and is a remarkable cook (I’ve eaten her laksa myself). It inspired me to put Michelle’s tastebuds to the test by sending her out to give us the lowdown on four of Sydney’s Malaysian eateries. Michelle’s also a marketing professional; adventure seeker; and an aspiring writer who you can find out more about at: 8redfish.com.au
Ipoh on York
89 York St, Sydney (02) 9299 0001 ipohcentral.com
Jimmy used to serve his much-lauded laksas out of a tiny hole in the wall near Circular Quay. Relocating into this venue in 2012, he’s now serving some 400 lunches a day. Despite the expansion, he’s stayed true to his food philosophy.
Done right, this humble Chinese dish with its delicate flavours can be incredibly satisfying. The chicken is slow boiled in a homemade broth until it’s moist & juicy. It’s served with a red chilli that is sweet & vinegar-y. And a bright green gingery paste with a hint of garlic. I loved both of them. The rice (as it should be) is slightly oily & nutty in texture. If you blindfolded me, I’m not sure I could tell the difference from my Mum’s. It’s that good.
Ais Kacang (pronounced “ice kachang”)
Dig deep beyond the lashings of shaved ice, brightened with fluoro-coloured syrups & underneath you’ll find squishy green noodles, clear atap-chee, yellow corn, red beans, black grass jelly, crunchy peanuts & a heavenly mixture of sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk drizzled over the top. I’m instantly transported back to my happy place on a humid day in Malaysia.
Chinta Ria – Mood for Love
Level 6, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt St, Sydney (02) 8072 8888 chintamoodforlove.com
Come in from the bright lights through the heavy wooden door guarded by lions and you enter into a completely different realm with authentic Asian décor & warm lighting. My dining companion remarked, ‘you wouldn’t even know we were in a mall.’ Definitely more restaurant than quick service; this is also reflected in the food. My go-to dish here is the dessert tasting plate…
A firm jelly-like two-toned cake made of the root vegetable, which is a bit like tapioca, served with palm sugar & coconut milk.
These bright green pancakes made from pandan hold the sweetest combination of coconut & palm sugar.
Little triangular shaped pandan rice flour cakes, layered with coconut cream.
A modern take on a Malaysian classic and absolutely gorgeous in the mouth.
Chilled Durian Sesame
A firm mousse-like pudding with a custardy texture & a hint of sesame paste. It’s not overpowering, but still for the die-hard fans only.
760 George St, Haymarket (02) 9280 1006 petalingst.com.au
If you judge how good an Asian eatery is by the number of Asians, the noisiness or how orange the chopsticks are – then you’ve come to the right place. This place is all about the food. It’s a real in-and-out kinda place. But you have to know what you want. The menu contains no less than 121 items.
It’s perfect in every way. The generous servings of tender beef fall apart under my fork. From top to bottom, it’s really layered in terms of the spices. Lots of interesting bits & bobs: raw Spanish onion, Vietnamese mint, shards of lemongrass & star anise. Plus it’s got a nice lil’ kick at the end.
Mo Mo Cha Cha
This is a very traditional Nyonya dessert. It’s a warm & creamy savoury soup with sago (tapioca pearls) and sesame floating around in it. Sunk to the bottom are black-eyed peas & some crushed peanuts. It’s got just a hint of coconut sweetness. My dining companion loves it.
This cool sweet dessert drink features the infamous green wormy noodles and is flavoured with sweet palm sugar syrup called gula. Other ingredients such as sweet red beans & grass jelly offset the condensed milk & coconut. Lots of lashings of shaved ice round it off. Love! Love! Love!
580 George St, Sydney (02) 9262 7771 alicesmakan.com.au
Alice used to run a restaurant in Thornleigh that my folks would drive 1.5 hours to get to. This new joint is quite different. It’s in the food hall under the HSBC building near the cinemas on George Street. It’s brand spanking new, got cool branding and a short & sweet menu - my kind of place. Plus they’ve got a whole menu dedicated to kuih!
The laksa here has a great colour and the right balance of flavours. There’s lots of generous servings of quality ingredients served over two types of noodles. The tofu is soft enough to soak up all that delicious spicy soup. But it’s the home-made sambal that’s got me: it is remarkable. They should bottle that stuff.
Kuih Seri Muka
Kuih always equates to a party in my mouth. It’s a broad term encompassing cakes / dumplings / puddings / pastries usually made from sticky rice with sweet or savoury (sometimes both) fillings or toppings. If you like salted caramel ice cream – I urge you to try these little beauties. The top is sweet, creamy green custard that is balanced by the slightly salty bottom layer of soft, mushy sticky rice.