Everybody likes roti – what’s not to like? Paper-thin pieces of dough are rolled out very thinly, fried on a hotplate and folded into little parcels to be eaten with curry or ice cream or even just by themselves. Though these are traditionally Indian fare, they’re also a main feature of Malaysian cuisine.
Having been a fixture of the Chinatown night markets for years selling the crisp, fluffy, pan-fried bread, the Mamak crew have finally opened their own restaurant. It’s only been three weeks or so but they’re already filling pews with starving punters.
The menu may be a pretty modest selection but the offerings within its pages are pretty damn special, for the most part. The nasi goreng (Malaysian fried rice with egg, prawn and cabbage) though solid, isn’t particularly exciting but the kari ayam is a rich, mouth filling mild curry of chicken pieces (thigh and drumstick, predominantly) with chunks of potato. Eat it with rice or scoop it up with a roti canai and wash it down with a limau ais – a super-duper-sweet of mix of fresh lime juice and lime cordial with water.
They also make one of the tastiest nasi lemaks in town. Named by some as the unofficial national dish of Malaysia, it literally means ‘rice in fat’. The rice is a fragrant, coconut cream injected half-sphere that stands like a desert island surrounded by chunks of raw cucumber, whole toasted peanuts, crisp little anchovies (ikan bilis), chilli sauce (sambal) and enriched with the yolk from half an egg. A chicken curry is served separately on the side and the idea is to combine it all one spoon at a time. Or you can be a savage and mix it up all together, like we do.
But we digress - back to the roti.
You’ve got a few choices for dessert, here. There’s the roti tisu – named for tissue paper, it’s thinner than Lily Cole, it’s served in a sky-high cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side and it’s like eating the world’s messiest DIY ice cream sandwich. There’s also roti kaya, filled with that traditional Malaysian breakfast spread made from egg, sugar and coconut served, strangely, with curry sauce on the side.
The staff are great – everyone is incredibly polite, quick and cheery and though it’s not about white linen and designer cutlery (the room is pretty much a concrete block with tables and chairs – the most exciting thing about it is the hotplate at the entrance of the store where they make the roti) the food more than makes up for anything lacking in the style department.