Nov 5, 2011

The roti barrier - lunch at Mamak

There comes a time when you have to go, "I fought the good fight...but"

My moment came today. I paid AUD$7 for roti telur bawang.

This is significant for a number of reasons.

A few years ago, back in Malaysia, I had a conversation with some friends. "Would you believe they pay $5 for a roti canai in Australia?" one said.  We gasped, we laughed and we pitied.

You see, in Malaysia, roti is virtually 'street food'. Mamaks (the word is actually for a Indian Muslim but has come to represent the type of 'coffee shops' they run) are around every corner, and it's where you go when you want a quick bite.

At say RM2.50 for a roti telur (egg bread), at dollar to dollar (no conversion in place), it's three times the price here.

Aussies pay it without blinking, but we hadn't been 'naturalised' enough to do that. Today, as I ordered the roti, I announced to hubby that 'we have 'arrived'.

"You have arrived," he said, tongue in cheek. "I am still holding out. I can have my frozen Kawan roti." He orders a Maggi goreng at which I roll my eyes, and accuse him of being plebeian.

roti telur bawang Mamak

When my roti arrives, it is Perfect. I cut Hubs a piece, dip it in the curry and ask him to compare that to his frozen rotis.

He eats, his eyes take on a dreamy, faraway look, he nods and I know I have won my point.

Maggi goreng Mamak

His Maggi goreng is good (Number One had it too) but not outstanding. You can't get to outstanding with Maggi goreng. The satay, which we've had before is superb. The nasi lemak was Number Two's order. He didn't need to wait for the menu, he started pointing at the dish on the next table when we had just sat down. At the end of the meal Number Two declared loudly that it is 'deee-licious' - to the amusement of the patrons of the next table - but he isn't really a good judge since he just eats the rice and egg. The sambal, which is really the hallmark of a good nasi lemak, was a letdown. The rice was obviously made with canned coconut milk.

ais kacang Mamak

For dessert, we ordered cendol and ice kacang. The shavings were perfect, fine enough and without the ice crystals, and the syrups were perfect. But the cendol was made with canned coconut milk - I know this is a repeated theme, but you just know when it's canned. The ais kacang lacked the goodies - I couldn't find any kacang, just corn and grass jelly. There is typically also red bean, palm seed and peanuts.

teh ais Mamak

I also ordered teh ais, my former staple. I closed my eyes for a second and pictured myself sipping it out of a small plastic bag with a pink raffia string tied around the side. Hmm...good enough to enable the illusion.

All in all, it was a good meal. We've had 'Malaysian food' in Sydney, but it was really more of something trying to be Malaysian food and almost is, but only almost.

Now this, Hubs and I agreed as we completed the meal, this is Malaysian food.

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