Archive for the ‘Malaysian’ Category

Vegetable achar, prawn sambal and roti

There’s something about laminex. It’s the surface upon which some of the best Melbourne meals I’ve enjoyed have been served: a som tum Thai in Springvale, an Armenian dumpling in Caulfield South and, recently, a pungent, complex achar in less-than-glamorous Syndal.

Lim’s Nyonya Hut is visually unimpressive, a little shop-worn and hardly known for its service. Here, you’ll find no superstar chef or coterie of fashionable eaters. You will find laminex, however, and some of the most challenging, compelling flavours this side of KL.

A good portion of the menu is devoted to hawker food. These Malaysian staples are quick, nutritious and often hang on a noodle. Dive into these street eats and try to navigate past the laksas, of which there are three.

All three are great, of course. The ubiquitous curry laksa isn’t given any fancy makeover here. It’s a straightforward version with both egg noodles and rice vermicelli vying for space in the mild broth alongside generous pieces of chicken thigh and fried beancurd. Added authenticity comes in the shape of plump little meatballs made from fish. The more atypical Assam and Siam laksas centre on fish, the latter being the coconut version. They are pungent and heady, and you need to watch for bones, but they’ll have you travelling for miles just to get your mouth around it.

Likewise, the Char Koay Teow consistently hits the table with that moreish char-flavour that can’t be added but must be loved into existence. This is ‘wok hei’ and it means ‘breath of wok’ in Cantonese, and it takes a fiery vessel and a deft hand to achieve. Chef Beng Lai Lim has such a hand. This guy deserves a coffee table book every bit as much as the CBD’s celebrated superstars – if only for his Char Koay Teow. With nice proportions of flat rice noodles to prawn, egg, Chinese sausage and bean sprouts, you will be jostling for a lunch time table with Malaysian students who know the real deal.

Despite the draw of these reasonably priced ($8.50) hawker dishes, on a recent visit I ventured further into the dinner menu and was glad I did.

The vegetable achar is a mix of lightly pickled carrots, cucumber, cauliflower and onion topped with crushed peanuts and fried shallots. Its fabulous textures underpin a satisfyingly tangy punch: robust and refreshing at the same time. There are few dishes that can pull off such a double act.

The piquant smell of the sambal prawns is like a drug. It’s a generous serve, and the prawns are perfectly cooked, delivering that satisfying ‘pop’ when bitten. The just-cooked onions provide crunchy counterpoint and the sauce is sour and spicy without being too hot. The chicken curry likewise packs a flavour punch without extreme heat. Chicken pieces with flavour all the way to the bone had me pondering how on earth I could replicate this at home. Luckily they actually sell their curry pastes for at-home experimentation…

The take-home version actually works very well. But there is no doubt I’ll be returning to eat at the laminex soon.

Lim’s Nyonya Hut, 240 Blackburn Rd, Syndal. Ph: (03) 9802 3763. BYO.


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