You’ve probably heard about the Malaysia Kitchen Food Market by now; the alfresco laneway dining experience organised by Malaysia Kitchen Australia to raise awareness of Malaysian cuisine with the general public. If not for the event itself, then probably for the massive queues it’s generating.
For instance, on its opening night, the queue was so long that not only did it run down the majority of a city block but it doubled back on itself with the end of the queue running all the way back to the entrance. That works out to be an approximate length of 200-300 metres!
Though, that hardly comes as a surprise. Gather a respectable roster of Sydney’s Malaysian restaurants, provide an interesting dining environment & charge a paltry sum for a generous offering, and you have a recipe for an overwhelming success.
The entrance to the Malaysia Kitchen Food Market is located right next to the Lowes store on George St, opposite the QVB. Look for the long queue, the security manning the entrance to the laneway, and for things out of the ordinary such as a disproportionate ratio of digital cameras or people walking down the length of the queue shooting video.
The inner sanctum sports two communal tables that run the length of the narrow laneway, which under normal circumstances serves as an emergency exit for patrons of the State Theatre. A $10 admission fee gets you a seat at the table and shared plates of food from the feature restaurants for that dining session. Awesome value as quite often just one of those dishes would likely cost around that mark, let alone four.
Food is prepared out in the open by the food service staff. The majority of the food pre-cooked and merely plated on service. Understandably so, given the circumstances. Thankfully, some of the food is made to order. In the instances where that matters, it makes a world of difference. Taste any pre-prepared stir-fried noodle dish and you’ll understand.
However, that’s about as far as the Malaysian hawker food market concept goes. Whilst marketed as a contemporary interpretation of a Malaysian hawker market, it’s as much a Malaysian hawker market as lemon chicken is Chinese food, if my experiences in Malaysia are anything to go by. The overall experience is probably better described as a pop-up restaurant.
Soon after you’re seated plates of food are presented, intended to be shared amongst your dining party rather than for the whole communal table. Beverages are available and can be ordered from a roving barman, for lack of a better term. Whilst complimentary table water is available, all other drinks are charged in addition to the admission fee.
Of all the dishes, the clear favourite of the evening for me was the Nasi Kunyit with Beef Rendang from Kaki Lima; slow cooked beef curry served with turmeric glutinous rice & cucumber slices on banana leaves.
Whilst I won’t go so far to say it’s the food of the gods, foodgasmic or any other hyperbole that we tend to use to describe something that is phenomenally delicious, this was really good. The beef is tender from the slow cooking. The sweetened curry sauce is mild, rich and flavourful. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any good curry.
The woman posing for the photo is the managing director of Kaki Lima and the person behind the beef rendang recipe, Aida Gan.
Other dishes for this evening include:
- Roti Canai with Satay Chicken served with a sweet & spicy peanut sauce from Mamak. Just as good as what you’d get at their restaurants as it was all made to order.
- Nasi Lemak from Jackie M. Fragrant coconut rice accompanied with dried anchovy sambal, peanuts, egg, cucumber & achar, a pickled salad of sorts.
- Char Kway Teow from Kuali. Stir-fry rice noodles with prawns, fishcake, beansprout, egg & garlic chives.
The restaurants and the dishes their offer vary from session to session. Other participating restaurants include Sambal, Chinta Ria, Malacca Straits, Jimmy’s Recipe, Lees Malaysian & Laksa Me from Melbourne. So if you are able to make the final lunch and dinner sessions, you may find that you end up with a completely different set of dishes.
Assuming it’s not too late, and you really want in on this experience while it’s around, I’d advise queuing up to an hour ahead of opening time. Half an hour prior to the opening of the dinner session that I attended had a queue of probably a hundred or so people already lining up. With seating for around 80 in the laneway, that’s already the first dinner session sorted well before the dinner had even started.
By the same token, there’s no need to be too crazy about it. If the popularity of this event is anything to go by, there will be others in future. I’m certain of it. Perhaps in a different location. Perhaps in a different format. Hopefully, one that actually resembles a proper Asian hawker market, as I’d love for that concept to flourish locally.
Then again, why wait? Whose to stop you from visiting these restaurants in your own time? I know that if I ever find myself in the Eastern Suburbs, Kaki Lima is certainly on my shortlist of places to check out.
If you choose the brave the queues, I wish you all the best. I hope you find that it’s worth the wait.
Edit: It’s probably worth mentioning the session times for today if you’re looking to go. Session times are 12-3pm for lunch and 6-9pm for dinner.
Edit 2: The event is now closed.
the heart of food dined at Malaysia Kitchen Food Market courtesy of 360 Digital Influence, the social media team of Ogilvy PR.