How lucky are we in Sydney to be able to taste so many cultures? Within an hour's radius of the city centre, we have access to scrumptious and authentic ethnic cuisines. For Vietnamese, there's Cabramatta, Bankstown, Marrickville or Surry Hills; for Indonesian, there's Randwick or Kingsford; for Korean there's Campsie, Eastwood and Strathfield, for Turkish or Lebanese, it's Auburn and Bankstown; for Thai it's Newtown; for Portuguese it's Petersham and for Greek, it's Brighton Le Sands.
When it comes to Malaysian though, I will admit that before Mamak opened on Goulburn Street, I didn't know what roti was.
So thanks to Mamak, I can truly appreciate Malaysian restaurants such as Temasek, Kammadhenu, Makan at Alice's... and events like Malaysia Festival.
Malaysia Festival 2009 was on 27th September and is in it's third year running. The idea behind it is that it was created by Malaysian students studying in Sydney who needed a taste of home away from home. It also allows Sydney-siders to experience the wonderful essence of hawker food stalls in a warm outdoor setting.
It was the perfect opportunity to laze on Tumbalong Park's grass with good friends and good food.
With seven mouths to feed, we went into strategy mode and split up into pairs. While some of us queued at different stalls, others did the research and snooping to see what else we should be having.
Within about an hour (yes, a long time because we arrived at the lunch peak), we all met back on the grass to present our treasures.
Mamak's satay chicken sticks
At the Mamak stall, we had their satay chicken sticks, nasi lemak and roti telur bawang , which is the egg omelette and onion roti.
Mamak's nasi lemak and roti telur bawang (egg omelette and onion roti)
At the Penang Hawker stall, we saw the transformation of some simple ingredients into a fragrant char koay teow (fried flat noodles) or char koay kak (fried radish cake). The crucial flavour, coming from fresh eggs and this jar of sambal.
Cooking essentials including sambal jar and eggs
Across at the Hometown Recipe stall, fresh apam balik ($7 for 2) were being made. These are a popular pancake which are pan-cooked, filled with creamed corn and nuts and turned over to form a crisp snack.
Apam balik (sweet pancake turnover) in the making
Then at Cafe Kasturi, we drooled as we eyed the chicken skewers on the grill and are convinced we need a dozen chicken satay sticks (6 for $8) and 2 containers of assorted sweet Malay kueh cakes and puddings ($1.20 each or a container of 5 for $5).
Cafe Kasturi's satay chicken skewers
Cafe Kasturi's chicken satay sticks were significantly larger than at Mamak and the satay sauce was as rich and nutty. However, an addition of diced cucumber would have been refreshing with the chunky cuts of Spanish onion and ketupat (rice cakes).
Our selection of sweet Malay kuey were delicious. There were lovely pandan aromas, different textures ranging from soft glutinous pudding to the firm and chewy. My favourite was the kuih ketayap which is a crepe wrapped like a small spring roll and filled with grated coconut and palm sugar.
Cafe Kasturi's sweet Malay kueh cakes and puddings
At the Kuali stall, we were tempted by the sound of a durian panna cotta but end up with the classic sago gula melaka which are sago pearls served with palm sugar and coconut milk. We also have the beef rendang which comes with some delectable pickled vegetables and a fragrant biryani rice. The rojak was soggy by the time we ate it.
Kuali's sago gula melaka (sago pearls pudding with palm sugar), beef rendang with biryani rice and rojak
While in the Kuali queue, my nose took me on a journey to Sally's Kitchen's coconut rice. And so I bought a beef nasi lemak which was as good as its smelt.
Sally Kitchen's beef rendang with nasi lemak and coconut rice
We also attempted the longest queue which was at Penang Hawker for their char kway teow but unfortunately had to ask for a refund after they recognised that they had taken more orders than manageable -which is to our relief as by this stage, we were already stuffed silly.
My beautiful friends, Sham, Jordan and Kat at the festival with me
This will have to be one of my most favourite food festivals in Sydney, simply because the concept of sharing food and culture with these Malaysian international students is so heart-warming. Keep an eye out for other upcoming food festivals in the I Ate My Way Through forums.
Where can you find the same food I've eaten here?
15 Goulburn St, Haymarket
Phone: (02) 9211 1668
1st Floor, Lane Cove Arcade
115 Longueville Road, Lane Cove
Phone: (02) 9418 6878
767-769 George Street, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9288 9888
P.S. Congratulations to the winners of our Julie & Julia Mastering the Art of French Food-Blogging competition!