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Malaysia Kitchen Food Market

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.

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Sara @ Belly Rumbles February 18, 2011, 10:37 am

    I love the concept and location and I do hope they hold more of them in the future. I must admit with the lines mentioned by everyone, I am not actually going to head in for this one. Main reason being is I can visit these restaurants and enjoy the food with not as much fuss,. Though I do miss out on the awesome location and probably the cool vibe generated.
    Sara @ Belly Rumbles recently posted..Daring Cooks’ Challenge- February- Hiyashi Soba &amp Tempura

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:33 am

      Spoke with the people who were organising this event and they’re well aware of the queuing issues. Would like to see how they resolve this issue for the next event.

  • Wendy @ Obesebaby February 18, 2011, 10:41 am

    Agree with Sara thats why end up in Malaca straits boardway enjoying whole dish of chow guay raddish with no one in the restaurant except myself haha
    Wendy @ Obesebaby recently posted..Meat and Wine co- Darling Harbour

  • mademoiselle délicieuse February 18, 2011, 10:43 am

    Faster than lightning, my friend =)
    mademoiselle délicieuse recently posted..Chinese New Year 2011

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:35 am

      I don’t know how some people can do this. Killer…

  • Gaby February 18, 2011, 12:45 pm

    The Nasi Kunyit with Beef Rendang looks tasty! I guess queuing for an hour is good to get your appetite going.
    Gaby recently posted..Review- Carlisle Castle Hotel

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:36 am

      Very much so. Much like with Mamak & Chat Thai :)

  • Karen | C&C February 18, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I have to admit, if it weren’t for the invite and being able to skip the queue, I wouldn’t have gone. That line was too much.

    That being said it was pretty cool eating underneath the lanterns in the laneway. That curry was awesome. The only thing missing was desserts!

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:38 am

      That line was indeed crazy. Hopefully it’ll be less of an issue the next time around. Dessert options would be awesome too :)

  • Simon Food Favourites February 18, 2011, 4:41 pm

    definitely line up an hour beforehand for the last session tonight. 12 noon lunch time tickets were sold out by 11.50 am today :-)

  • Rhonda (The Dainty Baker) February 18, 2011, 5:11 pm

    oooo yummy.. dunno if i can be bothered with long queues tho? … hmm maybe we (by we i really mean u ;P ) should organise a trip to Kaki Lima!
    Rhonda (The Dainty Baker) recently posted..Welcome 2011

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:39 am

      lol! Not a bad idea… :)

  • Cate February 18, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the heads up – I really wanted to go – but crowds and queues – no thanks!!!! Perhaps as you say – a visit to the individual restaurant is the way to go!!

    Thank you for saving me the anguish of a long wait!
    Cate recently posted..Cake with a Chocolate Heart

  • joey@FoodiePop February 18, 2011, 9:41 pm

    I’d call it a pop-up ‘restaurant’ too, since it’s only an ephemeral event. Nice looking dishes, but I wonder if they made a mistake having it in a laneway? Then again, where else could it have been held?
    joey@FoodiePop recently posted..Emmilou Surry Hills – And the Emmy for best tapas on Bourke Street goes to

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:40 am

      Tough question. I’ll be curious to see what lessons they apply for the next event.

  • thang@noodlies February 18, 2011, 10:41 pm

    I went on opening night and they didn’t have the rendang, which was a shame cause it does look very scrumy! I guess that’s the point of rotating restaurants around.

    Was a wonderful success really!

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:41 am

      The rotating restaurant/dish idea I thought was a good one. Gives returning attendees something new each time.

  • Rebecca @InsideCuisine.com February 18, 2011, 10:48 pm

    Definitely a pop up though they didn’t call it that. We need more pop up events. And Sydney needs more laneway restaurants and cafes that are permanent too. Fantastic atmosphere. Feel very privileged (for the queue jumping) to have been a guest. Thanks Simon too for helping out with the photos. :))
    Rebecca @InsideCuisine.com recently posted..Restaurant Balzac Randwick

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:43 am

      I’d love to see more of a laneway culture here so I’m curious to see how far this concept is taken.

  • MelbaToast February 20, 2011, 7:54 pm

    Oooo, I really really wanted to go to this, and walked past the enormously long queue on Thursday night, but just couldn’t face the line up in the heat. It looks like fun, I love the idea of the outdoor laneway dining (thought it doesnt’ seem to be very Hawker Style does it)? I agree with Rhonda…a blogger trip to Kaki Lima sounds like fun!
    MelbaToast recently posted..Mamak- Chinatown

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:45 am

      Yeah, was a little disappointed about the whole hawker market bit, not that I was disappointed with the event at all. Just went in expecting something else.

      Hope that there will be a proper hawker market setup at some stage, even if only on a temporary basis.

  • Spud February 21, 2011, 10:28 am

    We didn’t go on opening night, but joined the huge queues
    at 7pm on the following day. The event went until 9pm, but one of
    the people working at the event walked down the line and kindly
    told us we had no chance of getting in before the closing time of
    9pm because of where we were in the line and that there were only
    80 people inside. I’ve also spoken to friends who turned up just
    after 6pm on the following day who had the same experience. I think
    they over advertised – they were unable to cope with the turnout.
    We were really disappointed and headed to a proper eat-in
    restaurant instead. I would argue the event wasn’t managed well –
    perhaps they should have ticketed it online, and ran the event for
    longer, to avoid the huge queues and disappointment.

    • Simon February 23, 2011, 12:49 am

      It’s a fair point you raise.

      From what I gathered with having a chat with the organiser, they weren’t expecting or prepared for the kinds of numbers that showed up for each session.

      A lot of disappointed people for sure. We’ll have to see how they apply the lessons learned for their next event.

  • Ellie (Almost Bourdain) February 21, 2011, 3:59 pm

    What a fantastic event. Love the food and atmosphere.
    Ellie (Almost Bourdain) recently posted..Banana Spring Rolls- Coconut Tapioca Pearls- Kaffir Lime Syrup &amp Toasted Coconut Flakes

  • Gianna February 23, 2011, 1:00 am

    Looking back I still cant get over the lines! I truly was a fun idea – and hopefully they entertain it again in the near future.

    And what were they thinking about not having any Malaysian desserts! Hopefully next time, it will save a dessert trip!
    Gianna recently posted..Sky Lounge- Felix &amp Dada – A rather boozy evening in Hong Kong

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