A melting pot of Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and Indian cuisine, Malaysian cooking has no problems attracting and keeping foodie fans of its own. While admittedly not the most attractive cuisine in Melbourne (leave your Insta-pectations at the door please), these aromatic, spice-packed flavours more than make up for any visual peculiarities. Here’s where to hunt down the most authentic lot.
Don’t be scared by the hoards of hungry people. Mamak is all about fast, efficient service. The translucently-thin, rich savoury or sweet roti options are a must for entrees, while tender satay sticks, Nasi Lemak and a the fish curry (kari ikan) steal the main show.
Skim through the menu until you hit the roti section. The namesake of Roti Road, pair your favourite kind (classic canai, egg or egg and onions) with sides of lip-lickingly delicious Rendang Beef. It’s like eating joy on a sliver platter.
Madam Kwong’s Nyonya
Madam Kwong’s Nyonya’s three variations of (arguably) Malaysia’s national dish will have die-hard Nasi Lemak fans feeling the heat. Penang Assam Laksa, the slightly sour cousin of Melbourne-loved curry laksa, is impeccably executed with an aromatic tamarind fish soup served with mint, onions, pineapple and a lettuce garnish. Don’t forgot to take home Malay treats like the ondeh-ondeh, a sweet sticky rice cake coated in coconut.
There’s a few sneaky Chinese dishes on the menu at Ayam Chef, but we’re confident in your ability to navigate your way to Malaysian food greatness. The traditional Hainanese chicken with rice cooked in chicken broth, steamed free-range chicken and a side of traditional sauces is non-negotiable. Fried kueh teow (a sticky fried noodle dish), lobak (don’t look up pictures I promise it’s delicious) and Malaysian curry beef are a handful of other highlights.
Melbourne’s reigning curry soup king, Laksa King is a staple in any Malaysian lover’s diet. Curry laksa (obviously) is a clear front runner when it comes to choice, but poke around the menu for other Malay fried noodle favourites including mee goreng (a type of addictively spiced fried noodle) and fried kuay teow. If laksa is a must (we don’t blame you) why not mix it up with fish head curry laksa?
Giving Laska King a run for their crown, skim the menu at next-door neighbour Chef Lagenda until you hit their Ipoh Fried Noodles. Served swimming in a thick egg gravy sauce (I’m sorry there’s no other way to accurately describe it so you’ll just have to trust me on this one), the dish comes with a combo of wok fried flat rice noodles, prawns, fish cake, chicken slices, and veggies. Give it a good toss before digging in, and you can thank me later.
Serving the underdog of laksa, Sarawak Laksa, Sarawak Kitchen’s steaming hot bowl comes with rice vermicelli, egg, fish cake, chicken, prawns, bean sprouts and laska soup. Try the bak kut teh if you’re feeling a little more food-venturous, with pork spare ribs, bean curd, mushroom, meatballs served in a hot pot and filled with herbal broth. You also get a side of rice or noodles.
Roti & Roti
Unsurprisingly, roti steals the show at no-fuss eatery Roti & Roti. Also there’s laksa and incredibly affordable lunch specials so you’d better scurry like a wobbly noodle.
Penang Coffee House
Hawthorn’s not-so-secret gem, hawker-style Malaysian cuisine reigns at Penang Coffee House. Hope you like sambal and tamarind?
M Yong Tofu
Bak kut teh served with a Chinese donut? Curry fish head soup? Hainanese chicken rice? The possibilities are endless at favourite M Yong Tofu. We highly recommend over ordering.
There’s a full menu at Grand Tofu, but it doesn’t take long to realise the kitchen is basically pumping out a stream of Yong Tofu. Served hawker-style, fill up your bowl with six tofu-stuffed pieces along with noodles and broth. Delicious.
This chain of Malaysian cuisine hasn’t forgotten their roots. Sambal eggplant is a particular standout – soft and rich with a buttery consistency. Avoid the curry fish head noodle soup if you’re on a first date, otherwise, there’s no excuse to not order it.
Just want laksa? We've got a list for that.