For the past four years, I’ve had to deal with food that’s generally been of an inferior quality. Just my luck, when one semester away from graduation, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) gets a flurry of new openings that more or less have demolished the competition. We got excellent (albeit insanely oily) pasta from Stellini’s, we got some of the best falafels out there with vegetarian-oriented Yummba, we have some great upmarket cafe fare with Coco Cubano, we got a Subway, we got dessert options from the pedigrees Max Brenner and Moochi.
Now, UNSW’s Malaysian fix has arrived. Bring it on, even if I can only enjoy it for one last semester.
But as with most things, infinitely better late, than never.
Date Last Visited: 19/9/13
Address: High St, Gate 2 at UNSW (behind Coco Cubano), Kensington
Recommended Dish(es): char kway teow, mee goreng
I need to dispel what must be an automatic assumption – Mamak Village is not the Mamak you would know in Chinatown that attracts queues and queues of people. Yeah, the sharing of the “Mamak” name is bound to confuse, but alas no, the two are not the same. This wouldn’t be particularly important, unless you’re expecting Mamak quality food at Mamak Village. They are not equivalent.
In terms of pricing, I can’t remember exact dollar values, but nothing in this post was more than $12, with the rice dishes topping out at $8-$9.
As is customary of new openings, Mamak Village had quite the queue outside of it. You could actually skip to the front if you intend to order “proper” meals – most people in line were there for just the free stuff. Yeah free goodies depending on the time of day. If you arrived in the morning, you got Kaya toast. Between morning and arvo, a hazelnut ice cream float. Arvo-night: spicy chicken wings, and for the late-nighters, ice cream.
I fully intended to have my lunch here, so I jumped the queue, and got my ordering game on.
Like the Mamak in the CBD, you’re able to see the roti chefs in full view, spinning away. You’ll be waiting for your order, so may as well take in the process. Sorry, this one turned out a bit blurry. To make up for it, I regale you with a gif of the process below.
And that, turns into this:
Your classic roti canai presents itself in a large roti pan with three types of Malay curry sauces. Word of advice: eat this before it gets cold, and it’s good to share it. You don’t want this to be your main.
How is it? It’s pretty good, though it lacks the flakiness/crispiness of Malay roti, and is instead quite a bit more chewy. I prefer it more fluffy, which means that it’s not as good as the roti from Mamak CBD. That said, it’s still enjoyable, just on a different level.
Roti Murtabak is not something I’ve had before – essentially roti pastry that encloses savoury fillings within. The ones at Mamak Village include eggs and beef. The resultant taste is actually surprisingly similar to plain roti, only with a chewier texture. Chewier? I would pocket the difference in cost (I think the Murtabak is $3 more) and go for vanilla canai.
The curry sauces are a bit watery, but otherwise flavoursome, and you can always add more chilli if it’s not strong enough for you.
The coin in the picture is to illustrate the serving size of the Nasi Goreng. It’s really quite small, which is unusual as I’m content with the portion sizes of the other dishes I’ve tried. It doesn’t appear to be consistent though – another order of the same that landed on someone else’s table appeared visibly bigger. Portion control!
Taste-wise, it’s quite nice, though not comparable to dedicated Indonesian places that specialise in it. But, you can’t get better on campus, and that matters a lot when you’ve got a lecture to run to.
Interestingly, the chicken that goes with the Nasi Lemak can vary, as can be seen in the picture. It’s all about using the whole chicken, rather than consistently providing the same cut all the time. This is troubling if you prefer a certain cut, but on the whole of things, I like that randomisation. Overall, good flavours, with a nice spice to the chicken.
Though I jumped the queue, I still got free stuff – the shake, as well as a surprisingly high-quality Mamak Village tumbler. This is something I can actually see myself using. Score! As for the shake, it’s sweet and not too heavy, very refreshing, particularly if you want to cleanse your palate.
Whoa, this is actually a seriously good mee goreng. It has a high level of spiciness, so beware if you’re not accustomed to it. For a spice lover like me, perfect. Noodles are thick and chewy, very satisfying. Ample amounts of prawn and fish cakes are provided – I never did run too short of the stuff. A great dish that did an amazing job at filling me up quite well.
My accolades for the mee goreng transfer to the kway teow as well. It’s a bit oily, but the flavours are delicious and portion sizes generous enough for most people. When it comes to these simple, rustic dishes, that’s what counts.
I would not get it with the duck egg though – it’s mixed throughout the dish and gives that ducky aroma which is a turnoff for me.
Mamak Village is really covering all the bases here. I’m glad this dish exists – ever since the closure of Ivan’s Fernery you really can’t get a legit Malay/Chinese fix around the place. Somehow, I’m addicted to the stickiness of this dish. The textures are very appealing to me, even though I’m aware many others are turned off. +1 to growing up on the stuff.
The flavours are a little flatter than expected, so I didn’t enjoy it as I usually do a good bowl of hor fun. Nonetheless, I can see it as something fun to eat every now and then.
Well now UNSW, you’re really getting it all, aren’t you?
Time to try the laksa next time.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: cheap Malaysian food right on campus, and it’s pretty good too
Not so Awesome: just don’t expect the same level of quality you could get from your favourite Malaysian restaurant