We spent last Christmas and New Years in Malaysia (Borneo) and I’ll never forget the food we ate there. I can’t believe almost a year had gone by already. One fond memory of indulgence was our first day in KK. Upon seeing the tiny prices on the menu, we assumed the dishes were starter sized, so we ordered 2 dishes each. They were main sized. Generous. We ate till our eyes glazed over.
I’d been reading about a new place called Mamak from various local Malaysian food bloggers. The word mamak refers to Malaysia’s Tamil-Muslim who run food stalls serving tasty snacks at all hours. Mamak Malaysian is a fairly new addition to the Chancery in Auckland city and it’s been operating under the radar (or at least my radar) for most of 2011. The first time I visited, there were lots of Malaysian people dining and this is surely a mark of authenticity. The Chancery has always been had a European feel about it and with posh retail on all sides, al fresco dining in the centre, you can forget you’re in Auckland city. The Chancery location is a huge contrast to the traditional mamak of Malaysia.
Jeffrey, the friendly owner of Mamak, works the floor ensuring the place runs smoothly and gives recommendations on request. He is a warm host and nothing is too much trouble. Mamak is more cafe than restaurant and the design is modern and fresh in comparison to some other Malaysian places. The indoor dining area is cosy and there are covered tables outside. The laminated menu boasts photos of the dishes and is short and sweet rather than the 50-100+ monsters that I’ve grappled with before. Some of my favourites are missing, but that only gives me a chance to try new things. A good mix of rare and authentic dishes as well as always popular (but not really mamak) spring rolls and dumplings. Limiting the number of dishes on the menu suddenly transforms it into a “to do list”.
I visited Mamak twice last week with different friends. With lots of vegetarian appetisers at Mamak (8 out of 12 are vegetarian), most of the mains have vegetarian options too. It’s not so much that Mamak caters to vegetarians, they really celebrate vegetarian food. Want meaty dumplings or pandan chicken? You won’t find them here, but you can try their Leek Dumplings or Pandan Soy Bites.
Please forgive my photos. I’m having technical difficulties at the moment with the shutter on my camera. I seem to get this problem once a year and I’m not sure I want to part with $180 to get my camera looked again. Fingers crossed it magically fixes itself at some stage…
Mamak Visit 1
I went with Miss C and Miss L on Thursday and we ordered Tofu Salad $8 and Vegetables Soy Satay $8 to share. Our mains were the Beef Murtabak $13.50, Vegetarian Mee Goreng $12.50 and Beef Rendang with Roti $14.50. The portions are decent and it will take all your willpower to show restraint with the appetisers. We could have shared our order between 4 people rather than 3. We ordered the tapas first and they came well ahead of the mains. The Tofu Salad was sweet with a good amount of heat and the vegetarian satay was good also with a generous serve of peanut sauce. I am a meat eater, but the vegetarian tapas we tried were delicious. Beef Murtabak sounds exotic but in reality is beef mince and egg wrapped with roti. Served with spiced cabbage and dhal the flavours are familiar rather than punchy. With lots of roti dishes on the menu, it’s obviously one of their star players. Made fresh daily (not common here in NZ), I really wanted to try their roti as well as the rendang so requested my rice to be swapped for roti. This was no problem and my roti came out flakey and beautiful and not greasy at all. I wrapped each morsel of tender spiced beef in roti. It tasted stunning but was too generous for me. It is deceptive how filling the curry roti combination is.
Mamak Visit 2
Sunday night’s visit with Miss V and Miss A saw us order Leek Dumplings $8, Vegetarian Mee Goreng $12.5, Mamak Mee Goreng (prawn and fish) $13.50 and the Roti Curry Chicken$13.50. Our food came out quickly and piping hot which caused us to eat in that funny, “sucking-in-air-whilst-chewing” way. It was too yummy and we were too hungry to wait for our food to cool. The dumplings came out after the mains which was a bit odd, but we had ordered everything at the same time. My Mamak Mee Goreng was delicious and very flavourful. No gluey bland noodles here! The others were happy with their meals although the Curry Chicken was too spicy for Miss A.
Ice Lemon Tea
We got addicted to this stuff when we were in Malaysia and Mamak’s ice lemon tea $5 comes in a jug with a straw which you can choose to share or greedily slurp by yourself. It’s absolutely delicious and actually tastes like tea – something that commercial ice tea lacks. It is very refreshing and a cooling contrast to the fiery dishes. The best ice lemon tea I have had in Auckland.
Keep an eye out for:
- Roti – made daily
- Soft shell crab
- Sambal prawns
- Laksa in huge-normous bowls
- Lots of vegetarian options
- Malaysian drinks
As I write this days later, I’m salivating at the thought of Mamak’s food. Striking in flavour and depth and though they were a smidgen too spicy for me (I’m a lightweight when it comes to spice), they were excellent. I want to shout about my love for Mamak food from the towers of the Chancery. The service is spot on and while the food comes out quickly, we never felt rushed and were welcome to sit and “chew the fat” after our meals. I can’t stop thinking about what I want to order next time…and the time after that. I am addicted to this place now and with fantastic food, decent portions, nice ambience and value for money (I paid less than $20 on both visits). I don’t mind indulging in this addiction.
I’ve always said that I will tolerate bad service if the food is brilliant. But if you can have great food and great service for a sweet price as at Mamak, then all the better. This place is already being raved about so I won’t be surprised if it gets too popular for it’s little premises. I’ve only been at night, but I’ve heard that day time is super busy and they no longer take lunch bookings. Eat here. Don’t pass it on 😉
Chancery (to the right of Mecca Cafe)
50 Kitchener St
Ph: 09 9HUNGRY (09 948 6479)
Tuesdays to Sundays: 11.30am to 10.00pm
Edit: Added December 2011
Mamak Visit 3
Came back here in for Mum’s birthday in December. There were 6 of us this time and we ordered 10 dishes:
- Spicy soft shell crab $12 (we ordered 2 of these)
- Salt & pepper squid $8
- Curry Puff $8
- Mamak Chicken Bites $8
- Satay Chicken $14.50
- Beef Rendang $12.50
- Mee Goreng $13.50
- Roti Curry Chicken $13.50
- Roti Tissue $7.50
- Beers, ice teas and coffees
The Roti Tissue towered about 60cm high and was impressive to look at and fun to eat. I would recommend this dessert to share between at least 3 people. The chicken satay is incredible and highly recommended. The ice tea and coffees went down very nicely. Is there anything these guys don’t do well? This time we ate much more than we should have and it cost around $30 per person. I think I’ve sold this place to my family now and I can’t wait to go back again. Ok, I’ll stop gushing now.