Thursday, December 09, 2010

Malaysian food in Melbourne 2

Located in the Asian mini-mall on Racecourse Road in the Melbourne inner suburbs of Flemington, is a popular Malaysian restaurant that specializes in curry laksa. It is accordingly named Laksa King. The eatery apparently started humbly hidden inside the mall, but because of its popularity, it moved to its present more visible and larger premises after a change of ownership.

Eddy took us there us for dinner towards the end of our holidays. Crystal decided to stay home, opting in stead for a MacDonald takeaway which we brought home after our dinner. I don't think she missed very much.

The place was totally packed when we arrived there just after 7pm. We had to wait for our table and while doing so, I whipped out my camera and began to snap discreetly, careful not to use the flash to avoid inconvenience to other diners. But very soon, a guy came over and very unpleasantly told me that I was not allowed to take any pictures in the restaurant. When asked, he said I could take pictures of the food and our dining party, but not rest of the restaurant. Seemed like a rather silly house rule, but never mind, I had already taken quite enough pictures.

The place was more like a mess hall than a restaurant. It was noisy and somewhat chaotic. There were rows and rows of long tables. Patrons had to sit on benches or stools, sharing the long tables with other diners. There was no dining privacy. In all the eating places we patronize, even our humble coffee shops, we very rarely share a table with strangers, often preferring to wait or go somewhere else. In this restaurant, we had no choice.

After a short wait, we were led to our places. We were assigned the end of a long table which in a way gave us a little more room and privacy. The set up was typically Malaysian - cutlery and soya sauce on the table.

The menu was quite comprehensive. Besides curry laksa, they offer other noodles, rice and various Malaysian delicacies and dishes. After we made our orders, I defiantly and discreetly continued to take more pictures. Below is one of our neighboring table. Note how uncomfortable it was.

The curry laksa was not too bad even by Malaysian standard. The curry was rich but it was too lemak for my liking. They used too much coconut milk. The curry was flavorful. The spices in it seemed adequate. The bowl came with pieces of sotong (squids), fish cake and 'plastic' prawns. 'Plastic' is the name we gave to such prawns which, I suspect, were processed with some chemicals to make them look big and translucent, and springy to bite, but totally devoid of any taste.  The accompanying ingredients were most un-interesting.

The char koay teow was anything but. It simply did not have the required ingredients. To start with, they use the wrong type of noodles. The koay teow they used was the broad type and was not suitable for genuine CKT.  They did not have see hum (cockles 鲜蚶), not that I expected any in Australia. They did not have chives (韭菜). And finally, there was no egg in it. In stead, they used the same squid, fish cake and 'plastic' prawns. My take was - OK, you don't have the ingredients, so please don't call it char koay teow.

The fried Hokkein mee ala KL was perhaps the most authentic dish we tasted that night. I doubt very much they have the fat KL noodle in Melbourne. However the ordinary yellow mee in Melbourne is rather thick and they fit in quite nicely for KL style fried Hokkein mee. The plate of noodle looked and tasted very much like those we find in KL, in thick soya sauce and with the same oily texture. It was very aromatic. Lard was obviously used and we even spotted a couple of chu yaw char (猪油渣). However, I did not like the accompanying ingredients again. Just like the other dishes we ate that night, there were squids, fish cake and 'plastic' prawns. Surely there are pigs in Australia. Why couldn't they use some pork meat like they do in KL and PJ?

I guess if I was living permanently in Melbourne, I would had enjoyed the night's meal. Coming from Malaysia, I think I would had been like Crystal - not missing very much if I had stayed home. The dishes were kind of half way towards Malaysian cuisines - not too bad, but not there yet. I did not like the idea of eating the same ingredients (squids, fish cake and 'plastic' prawns) in every dish. Where were all the pigs in Australia?

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