I don’t even know where to start when telling you about my beloved Mamak, but I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
Once upon a time there were three Malaysian friends Julian Lee, Alan Au and Clement Lee who served roti canai and teh tarik (tea) every Friday to the people of Sydney in Chinatown and it very quickly grew a cult following. They opened a Chinatown restaurant in 2007, expanded to double the size a year later, and opened a Chatswood Mamak in 2010. Next they came to Melbourne, and that’s where I come in!
A friend (from Sydney) suggested we ‘just go to Mamak’ after an event at the Wheeler Center. It was an early dinner, so when Jack came to pick me up that very night and said he was hungry, I suggested Mamak. Twice in one night? Yup!
Since that night we too have joined the cult that is the Mamak Following. For a month, there were no other restaurants in the city. The cafeteria style restaurant was it. We were forced to go on a once-every-two-weeks ban. It’s worked out well, but just because we’re physically staying away does not mean I’m not thinking about that gorgeous, extravagant, fluffy roti canai. It’s the best roti I’ve ever had, especially when dipped into the three sauces accompanying it – lentil curry, a fishy gravy and a dollop of the fiery house-made sambal – yum.
As both habit and necessity, we get the mee goreng – spicy wok-tossed hokkien noodles with eggs, prawns, fish cake slices and fresh bean sprouts – and our individual roti canai. It’s all up in the air after that.
BUT! because you asked so nicely, here are some suggestions:
The chicken and beef satay served with sweet and spicy peanut sauce are both excellent; I prefer the chicken. The Nasi lemak – fragrant coconut rice with sambal, peanuts, crispy anchovies, cucumber and hard-boiled egg – is perfect if you don’t want to share. The kacang panjang belacan – stir fried long beans with chillies and shrimp paste – is quite the tasty side and helps get a portion of veggies in there. Ayam goreng – the Malaysian style fried chicken – is the most impressive looking dish on the menu, you can get 4 for $14 or individual pieces at $4 each. Last one I’ll mention, I promise, is dessert: Cendol. It’s starch noodles made from fresh pandan leaves, with gula-melaka syrup, coconut milk and shaved ice. You may find the look of it a bit ehhh, but try it. Please!
Don’t forget that Mamak is BYO as they don’t serve any alcohol, only exceptional teas Try to avoid going on Friday and Saturday night after 7pm or before 10pm as there will be a long line out the door awaiting your arrival.
For an after dinner show, head outside and turn to look at Mamak. You probably already noticed but there is an entire cast of people in the window making rotis. They pull, and rub, and squish and flip and do all sorts of things that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere.
336 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC
Open 7 says a week: lunch 11:30 – 2:30 , dinner 5:30 – 10:00
supper til 12am (fri & sat only)