Since I’ve lived in Sydney there’s always been two elusive Malaysian dishes that I’ve never been able to find in a restaurant that have been able to reproduce authentically. So, when a friend and her Malaysian boyfriend started raving about a place that served the “best satay and cendol” in Sydney, my search was reignited and I took the first opportunity to check it out.
The menu largely consists of hawker stall favourites with some typical dishes you would find in other Malaysian restaurants. With a quite a large variety to choose from, I decided that the true test of authenticity would be to go with the dishes that never fail to go on my ‘must have’ list whenever I head back overseas. Definitely no prizes for presentation, but to my tastebuds it was a little trip back to hawker stall heaven.
Abang Sam’s Famous Satay
As close to the real deal that I’ve found so far in my years in Sydney. The satay sticks were marinated until the meat was stained a bright yellow and the chef wasn’t shy with barbecuing the skewers so that you were left with slightly crunchy and charred bits of chicken. The sauce, which was the definitely the highlight, had just the right amount of oil with crunchy chunks of peanuts. This tasted nothing like the peanut butter-like excuses for satay sauce that I’ve experienced elsewhere. The satay was served with pieces of spanish onion, cucumber and nasi ketupat (a typical Malay compressed rice accompaniment to satay), all of which served its purpose in mopping up as much sauce as possible.
Char Kway Teow
In hindsight, I probably should have ordered this with seafood as a test of authenticity. In hawker stalls, this noodle dish is usually fried with a mixture of seafood and fish cakes, but having chose the beef option instead of seafood, my plate I was given was tasty, but not much dissimilar to the fried beef noodles that can be ordered at most Chinese and Vietnamese eateries. Also missing were crunchy pieces of fried pork fat, but given the fact that it’s a halal compliant restaurant, it’s understandable.
My fondest memory of nasi lemak was getting a packet of this wrapped in a banana leaf from an old Malay woman who would make it every Tuesday night and then walk around the neighbourhood on Wednesday mornings selling it for breakfast. Looking at this, all the essential elements of a traditional nasi lemak were there – a serve of coconut rice, a hard boiled egg, fresh cucumber, a generous serving of chicken rendang, a portion of sambal (a Malaysian chilli relish of sorts) even the fried anchovies and peanuts. I didn’t get to try much of this dish, but given the speed that it was eaten up and the empty plate that remained, I’d say it must have been delicious!
A typical dessert found in South East Asia, cendol is named after the green pandan flavoured flour based jelly and is usually served with just some coconut milk, shaved ice and a generous drizzle of palm sugar syrup. There are other varieties incorporating a variety of different beans and jellies, but I’ve always like the simplicity of the few ingredients found in a true cendol. When this was served, I was quite happy to discover that they had stuck to tradition. The cendol in this dish was fresh, soft and had a strong pandan flavour which was nicely complemented with the sweet taste of the palm sugar syrup.
Goreng pisang (or pisang goreng if you’re Indonesian) literally means fried banana. I was a bit perplexed with the addition of apple slices and the sauces liberally dribbled over everything, but that aside, the banana was very sweet and the batter crunchy. My only complaint though is that it came out halfway while we were eating our meals which meant by the time we were able to enjoy this, the fritters were drowning in a puddle of melted ice cream. A headsup to the kitchen that we were still eating would have been nice!