Mamak, Haymarket

There are places that are famed for the long queues stream­ing out­side their door. Mamak is one of them — any time someone brings it up, it’s accom­pan­ied by a com­ment about the long wait. For waits for lunch, what they don’t tell you is that they wanted a table dur­ing the lunch hour between 1 – 2pm. Visit any earli­er and you’re shown to a table imme­di­ately. And that’s what we did when T’s work­shop was can­celled and came into the city to have lunch with N and me.


First off are drinks. N ordered the teh ais (an iced milk tea, $4, not pic­tured) and I went for a kopi ais (an iced white cof­fee, $4, pic­tured above right). T ordered a mix of the two drinks, a cham (a half milk tea and half cof­fee, $4, pic­tured above left).

The teh ais is rather milky, and while I like dairy products gen­er­ally, I do not enjoy the taste of milk itself. The kopi ais, how­ever, tastes exactly like a Kopiko candy. It’s strong cof­fee that’s sweetened with con­densed milk and without obvi­ous milky notes, which is just the way I like it. As for the cham, it tastes exactly like a hot ver­sion of a drink that’s a mix of the teh ais and koi ais. It’s a marked improve­ment on the teh ais, and I’d prob­ably like it bet­ter cold, and even so I’d still prefer the kopi ais.


N and I share the roti canai ($5.5), which is the ori­gin­al roti and comes with two cur­ries and sam­bal sauce. The roti is delight­fully fluffy, and its sweet­ness went well with the cur­ries. The cur­ries are fra­grant and pack a healthy dose of heat. It’s a pleas­ant sort of heat — the kind where your mouth burns and it’s all right because the tasti­ness of the food makes it worth­while. I’m not too sure what cur­ries they were oth­er than one had a chick­pea base.


T ordered half a dozen chick­en satay sticks with sweet and spicy pea­nut sauce to share ($9). The chick­en was tender with a subtle smoky fla­vour to them from being grilled over flam­ing char­coal. The sweet­ness of the sauce was deli­cious (I really do like my cur­ries sweet, which is why I’m also very fond of Japanese cur­ries.).


And for my mains I went for the kari ayam with rice ($11.50), a ‘clas­sic chick­en curry cooked with freshly ground spices and chunky pota­toes’. It’s a very spicy and hot curry — the kind that makes your nose run after a few bites. It’s also a pleas­ant heat. The chick­en was juicy and fell off the bone. The pota­toes were super fluffy and soaked up the curry, just the way I like it. I love pota­toes in curry. They’re one of my abso­lute favour­ite com­fort foods, so there was no chance I would pass this dish up. Now, if only there were more than 2 – 3 chunks…

A couple of weeks later, Sydney was going through one of its ‘polar blasts’, so N and I returned for some warm­ing curry. This time I went for the kari say­ur with rice ($10.50), a ‘veget­ari­an curry cooked with len­tils, fresh toma­toes, car­rots, pota­toes and egg­plant’. I usu­ally dis­miss veget­ari­an dishes on a menu, so over­looked it on pre­vi­ous vis­its until N poin­ted out that it had all these yummy non-green veget­ables that I like eat­ing. There two gen­er­ous chunks of each veget­able, which are all cooked per­fectly — the toma­toes, car­rots and egg­plant are firm, and not crunchy or mushy, while the toma­toes are fresh, as if they were just tossed through before serving.

This is the mild­est of the cur­ries at Mamak — hav­ing vis­ited for a work lunch once meant I’ve tried almost all the mains on the menu — and also my favour­ite and coin­cid­ent­ally the same as the len­til curry in the roti canai.


We also tried the roti kaya ($8) that I’d been curi­ous about. It’s a roti ‘filled with a tra­di­tion­al spread made from pandan and coconut’ and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sadly, it’s a dis­ap­point­ment — the kaya is spread rather thinly and there’s only a subtle coconut fla­vour and no pandan fla­vour what­so­ever. The kaya tasted much like half car­a­mel­ised sug­ar that was grainy and also stuck to all the nooks between your teeth with each bite.

I’ll be stick­ing to the savoury options at Mamak in the future.

Mamak is loc­ated at 15 Goulburn St, Sydney NSW 2000.