This simple caff located directly on the hustle and bustle of Old Street itself is the only place I know in the Square Mile which does reliable Malaysian food at decent prices. Run by the same Penang-ite family who were behind the equally dependable Nonya in Notting Hill (before it unexpectedly shut), expect to find typical Malaysian Street food favourites (like Fried Kuey Teow and Hainanese Chicken rice) as well as some of the most authentic Nonya cuisine in London here. Mind the plain-Jane interior of the place… the jade green walls and dark wooden tables are more functional than they are designed to make an impression. But its the quality of the food which counts at the end of the day and the dishes have been always on the money on my many visits to date.
The Beef Rendang here is something else. The chunks of beef, tender from hours of slow-cooking with a Rendang gravy that is benchmark quality – rich, coconut-ty, spicy, savoury and sweet all at the same time. Its the closest I’ve tasted to the real thing away from home and one I highly recommend you try here with a bowl of coconut rice (“Nasi Lemak”).
No complains about the Sambal Brinjal or Tau Eu Bak either. The former, a typical Malay dish of aubergine, cooked in a chilli and shrimp-based paste. Fierily spicy and tasty as it should be. The latter, a slow-braised dish of Belly Pork in a dark soy sauce based broth that is a popular Malaysian-Chinese staple. As the meat melted away in the mouth, the various layers of flavours from the garlic, star anise, black pepper and sweet dark soy all began to amalgamate together on the palate. A real comfort dish that was truly nostalgia-inducing for me.
We rounded up the meal with some Malaysian Kuih, a general term used to describe a variety of traditional, bite-sized sweet “cakes” which are usually served at the end of a savoury meal. The two pictured below are Kuih Talam (a green, pandan-leaf flavoured paste with a white topping of rich coconut cream) and Kuih Bengka (a sweet. sticky, tapioca and custard based cake).
In terms of negatives, as HungryInLondon points out in her recent post, please stay well clear of some of their more generic-sounding dishes such as their “Pork Dumplings” or “Malaysian Tofu”….serious tourist traps that just don’t do Malaysian cuisine justice. Also, I’ve found that over the past few years, the portion sizes have been getting increasingly smaller and smaller each time I come back. At least the prices have remained on the low-side. With damage usually limited to £15 quid a head, its still decent value for some of the most authentic Malaysian in town.
102 Old Street, London EC1v | sedap.co.uk | Saturday Nov 6th 2010