Last Saturday night J and I went over to TFP and Jac’s place. My portabello mushroom kit had multiplied overnight and we had so many I desperately wanted to share. While we were there, we decided to investigate dinner at a restaurant Jac heard about.
Her source (the manager at the local Hungry Jacks) said this place in Willetton served great curry and roti canai (roti paratha) from 7:30am! It sounded like a winner to us, and we hoped we could track it down from her somewhat vague directions. Luckily Jac knew the area she described, though she wasn’t sure where the place was.
We set off with empty stomachs and did a fairly thorough sweep of the area which was described to Jac. But unfortunately, it was not meant to be. We found a local restaurant called Malaysia Gardens (or something like that), but upon closer inspection, their menu looked like fairly standard takeaway dishes. While I normally am a big fan of peking pork chops and soft chow mein, tonight, all any of us wanted was real Malaysian style food. We had driven around for about half an hour, and by this point none of us wanted to wait any longer.
We headed back towards Collins Road, and found ourselves at old faithful, Taurus Hawker.
It was busy, but luckily we scored a table easily.
Jac, J and I all started with Cendol. A favourite roadside treat in Malaysia, Taurus’ version had green pea flour noodles (or worms, as I like to call them), red beans, coconut milk and gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) all mixed with shaved ice.
On my first and only trip to Malaysia as a kid ( I think I was about seven), I tried my first cendol from an Indian man selling icey treats from a roadside cart. There seems to be a difference between Indian purveyors of this tasty treat – they don’t include the red beans (which area distinctly chinese dessert addition). In the heat of a sunny Malaysian morning, this cendol became my ‘cendol yardstick‘ – the perfect combination of sweet, creamy and cold, and I’ve never been able to find anything like it in Perth.
J and I plan to head over to Malaysia later this year, so maybe I will finally get to taste the perfect cendol again :)
We ordered a plate of Loh Bak (Five spice ‘meat rolls’) to share. They’re usually pork forcemeat, mixed with five spice and sometimes water chestnuts. The mix is formed into log shapes, wrapped in bean curd skin, and fried until crispy. They are usually served as pictured above, with crunchy green cucumber and sweet chili sauce.
Taurus Hawker’s version were okay, but not exactly what we all expected. The forcemeat was quite fine, resembling the texture of fish paste, which gave the loh bak a sort of unappealing springy texture. Our late Grandma used to make hers with strips of cooked pork (rather than minced meat) – TFP, Jac and I all recalled how great her version was, and while we knew it was something of a ‘family recipe’ (and probably an uncommon method of making it), this version from Taurus just didn’t seem right. I thought the pork mixture had a bit of a fishy taste. Maybe they did add some fish paste to bind the mix?
TFP’s bowl of chicken noodle soup was the first to arrive, with a puff of sesame scented steam. It looked perfect for the chilly night – a warming bowl of simple but tasty ingredients. About half way through her bowl, TFP lamented that as usual, there were more rice noodles than egg noodles.
J ordered Laksa (or Curry Mee). I think this was the small serving (Taurus Hawker helpfully offers two sizes) - but as you can see, they didn’t scrimp on the serving. Besides the usual egg and rice noodles in curry broth, there was also chicken, fishballs, prawns and tofu puffs, all the usual laksa components. I tasted the soup, and was pleased to note it had the perfect ‘laksa taste’ (a lemongrass and galangal heavy curry). The pools of chili oil on top added heat to the dish perfectly.
I always judge nasi lemak by the flavour of the rice – and this one was a cracker.
It was strongly scented with coconut, and tasted beautifully rich and savoury. I’d even go so far as to say it was some of the best coconut rice I’ve eaten in Perth.
Our meals came with a piece of fried fish, half a boiled egg, pickled vegies, ikan bilis (fried anchovies) and peanuts, with a rather large bowl of prawn sambal.
The prawn sambal was a delightful surprise – though I spotted it on the menu, I assumed it would be a dried prawn sambal. It was lovely to see two large prawns nestled in the spicy sambal. The sambal itself was perfect too – a great balance of sweet, hot and salty.
The little pile of ikan bilis and peanuts were also a bit different to what I have usually eaten – these were sprinkled liberally with white sugar. They reminded me a bit of the dried cuttlefish snacks (sprinkled with chili and sugar) from Asian grocery stores which my Mum and Dad both enjoy.
Nasi Lemak is always a bit of a mixed bag – it can be quite elaborate, or very simple. My favourite Nasi Lemak in Perth from Love n’ Care Cafe in Perth’s CBD comes wrapped in brown paper and only contains rice, sambal, a slice of plain omelette, a slice or two of cucumber, and a sprinkling of ikan bilis and peanuts. Taurus’ version was a little more deluxe – though they had added the fish and the bursty prawns to the sambal, I think their version was successful because their overall components were all pretty spot on.
Now I just have to make it back to Taurus Hawker’s on a Saturday morning to get some Nyonya Kueh (cakes).