Disclosure: my first meal at PappaRich was by invitation/complimentary. The subsequent meals described in this post were paid for by me. I envisage more meals to come, paid for by me.
I was born in Malaysia and grew up on Malaysian food. I was ten years old when my family emigrated to Western Australia. We’re lucky here in Perth – it’s easy to find most of the right ingredients to cook Malaysian food at home, and the number of Malaysian restaurants in Perth is steadily growing.
PappaRich is a franchise, first established in Kuala Lumpur over a decade ago. There are now 70 PappaRich restaurants in Malaysia and 11 across Australia (with two more to open very soon). I was excited to hear PappaRich was opening its first Perth restaurant in August on James Street in Northbridge. I accepted an invitation to dine as a guest of PappaRich and went for a Sunday lunch earlier this month with my friend The Other Jac.
The menu is extensive and beautifully photographed, a glutton’s coffee table book. The dishes and drinks are numbered; pencils are supplied for you to write out your own order, listing the relevant dish/drink numbers using the order chit notepad. A button press summons a waiter to your table to collect your order.
We ordered several dishes to share, plus drinks. For me, the Tropical Lime, topped with a scoop of ice cream (like a float/spider). For The Other Jac, a Milo Dinosaur. Milo fans, THIS: a big glass mug of iced Milo, topped with a mini mountain of Milo.
PappaRich’s nasi lemak comes with the essential trimmings – sliced cucumber, ikan bilis (fried anchovies), fried peanuts, hard-boiled egg and sambal belacan (pronounced “blah-chan”) – and fragrant coconut rice. You have the choice of fried chicken or curry chicken, or for a couple of dollars more, the ‘special’ version, with sambal prawns and chicken curry. We chose the special, which came with large sambal prawns and succulent boneless chicken thigh pieces in curry gravy – an excellent rendition of Malaysian chicken curry.
Pappa Special Nasi Lemak – with curry chicken and prawn sambal (AU$15.90, R05)
Yes, by Malaysian hawker standards, PappaRich isn’t cheap. By Malaysian hawker standards, AU$15.90 for ‘special’ nasi lemak is outrageous!
Yes, you can get decent, much cheaper nasi lemak in Perth. Family-run Hawker’s Delight at Station Street Market in Subiaco, for example, serves up a simpler but satisfying version for $8 (I’m certain that’s still too much by Malaysian hawker standards, right?) – you’ll get the cucumber, fried anchovies and peanuts, hard-boiled egg, a piece of fried chicken (not curry chicken), and sambal (no prawns), but it’s still one of the best breakfasts you can get on a weekend in Perth. There are other places – feel free to suggest your favourite in the comments.
But besides what you get on the plate, other factors contribute to the price you pay, and it’s unrealistic to expect hawker prices in a restaurant. It’s complex and I’m not going to attempt to unscientifically analyse it here. Unscientifically, by Perth standards, I think what you get at PappaRich is reasonably good value.
We shared mixed satay (3 sticks of chicken, 3 sticks of beef). It’s served with cucumber chunks, red onion, and peanut sauce (kuah, pronounced “kwah”) for dipping – no ketupat (steamed rice cakes). The meat was tender and marinated well, and although you can watch the satay sticks being flame grilled in the open kitchen, it was missing that authentic charcoal flavour that makes Malaysian satay so delicious. The peanut sauce was not very spicy and on the sweet side. We may be in Perth, but I reckon a more savoury, gutsy kuah would be well received here.
We also shared Roti Telur Bawang, buttery roti filled with egg (telur) and thinly sliced onion (bawang), served with chicken curry (not just curry sauce, but pieces of chicken), sambal and dhal. It’s a more substantial option to classic roti canai. You can also get roti telur or roti bawang, if you want either egg or onion but not both together.
The last of our savoury dishes was Pappa Fried Mee, soft thick egg noodles fried with prawns, bean sprouts, tofu, potato cubes, tomato and egg – a tasty combination. The menu indicates this dish is mildly spicy – I’d suggest it has a bit of a kick but is unlikely to clear a blocked nose.
It was a good feed. To finish, we shared dessert of Banana Fritters with ice cream, which turned out to be the only real disappointment of the meal. Both bananas were too hard and left us with that unpleasant sticky mouth feel that comes from eating under-ripe bananas. Banana fritters are quite a common item on Malaysian and Chinese restaurant menus in Perth, but if someone was to set up a real goreng pisang (fried banana) stall in Perth, using properly ripened mushy bananas, now THAT would be something worth lining up for.
Important note: If your eyes are bigger than your stomach (as my late grandma would’ve said, shaking her head in disapproval) and you can’t finish everything you’ve ordered, it’s no problem to get a takeaway container for your leftovers.
This can’t be a new James Street nightclub! It’s 1pm!
I’ve stood in a ridiculously long, hungry line for sensational Malaysian food at Mamak in Sydney, and now that PappaRich has come to Perth, it looks like Malaysian food has created queues here too. It’s interesting that in a city where lining up for a feed is not the norm like it is in Sydney, Perth diners have done so most prominently at franchises – Jamie’s Italian and PappaRich. Have you lined up for PappaRich? What’s the longest you’ve had to wait to get inside?
You can avoid the queue if you go early. For my second meal at PappaRich, I went on my own for brunch, arriving within five minutes of the doors opening, and waltzed right in. The only other diners at 10.35am were sitting at a table for two. A staff member told me it starts getting busy after the first hour on weekdays, a little earlier on weekends. When I left at around 11.40am, the restaurant was already three-quarters full.
This time my drink was the Teh C Special, tea made with evaporated milk, chilled with ice cubes and served in a large glass mug, with a layer of gula melaka (palm sugar syrup), a rich caramelly surprise right at the bottom (make sure you stir before drinking).
The Ipoh Kway Teow Soup is a restorative bowl of comfort but won’t be for everyone – the broth has a gentle chilli/curry heat with the authentic in-your-face pong of prawn head stock. It’s served with sliced steamed chicken, skin on and conveniently boneless, sitting in light soy sauce with a touch of sesame oil. I’ve already been asked by more than one Perth chicken rice lover – is PappaRich’s chicken rice as good as Tak Chee House‘s chicken rice? Keep reading…
When my family lived in Malaysia, my grandma occasionally steamed bread in the rice cooker for our breakfast – steaming was a way to resurrect stale bread. Steamed soft warm bread, butter and kaya (coconut egg jam) is a nostalgic taste from my childhood, and despite thoughts of paying too much to eat old bread, I couldn’t resist ordering the Hainan Steamed Bread with butter and kaya – sliced thick and pillowy, I enjoyed it very much.
In the name of blogging and chicken rice research, I went back yet again – today, in fact – to try the Pappa Chicken Rice. Again, I walked right in shortly after the doors opened for the day. The steamed chicken was tender, served on top of sliced cucumber in soy sauce/sesame oil, but to me it lacked that smooth, slippery quality that I love in Tak Chee House’s incredibly succulent chicken. At Tak Chee, the beansprouts are served sitting in the soy sauce/sesame oil under the steamed chicken, soaking up all the juice. PappaRich’s beansprouts are drier, served in their own dish with not much sauce (I tipped them into the chicken dish, but it wasn’t quite the same). The chilli sauce was fine, but I prefer a more gingery, bitey chilli sauce. The rice and broth were both flavoursome. As far as chicken rice goes, it’s pretty good, but Tak Chee House still reigns supreme as my favourite Hainanese chicken rice in Perth – I’m sure this will be no surprise to my fellow Tak Chee House devotees. But PappaRich has its own strengths, especially in the roti department.
In the interest of roti research, I ordered PappaRich’s Roti Bom. The menu warns that roti bom will take 15 minutes to prepare; it may take longer when it’s busy. I ordered mine when I was three-quarters of the way through my chicken rice, hoping that was enough for a short ‘rest’ between courses! It arrived around 20 minutes later. I love all the savoury roti variations, but roti bom’s a sweet treat, rolled up like a snail, with a crisp golden-brown crust. PappaRich’s roti bom is dusted with icing sugar and served with condensed milk and white sugar for dipping. Like all roti, a tactile approach is the most pleasurable; it’s best to ignore the cutlery and unravel the snail with your fingers. It may be called roti bom (bomb), but I’ll always think of it as roti siput (snail). As I finished my roti, I could hear “crunch crunch crunch” as the woman at the table next to me munched on Pappa Deep Fried Chicken Skin. Next time…
I’m always thrilled when another Malaysian restaurant opens in Perth, and for me, PappaRich is like a Malaysian diner, serving many of my Malaysian comfort food favourites. With another PappaRich opening closer to my neck of the woods at Westfield Carousel, I reckon I’ve got a lot of eating to look forward to.
101 James St, Northbridge WA 6003
Telephone: (08) 6361 1766
No bookings taken
Sunday, Monday to Thursday 10.30am to 9.30pm
Friday and Saturday 10.30am to 10.30pm
Disclosure (in case you missed it): This post describes three meals/three visits to PappaRich Northbridge. The first, with The Other Jac, was compliments of PappaRich; the rest, on solo visits, were paid for by me.
PappaRich ambassador Poh Ling Yeow will be at the new PappaRich Carousel (Shop 1173 at Westfield Carousel, Albany Highway, Cannington) on Friday, 5 December. I’ll be on a photography tour in Myanmar when the Carousel restaurant opens but I plan to make up for lost time when I get back.
I talked about Malaysian restaurants/Malaysian food in Perth live in the studio at RTRFM in September for The Food Alternative, part of the Drivetime program.
Listen to the interview here