Suria Cafe, Girrawheen

Update, March 2013: Suria is under new management. Some of the dishes described in this post may no longer be available.

Nasi lemak (AU$8.50)

Suria Cafe, located at the Summerfield shopping centre in Girrawheen, serves traditional Malay dishes.

On a weekend with good traffic it's about 20 minutes drive from the Perth CBD. There was no problem getting a parking spot when we arrived at lunch time on Saturday, but it was a slow negotiation thanks to shoppers, their trolleys and cars.

Stepping through the PVC strips in the doorway, the first thing I noticed was the gleaming floor and widely spaced tables, and then the menu in pictures on the wall. The two staff members standing behind the counter greeted us with friendly smiles. It was a great start.

Suria Cafe - interior

Jac ordered nasi lemak (AU$8.50). Suria's rendition of this classic Malaysian dish is pretty basic, consisting of coconut rice, ikan bilis (fried anchovies) and peanuts, sliced fresh cucumber, hard-boiled egg and sambal. If you'd like something else with your nasi lemak - a piece of fried chicken, some beef rendang or chicken curry, that's not a problem - you can just choose a dish out of those on display in the bain marie and pay a little extra. You do get plenty of crispy ikan bilis and a whole egg smothered generously in sambal, but some might say $8.50 is on the pricey side when there's no other meat on the plate. The coconut rice was deliciously "lemak" - I kept eating it long after Jac declared herself full.

Nasi lemak (AU$8.50)

I ordered their weekend special, nasi biryani (AU$10.50) The festively colourful rice was garnished with nuts and served with a succulent quarter chicken, spicy pickled vegetables and juicy sweet pineapple. The strong cardamon flavour in the rice wasn't to Jac's taste but I enjoyed the combination of savoury rice with sweet and sour pickles and pineapple.

Nasi biryani (AU$10.50, weekend special)

We couldn't resist trying Suria's ayam goreng (fried chicken, AU$3 per piece).

Ayam goreng (fried chicken)

We shared a serving of chicken satay (AU$8.00 for 5 sticks), served with peanut sauce, cucumber and ketupat (rice cakes). I'm sure the serving dish doesn't look so sparse if you order 10 sticks (AU$13.50).

Satay (AU$8.00, 5 sticks)

The chicken satay was beautifully tender, with flavours of turmeric and lemongrass and the authentic charry flame-grilled taste.

The satay sauce (the "kuah") was tasty but maybe a touch runny. A perfect satay sauce is more like crunchy peanut butter than smooth, but it's distinctly different to peanut butter. It isn't too thick, definitely not too liquid and will cling to the satay when you dip it in.

Chicken satay

To drink, Jac ordered teh tarik ("pulled" tea, AU$3.00). To make teh tarik, hot tea is poured back and forth between cups, often at great heights – that’s the "pulled" part. This pulling gives the tea a frothy top. It’s usually a strong sweet tea, made with condensed milk. Suria's teh tarik was a pleasant drink but could've used more pulling.

Teh tarik (AU$3.00)

I ordered teh-o ais (iced black tea, AU$3.00). It was refreshing, not too sweet. This would be lovely on a hot summer's day.

Teh-o ais (iced black tea, AU$3.00)

For dessert, we shared an ais kacang (pronounced "ice kah-chung"). This popular Malaysian dessert is usually a mountain of shaved ice served with a collection of interesting (perhaps strange and random, to those new to ais kacang) goodies buried beneath the ice.

Condensed milk and rose syrup poured over the shaved ice gave it a snowy soft pink sheen. On top of the ice, a blob of creamed corn. Be warned, the corn adds an almost jarring saltiness to a dish your brain may insist should taste sweet!

Ais kacang

Part of the pleasure and fun of eating ais kacang is digging around with your spoon and discovering what's hidden under the ice. There were red beans and slippery black, green and clear jellies. At the very bottom of the bowl, the ice was bright pink, sweet and fragrant, soaked with the rose syrup.

Ais kacang rapidly turns into a very unphotogenic, unappetising brown and pink slush, so it's a dish best eaten quickly. I probably didn't help matters by eating all the rosy pink ice first, resulting in the premature collapse of our ice mountain.

Ais kacang - the ice at the bottom was pink and sweet, soaked with rose syrup

Every Saturday, Suria features a selection of homemade kuih, which they promote every Saturday morning on their Facebook page. Kuih are snack and/or dessert items most commonly (but not always) made using rice flour or glutinous rice flour. They can be sweet or savoury. There's no direct translation of "kuih" in English - the closest word would be "cake", but kuih do not resemble the Western idea of cake. :) On this Saturday, Suria's kuih specials were (see photo below):

  • Pink and white - kuih lapis ("layer" kuih). These are made with rice flour and come in different colour combinations i.e. you'll find them in other colours besides pink and white
  • Brown and covered in coconut - kuih kasui or kosui. They are made with rice flour and flavoured with gula melaka (palm sugar)
  • Light brown (covered in crumbs) - kuih gulung goreng ayam. Soft croquettes, crumbed on the outside and filled with minced chicken
  • Green and white - putri salat or serimuka, made with glutinous rice flour, flavoured with coconut milk and pandan
  • Brown and white - talam ubi, made with cassava/tapioca (brown layer), rice flour and coconut milk (white layer)
  • At the back, with the tongs on top - apom balik (peanut turnovers, or peanut pancakes)

I reckon they should also do a "taster" pack featuring one of each kuih. I'd never seen kuih gulung goreng ayam before, so curious, I bought a pack. I ate them for breakfast the next morning - they were soft, savoury and delicious. I'll definitely eat those again!

Saturday special kuih

We planned to buy a couple of takeaway apom balik (peanut turnovers) just before leaving, but they were disappearing so quickly I urged Jac to buy ours before there were none left. By the time we bought ours, there were about half a dozen left. They sold like hotcakes! Or like apom balik!

I noticed some customers coming in just to buy takeaway kuih, and just about every customer who dined in bought some kuih before leaving too.

Apom balik (peanut turnovers)

The apom balik were large and pillowy.

Apom balik (peanut turnover, some call it peanut pancake)

Inside, sweet peanut filling.

Apom balik (peanut turnover)

I really like Suria's menu in pictures on the wall. It gives you an idea what different dishes are if you're not familiar with their names. But of course, for the indecisive, it could make the choice even more difficult! The staff were also happy to explain the dishes and answer any questions about the menu.

Suria's been around for four years and used to be more of a takeaway. Since moving to this new premises they're now able to seat up to 40 people.

Suria Cafe, Girrawheen

I must admit as I ate my last spoonfuls of ais kacang, thinking about biting into an apom balik later, I was simultaneously secretly planning my next meal at Suria - I really want to try their housemade roti canai and murtabak. If we lived closer to Girrawheen, I'm sure we'd become regulars.

More and more I keep discovering wonderful places to eat in shopping centres, nowhere near the trendy cafe strips. I reckon Girrawheen's got one of Perth's hidden gems right here among the concrete and shopping trolleys. We'll be back for sure.

Map of Suria Cafe, Girrawheen - click for larger map
Click for larger map

Suria Cafe (not a good website, but don't let it put you off)
Summerfield Shopping Centre (next to Farmer Jacks)
Unit 14, 3 Wade Court, corner Girrawheen Ave
Girrawheen WA 6064
Telephone: (08) 9343 4304
Find out the Saturday special kuih every week on Facebook

Update, March 2013: Suria is under new management.

Suria Cafe on Urbanspoon

TFP dined at Suria Cafe with compliments of Malaysia Kitchen. All opinions are my own.

Malaysia Kitchen Blogger Summit

EDIT, 1 September - RESULTS: Thank you so much to everyone who voted and helped spread the word! The results are out and it's official! I'm going to Malaysia!

This was my final post for the Malaysia Kitchen Blogger Summit. I had a wonderful time eating and photographing dishes at four of Perth's Malaysian restaurants. I hope my posts captured at least some of the diversity, complexity and deliciousness of Malaysian cuisine.

Thirteen bloggers across Australia reviewed local Malaysian restaurants throughout August for a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Malaysia for the ultimate food lovers’ adventure. At the end of August, the three bloggers with the most reader votes across all their posts were announced as the the winners.

Below are the posts I published as part of the Malaysia Kitchen Blogger Summit Competition. They were published on the Malaysia Kitchen (MK) site as well as here at The Food Pornographer.

  1. Rasa Nyonya Penang, East Victoria Park | Rasa Nyonya (MK)
  2. Old Cathay, Victoria Park | Old Cathay (MK)
  3. Bull Creek Hawker, Bull Creek | Bull Creek Hawker (MK)
  4. Suria Cafe, Girrawheen (this post) | Suria Cafe (MK)

Thank you once again to everyone who voted for me and helped spread the word! A Malaysian eating adventure awaits... stay tuned!