In Sydney, Mamak’s queues are as famous as its roti, expertly rolled, flipped, stretched and folded, teasing and taunting as you watch through the window while your hunger grows and you wish you’d arrived much, much earlier. A zooshed-up fluffy ball, crisp witch’s hat and buttery snail… you can have it all plus more, but only after a wait.
My sister Juji, her fiancé Jay and I were in Sydney for 10 days in November, and for the last weekend of our stay, Jac joined us. Juji, Jay and I would return to Perth on the Sunday afternoon while Jac would be on her way to Parramatta for a conference.
On this Friday night, we’re in the queue with friends Craig and Caroline waiting to eat dinner at Mamak Chatswood. I’ve been keen to take Jac to Mamak ever since my first taste the year before. She’s a big fan of roti and Malaysian food and I know she’ll love Mamak.
The queue at Chatswood isn’t as legendary as the one at the original Mamak on Goulburn Street in Haymarket, but tonight there’s at least a twenty-minute wait. Thank goodness for good company and a riveting roti-making show.
Finally, we are admitted to a table.
A round of drinks and a toast to friends and a fantastic holiday: Milo ais (iced Milo), kopi tarik ais (iced “pulled” coffee) and limau ais (iced lime drink).
Craig orders a cendol (AU$6). Cendol can either be served in a glass, as a drink, or in a bowl, as a dessert. At Mamak, it’s served dessert-style. It looks pretty terrible but is very refreshing.
We order up a feast to share. It’s not worth attempting to order dishes as starters and main courses – no matter what instructions you give the waiter, the food will arrive in a seemingly random order whenever individual items happen to be ready. But it’s all good.
First, roti telur bawang (roti with egg and onion, AU$7) and roti canai (AU$5.50). The egg and thinly sliced red onion are just visible through the roti telur bawang. The roti canai is a zooshed up crispy fluffy ball. Both are served with curry sauces and sambal. We attack with fingers.
We order ayam goreng (fried chicken, AU$14 for 4 pcs or $4 per piece), a piece per person. The crunchy spicy coating and the succulent flesh inside are almost too hot to eat but impossible to resist.
The kari kambing (lamb curry, AU$16) is delicious, with flavoursome pieces of lamb in a sauce I could keep on drinking. In fact, when the others are done I take hold of the spoon and sneak in a few sips before the dishes are cleared away.
The kacang panjang belacan (long beans belacan, AU$14) are gloriously pungent, stir-fried in plenty of sambal belacan. Jac finds the beans a bit too salty but I can’t stop eating them. Left alone with this and a big bowl of steamed rice, I’d be perfectly content.
We order a dozen satay sticks (half beef, half chicken; $9 for 1/2 dozen or $16 for dozen). Like the roti, the satay is cooked fresh to order, so can take a little while. The meat is tender and tastes of lemongrass, fire and charcoal. It’s served with a bowl of satay kuah (peanut dipping sauce) and chunks of raw red onion and cucumber. It’s excellent but I can’t help missing the other traditional satay accompaniment, ketupat.
For dessert, Jac orders ais kacang (AU$6). Some people say ais kacang should be drizzled with rose syrup; some argue for gula melaka (palm sugar syrup). At Mamak, there’s no need to choose or argue, for you get both. The pink and brown shaved ice mountain has a sunny peak of creamed corn.
We order three sweet roti to share. First, roti kaya, with a scoop of ice cream (AU$7.50). Inside the roti is kaya, a coconut pandan jam. I really like this but reckon they’re a bit stingy with the kaya – a little more would be perfect.
Roti bom is plump buttery roti rolled up like a snail – I suppose roti siput (snail roti) doesn’t sound very appealing!
The roti tisu is a witch’s hat on a plate, tall, spectacular and eye-catching. We break off pieces, slowly unravelling and dismantling the tower. Underneath that crisp melt-in-the-mouth roti is a layer of crunchy sugar.
I can never decide between tisu or bom, so if I’ve got room and companions willing to help me eat them, I get one of each. What about you? Tisu or bom?
While I was in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a late dinner at Mamak in Haymarket with a group of food bloggers. One of the dishes we ordered was roti tisu with condensed milk. Roti tisu with ice cream is good, but I reckon if you’ve got a sweet tooth, the sticky condensed milk is hard to beat.
If you tolerate queueing for the promise of good food, it’s worth noting that Mamak Chatswood’s queues are shorter than Mamak Haymarket’s. Personally, I think Mamak’s food is worth the wait. It’s a great place for a tasty feed with mates. I’ll be back for sure, to watch roti TV and then feast with friends.
Shop P9, 1-5 Railway St, Chatswood NSW 2067
Telephone: (02) 9411 4411
No reservations (be ready to queue at peak dining time)
Next door is Crazy Wings. Great name. I’d like to try that next time.
Lunch 11.30am to 2.30pm
Dinner 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Friday and Saturday open till 10.30pm
Open 7 days
BYO $2 per person
$2 per person surcharge on public holidays
The original Mamak is at 15 Goulburn St, Haymarket
I went to Sydney with my sister Juji and her fiancé Jay in November 2011.
See the list of posts so far, in reading order. There’s still more to come.
See Craig’s write-up of our dinner at Damn Fine Food.