Monday, April 27, 2009

Remembrance, races and roti

It's good to have the odd weekend of significance; the odd event here or there for a point of difference in an otherwise same-same environment. It's also a little unusual to not have a separate public holiday for this year's Anzac Day but that's not really the point anyway.

Anzac Day commemorations conincided with a day at the races for me, where there were plenty a current, uniformed serviceman at rest and play. And finally some blue, albeit windy, skies for the last day of the autumn carnival at Royal Randwick. Picture floaty dresses aflutter, hands on hats and headpieces, and losing tickets floating about.

General admission lawn on Sydney Cup Day, Royal Randwick

Favourite activities on race days include: people watching and fashion spotting; running into random people I know; tottering to and from the lawn/betting ring/grandstand/TAB/bar all day long; rubbing shoulders with the older, majority male punters putting money on with the bookmakers; and winning (a rare occurrence for me).

It's a fantastic day out and made all that much more fun by the seemingly superfluous need to dress up. I mean, really, I can drink and gamble in jeans and thongs, can't I? Nevertherless, the uncommon and personally novel need to match my dress, shoes, stockings, headwear, bag and all is part of the fun and frivolity. The outfit construction could be likened to the construction of a dinner menu, ensuring harmony, comfort, and of course, a wow-factor.

A day out at the 'sport of kings' is mostly incomplete without a few beverages (beer or sparkling, depending on mood and finances) and food of the punters.

Pie with sauce at Royal Randwick

Unlike some previous experiences, this 'dog's eye' is actually quite passable and even good. Its filling is not scathingly hot nor filled with odd bits and ends. It's tasty with a crispy, flaky pastry and easily wolfed down between race five and six.

Inevitably, after the last race the jolly pilgrimmage to Central station is peppered with one of two moods: happy, excitement-filled and eager for more socialising/drinks/food or downcast, regretful with a weight-challenged wallet. Extraordinarily luckily on this occasion, I'm of the former and as someone keeps emphasising, it's Anzac Day.

And it's not Anzac Day without a spot of legal-twice-a-year gambling on coin tosses in a highly questionable drinking hole.

Two-up crowd

Gamble. Heads or tails. Cheer/boo. Repeat.

It's a lively crowd, to put it politely, wagering side bets ranging from $5 to $100 on the chance of heads or tails. But it's a little too much for me to bear after a long day out subsisting on only a pie and so we seek food in nearby Chinatown. At early evening, there's just a small queue of waiting diners at Malaysian eatery, Mamak, watching the deft, masterful creation various roti at the front open kitchen.

Roti in the making at Mamak, Goulburn Street, Haymarket

The patron turnover is relatively quick, only requiring a short wait for our twosome although larger groups seemed to have an unfairly longer wait. We've also used our waiting time to decide on our order - first up, drinks.

Limau ais

I've tried a few of the Malaysian drinks here and still find it a little odd to have milk tea as an accompaniment to dinner. However I do adore the almost sickly sweet limau ais - a sugar syrupy concoction, cordial-like in taste, in a glass mug with ice and a chunk of fresh lime. It's also the perfect extinguisher for later when things get a little hot and heavy.

The curries usually come out of the kitchen in lightning speed shortly after ordering so I'm surprised when the first dish to hit the table is our Malaysian-style salad.


This curious array of ingredients was a complete surprise the first time I tried it but I'm now a converted fan of the rojak salad. Juilienned pieces of cucumber and yambean on the bottom are thickly doused with a mildly spiced, sweet peanut sauce. The cucumber is the perfect juicy partner to the yambean, which I was not familiar with before the rojak; a slightly starchy but sweet and crispy root vegetable. And then there's the less healthy ingredients: half a hard boiled egg, fried cubes of tofu, golden fried rectangular prawn crackers, and a mysterious pudding-like, sweet coconut fritter - all matching extremely well with the peanut sauce and playing interestingly with each other.

Roti canai

When our roti arrives it's a pretty sure sign that our curry isn't planning to join us anytime soon, as the roti tends to be the last of arrivals on all previous visits. Not sure if that's due to the time required to make it or normal procession of eating, though I would prefer to eat it as a starter or appetiser.

The basic roti canai is my absolute favourite - who needs extra butter, egg or onions when the pastry dough is perfectly chewy and soft and crunchy all at the same time? We ditch the rojak momentarily and rip into the roti, dipping and stuffing away. I like the thicker curry sauce seen on the left; the other is of a thinner consistency and has a fruitier, tart flavour. The sambal blob goes largely untouched except for a few game dips at the end - it's not too hot at first but I remember the overpowering heat of subsequent tastes on other occasions.

Kari ayam (half eaten...)

And lastly our lost, requested, then found (well, brought out) chicken curry arrives looking hot and fiery topped with fresh red chillis. Sizeable chunks of skin-on, bone-in chicken thigh sit submerged in a red curry sauce and promise tingling of the tongue. Eaten with lots of steamed rice, the chicken is tender, moist and quite moreish. My tongue burns but I still continue to eat more, with the occasional potato chunk. The sauce is hot but not to the extent that I can't taste flavours of the fragrant curry.

So it's with full bellies and alert tongues that we exit Mamak, stunned by the 10 metre-plus queue outside. I know it's a nice and cheap feed but I thought there were way too many eating places in the Chinatown area to warrant that sort of queue at any one establishment. Anyway I'm full, happy, even on the day overall and ever thankful for the lifestyle we're privilaged to have. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Mamak on Urbanspoon


chocolatesuze said...

lol i have yet to go to mamak *hangs head in shame* but i bought this packet of frozen roti the other day and its so awesome it only takes about 5mins to pan fry to become fluffy! now i just gotta learn to make curry hehe

Tina said...

Ooh chocolatesuze - that sounds nice and easy for home. Where do you get it from?

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

I love roti and have even made it at home a few times although it's so labour intensive and my husband can eat the whole lot in one go unless I ration him to 10 lol. I haven't been to Mamak yet but I did have one of their roti at a festival and it was pretty good!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I think your assessment of mamak is spot on!

Tina said...

Hi Anonymous - That's just my opinion but I still love their roti! :)


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