So finally we make it to Hawker and we're impressed. It's impossible recreate the Malaysian hawker stall experience in Australia. Petty issues like economics, climate, culture and health regulations put a lid on that. But Hawker captures the spirit of street eating somewhat, it's the busyness of the place as much as anything, it's a fun place to eat. We like the simple decor, a few photos, little hawker centre style tables and stools, high ceilings and a view of the kitchen. It's well thought out and clean, but we won't hold that against them.
Most of all we like the food, Malaysian food fiends will nitpick as always, but we like Hawker's take on things. Hawker has done something a little different with the menu and we hope their success will inspire others to do likewise. Malaysian menus in Sydney have an ever increasing sameness to them which is a lost opportunity for such a such a broad cuisine.
We love the vibe of this place, it's buzzy and filled with life and happy chatter, yet there's plenty of elbow room and the noise doesn't drown out conversation.
Char koaey teow - $12. Everybody's favourite fried flat rice noodles. It's a lovely sticky mess of fried noodles, prawns, egg, Chinese sausage, chives, bean sprouts and (oh my god!) cockles. We giggle at the inclusion of cockles because we've been bashed in the comment section a few times for enjoying char kway teow without cockles, which is seems to be a capital offence amongst some food nerds. These cockles are big buggers and don't pack much flavour at all, whereas the blood cockles we've tried in Singapore taste like oysters warmed up in the tropical heat. We're cockle agnostic, we just think it's funny.
Ikan bakar - $14. We often order sting ray when we're in Malaysia because it's always good, it's moist and fleshy and really hard to screw up. This one is a winner, yummified with a coating of curry-like spices and a knockout peppery lime-y dipping sauce. The crunchy bits around the tail are the best.
KL Hokkein Mee - $12. We've been hunting around town for some lovely black saucy noodles like this for ages after finding one similar in KL. The rich black sauce on firm noodles makes this dish a visual and textural treat, which is doubled when you strike one those tiny nuggets of crisp fried pork fat. Hokkein mee is one of those dishes that is vastly different wherever we try it, and we love this style, we'd love it if they'd go all the way and make it extra super hard core spicy and lardy.
Penang white curry mee - $12. The white broth tastes like a light dainty curry laksa broth, until you stir in that lovin' spoonful of curry sauce...
...the curry sauce transform the soup into an Indian style flavour, it actually reminds us of Sapporo soup curry, who would have thunk it? There's thick and thin noodles, prawns, tofu puffs, and a couple of blood jelly cubes. Awesome.
We're glad to see Assam laksa ($11) getting more popular in Sydney. It's a fresh and lively mix of flavours: tangy, fishy and herby with the odd sweet pineapple hit. While we didn't expect torch ginger flower, the mint, cucumber and fixins on top could have been more generous. The hei ko (sweet shrimp paste sauce) served in the spoon was already submerged under the soup line.
Apam balik - $6 for 2 - is a must have. A crisp waffle-y pancake with a sweet filling of butter, peanuts and corn. They put in just the right amount of corn for us, gives the flavour and unexpected depth without being overly corny.
Kopi O - $4. Simply black coffee, love the mug.
Kap chung - fried sweetened bun with sticky rice - $3. Just lightly sweetened, fantastic when dunked in kopi O. We plan to just drop in for afternoon tea one day, coffee and fried bread.
Wan tan mee - $11. Thin curly egg noodles stir fried and coated with a sweet soy tasting sauce, with roast pork on and Chinese veggies. We note with a sly giggle that the texture and sweet sauciness of the noodles remind us of Indomie Mi Goreng, in a good way. The real surprise comes from the side soup which has a lovely prawnie, fishy kick to it, as well as a couple of dumplings.
Or chien - fried starchy omelette with Sydney rock oysters and spicy sambal - $16. While there's not a lot of them the oysters taste fresh and oystery, while the omelette isn't overly eggy and and the sambal has a nice flavour kick while being easy on the heat.
Goreng durian - $8. Deep fried durian tastes like deep fried durian, which is better than how it smells. Shawn has never managed to acquire the taste for durian, the king of fruit tastes more like the creepy uncle of fruits in his opinion. Alison swears blind she loves durian but this is only the second time she has ever been seen eating the stuff. We'll leave it to the experts.
Ipoh san hor fun - $12. The classic soup of clear chicken broth with rice noodles, chicken, a prawnie and chives. This style of soup is traditionally very plain, perfect for detox days. This version is jazzed up with a dash of prawn oil, which seemed out-of-place and too sweet at first sip, but it really worked well, especially with a chili or two from the side dish.
Har mee - $12. The classic prawn noodle soup spiced up with a spoonful of sambal.
Love the photos on the walls here.
Hawker Malaysian Street Food is at Shop G.02, 345B-353 Sussex Street, Sydney. Phone 02 9264 9315