Sambal Kampung

Location: 234 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15 for noodles, $15-25 for made-to-order mains
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 5/10
Overall rating: 5/10
Would I come back? No

A small chinese-malaysian eatery, largely a student’s haunt for late dinner. On the day we saw surprisingly many young families, it must be family friendly too. We were seated upstairs. The stairs are narrow, the tables are small and packed in as tightly as they possibly allowed. You could elbow the person next table across if you wanted. The brick walls are decorated with christmas lights. That’s the sort of place it is.
NASI GORENG
Taste:4/10
Would I order it again? No.

Sweet kecap manis/ Emperor Nasi Goreng/ Remember that ad?*

Indonesian fried rice with chicken. If you cup your hands over your ears, you might be able to hear somebody’s throat have all its moisture sucked out from it. So much salt and MSG. The carrots are almost raw too. I have nothing against raw carrots, but they don’t belong in fried rice.

*: Youtube ‘bigpond nasi goreng ad’. Great ad, pity it was for Telstra.

LAKSA
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A helmet-sized bowl/ My preferred noodle vessel/ Not a real helmet

Watch out, it’s a basin of laksa.
It’s a different sort of spicy from the other laksas, not sweet-spicy but dry-spicy. The coconut milk adds creaminess and rounds out a lot of the dry-spiciness. Again, it’s very salty. We did arrive fairly late, so the laksa broth must have been boiled down into something saltier than usual. It was still edible, as long as you drank a fair amount of water and avoided most of the soup. In the laksa there is a boiled egg, some boyshoy, dried fried tofu puffs, two small crystal prawns, sliced fish cake, fish balls and plenty of fried shallots. There is also some chicken at the bottom. Its appearance isn’t as clean or neat as the other laksas, but I don’t mind the appearance. Apart from the salt, it would have been a satisfactory laksa.

 

LYCHEE DRINK
Taste: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.

lychee tapwater/ Not as tasty as you think/ Lychees were okay

Tap water with some syrup from canned lychees, and then some canned lychees. It could have been okay, but too watery. The tap water has a metallic, minerally, chalky taste too.

 

SANBOLIANG
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Sugar will fix it/ Fix my drink but not my teeth/ Trip to the dentist

 

San Bo Liang is a drink made of primarily three ingredients, all of which have ‘cooling’ properties according to chinese medicine philosophy. One of them is the longan fruit, which has always been a ‘heating’ food (or so I am told). That…. doesn’t seem right. Whatever the case may be, sanboliang has canned longan fruit, some grass jelly, and a brown palm sugar syrup. It’s much tastier than the lychee drink.
But, I wouldn’t come back with company just to have laksa and sanboliang.

 

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Laksa Bar

Name: Laksa Bar
Location: 108 Lt Lonsdale St.
Cost: $11-15 laksa
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I go again? Yes.

Laksa Bar (LB) opened around a year ago, in response for the need for more laksa in the inner city. It wins in term of location, and you will pay more for its location. (Roughly $2 more) It runs in a similar way to Laksa King, sharing the same 3-5pm break. But more expensive and dare I say it? Inferior? But then Laksa King has set some high standards. Laksa bar is still delicious and I’d come back if I am stuck in the inner city, and want to eat laksa or nasi lemak regardless.

While laksa (in all its regional variations) is LB’s specialty, LB also offers made-to-order rice and noodle dishes.

NASI LEMAK with BEEF RENDANG ($13.90)
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Lots of meat and sauce/ It is time to be hungry/ Nasi lemak time

Bowl of chilli paste/ What can I say about this?/Sambal is self-serve

Vinegary-sweet/ A simple vegie pickle/ Oh, the onions burn.

Favourite part of all/ Crispy crunchy salty fish/ Then more nutty crunch

Nasi lemak is something like Malaysia’s national dish. It’s a dome of coconut rice, with a main (in this case, beef rendang. But there are other options for the main at Laksa Bar), cucumber slices, crispy fried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, a fried egg and chilli paste (sambal) on the side. There’s also some sweet vegetable fast-pickles (acar) too.
The beef rendang here is a coconut beef stew, with plenty of sauce. It’s quite a large serve of beef rendang. It doesn’t have the same aromatic herby taste as the rendang at Red Spice Road, or the fat content. It’s lean, tender and focuses on the toasted coconut.
The fried anchovies and roasted peanuts are extremely crisp and crunchy. They’re the reason why I’d order a nasi lemak again at Laksa Bar. Nevermind the main dish.
Sambal is a sweet chilli paste. Not super-spicy. It’s less spicy than the chilli paste in MiGoreng.
The vegetable fast pickle is delicious. It has pineapple in it. It might seem odd to see pineapple used as a vegetable, but it delicious as a pickle.

 

PRAWN CHAR KWAY TEOW ($12.90)
Taste: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

I like char kway teow/ Enough to order it here/ But bad decision

Mediocre. I found 2 crystal prawns. It’s definately edible, but nothing special. No impressive ‘wok hei’ or kitchen specs (super hot flame and heat conduction), or noodle tossing skills. The noodles were all broken up from poor tossing skills, and didn’t obtain a strong umami profile you get with excellent kitchen specs. I wouldn’t order it again at LB because I can find something on par, and costing less.
Then again, why order a noodle dish at a place that specialises in laksa?

 
CHICKEN LAKSA ($11.90)
Taste: ?
Would I order it again? Looks okay to me.

The chicken laksa/ Surprise! It's fried, not boiled!/ Richer than ever

 

SEAFOOD LAKSA ($13.90)
Taste: ?
Would I order it again? I’d like to order it, but thwarted everytime!

Look, a huge mussel/ Mm, tender, not rubbery/ Tick of approval

 

TOMYUM/CURRY LAKSA HYBRID ($13.90)
Taste:?
Would I order it again? It has my attention.

Is that .... pineapple?/ Hybrid laksa looks tasty/ Curiosity

 

BARLEY TEA ($3.90)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Summery beverage/ Ice clinking on glass vessel/ A warm lazy day

Barley tea is a summer drink made from boiling barley in water and adding brown sugar. I don’t see how it can go wrong. Perhaps I will order it again when summer comes around.

 
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Laksa King

Name: Laksa King
Location: 6-12 Pin Oak Crescent
Cost: $10-15 main
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 9/10
Overall rating: 9/10

Laksa King is hyped to be the best laksa place in Melbourne, so my lunch buddy and I checked it out one grey Melbourne day. We arrived a bit after 3pm, hoping that the quiet lull that restaurants go through at 3pm would provide the space to take photographs least intrusively. It was spendidly quiet. So quiet it was actually closed. Laksa King has a break from 3pm to 5pm, remember that one kids.
(No, we didn’t spend 2 hours staring mournfully through the glass window/wall. Maybe 15 minutes before deciding whether to wait or go somewhere else.)
When it was finally opened, the staff were very friendly. I asked if I could take photos around the place, from the tables, to wall fixtures and food and they were very happy to let me do so, and even jokingly asked to have a their better half photographed.

Photos of mundane/ Chairs waiting for occupants/ Soon there'll be patrons

Artsy warehouse lights/ Light globes dangle from ceiling/ Quite mesmerising

SEAFOOD LAKSA
Taste: 9.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes

An iceberg laksa/ Most of the stuff underneath/ Happier ending

It has pieces of squid, fishcake slices, prawns, eggplant, scallops and two green-lipped mussels. See pictures for all the description you need. I’m impressed with the seafood selection. Seafood laksa was had by my lunch buddy, a notorious prawn fiend but refuses to eat mussels. So I get to eat the mussels. The mussel was tender, sweet and umami. Huzzah for getting mussels right!
My only qualm is that the eggplant texture wasn’t quite right, it was … ‘squeaky’ and a bit watery. Same for the fish okra laksa.

FISH OKRA LAKSA
Taste: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Creamy fish laksa/ To prevent overpowering/ Mild broth for fish

It has eggplant, battered and fried pieces of rockling (a sweet delicate white-fleshed) fish, and pieces of okra. It doesn’t sound like a lot compared to the seafood laksa but there is a LOT of fish in this laksa. Not the 3-4 sizable pieces of fish you’d expect in a noodle soup, but rather a number over 6 because I lost count after finding yet another piece of fish. The surprises just keep on coming. I do wish they were as generous with the okra as they were with fish.
I was going to place ‘No’ as a answer to ‘Would I order it again?’ but decided against it because it might misled you to think this wasn’t a tasty laksa. It’s a delicious meal packed with glorious fish goujons, the soup is creamy without being too rich, okra is crunchy and slimy in a way okra should be….. but what’s wrong with it?
It has no Hokkien noodles.
“But fish okra laksa isn’t meant to have Hokkien noodles!”
I hear you loud and clear. I now know fish okra laksa isn’t meant to have Hokkien noodles. But I love Hokkien noodles (those thick round yellow noodles in packets usually found in the refridgerated section). Out of the entire menu, all of which sounded appealing to me, I chose the only one without Hokkien noodles. (First world problems. Take that.)

AIS KACANG
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Tower of shaved ice/ Over base of sweet goodies/ Peanuts essential


Melts into syrup/ Medley of colourful things/Fish out sweet goodies

After polishing off a bowl of laksa, the staff came over and asked if we liked their laksa (we did, very much so), and kindly indulged me by answering my questions about Hokkien noodles and fish okra laksa. (No Hokkien noodles in fish laksa. Only rice vermicelli noodles. Got it.) While we’re still drinking tea and digesting, another waitstaff comes by and asks if we’d like our ais kacang to be sweet. My lunch buddy is familiar with ais kacang (and being a sweet tooth), replies ‘Yes!’. Contrasted with myself who had little idea what an Ice Kachang was (and thought sweetening was optional), replied ‘No?’.

“Ais kacang must be sweet. Cannot have not sweet lah,” the man chuckles and disappears, shortly returning with a giant bowl of ais kacang.
….. Why did he even ask if it wasn’t an option to begin with? I am baffled, bewildered and bemused at this strange man.

In any case, ais kacang contains shaved ice, crushed roasted peanuts, pink syrup (from the jelly?), cubes of raspberry jelly, bits of grass jelly, cendol (green jelly noodles), palm seed, sweetened whole red beans, canned longan fruits and a thin palm sugar syrup. It was actually very tasty, and we got through the entire bowl with no trouble.

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Red Spice Road 03

Name: Red Spice Road
Location: 27 McKillop St, Melbourne CBD.
Price: $4.50-19 appetisers, $25-35 meal, $14 dessert
Cost/Pennypinching: 3/5
Taste: 10/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Would I come here again? Yes, for special occasions.

Just a few items this time! We ordered a la carte.

Pork Belly with Chill, Apple Slaw & Black Vinegar ($34.00)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Have we had enough of the pork belly? This has appeared in Red Spice Road (01), and made an encore in Red Spice road 02. Go look at the previous posts for more pictures.

Duck Stir-Fried with Rice Noodles, Kalian, Herbs & Soy ($32.00)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Order meals to share/ Could I finish this solo?/ Given some time, yes

Rather, it’s rice noodles, kailan (chinese broccoli), herbs and soy stir-fried with duck.I wish there was more in the bowl, especially when a serve of this dish needs to be considerably larger than say, a curry or pork belly. I can’t remember much about this dish, but the picture looks good. Tasty rice noodles and duck.

Jungle Curry of Minced Rabbit, Roasted Carrots, Betel Leaf & Cauliflower ($32.00)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes

"Be wery wery/ quiet, I'm hunting wabbits."/ For jungle curry?

I enjoyed this a lot. Jungle curry is a Thai curry which doesn’t have coconut milk in it (no coconuts in the jungle), a blessing for those who are watching their saturated fat intake or those who find regular Thai/Malaysian curries too rich from the coconut milk.Continuing on the theme of decreased saturated fat intake, rabbit is also a very lean meat.
Jungle curry shares a fair number of ingredients to green curry (another favourite), namely kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal and garlic. Without the green ingredients (thai basil, green chillies, kaffir lime and leaves etc), it’s not green but bright red. Red chillies might have something to do with that. So do the roasted carrots. It doesn’t win any points for spectacular presentation, but it’s so good with rice. It’s slightly spicy from the chillies, sweet from the vegetables, and sharp from galangal and betel leaves. It’s easy on the stomach and palate without being boring.
Salt & Pepper Fried Tofu with Broccolini, Oyster Mushrooms & Spicy Peanut Sauce ($28.00)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Umami mushrooms/ Tofu needs umami hit/ Always pair with shrooms

What you see is what you get. It’s simple, but still a winner. It’s vegan to boot. But would I pay $28 for this dish, probably not.

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Old town Kopitiam Mamak QV

Name: Old Town Kopitiam Mamak QV
Location: 210 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD
Prices: Entrees $5-10, Mains $15 ish, Drinks $3.90-5
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Oldtown Lemak Laksa ($10.50)
Taste: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Photography derp/ Focussing on the wrong thing/ Check out cutlery

Hello fish curry/ Damn, it's that sort of noodle/Shoot, foiled again.

Oldtown Lemak Laksa has a caption with its menu entry: “Thick white rice noodles in spicy coconut soup with fish”.

The noodles go pasty quickly, I advise you to eat them quickly. I don’t like these thick white rice noodles (the kind that are oily and dry as a wad of noodles), because they’re either uncooked/hard or pasty. I’d much prefer the thick white rice noodle that comes refrigerated, with the texture of Hokkien noodles.
The soup is thick, coconuty and is a sour and salty curry. I like the soup, it’s interesting from the first mouthful til the last. There is plenty of fish in this curry, which surprises me in a good way. The fish itself is an oily fish, which is great. Oily fish needs to be servred more often at eateries. But more care is needed with the preparation of the fish. There are a few bones and scales left, which make the noodles less easy to eat, and the soup gritty. There’s also another ingredient that makes the soup gritty, but I’m not sure what those are. I don’t think they are fried onions, because those become mushy when they’re in soup for an extended period of time. Maybe they’re fried bits of spices that got stuck at the bottom of the pot. Who knows? Whatever it is, grittiness makes a negative impact on the otherwise delicious soup.

There’s mint, cucumber and shredded lettuce to balance out the sour-salty coconutty soup and oily fish. There needs to be more cucumber and lettuce to balance it out for me. The soup is quite heavy from the thickness of it, so I feel as if I need more cucumber and lettuce to undo the heaviness. There’s also a little dish of sauce, but I didn’t add that to my lemak laksa. It tasted terrible by itself, and I doubt it’d taste much better in the laksa.

Mee Rebus ($10.50)
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Hokkien noodles/ Limes make pictures look better/ This is food envy

Paste of crustaceans/ Spoonful of umami hit/ Please use sparingly

Mee rebus is a sweeter curry than lemak laksa. The soup is sweetened with a gravy made from sweet potatoes. It’s a subtle sort of sweetness, but it is nonetheless tasty. There are yellow Hokkien noodles here, which induced food envy. There are prawns, a boiled egg, dried shrimp paste, fishcakes, fried shallots, spring onions and a wedge of lime in this bowl of curry-like noodles.

Little green wormies/ Stir with spoon and watch them squirm/ Suck through straw om nom

Cendol in a Glass ($5)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Cendol is a green jelly dessert. Sometimes the green colour and the flavouring is derived from pandan, but more often than not it’s from food colouring. The green riceflour dessert is then shaped into little worms and slurped up through a straw. The jelly worms are not brittle like ordinary jelly (think Aeroplane jelly), but more like a chewy noodle.

Bandung ($3.90)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

 

Pretty-in-pink drink/ Reminds me of cough syrup/ Childhood trauma

Bandung is a rose flavoured drink. It’s a tasty sort of rose flavour, so I didn’t mind it so much. I don’t like rose-flavoured, rose-scented, rose-anything. But in the rare event that I want to drink something rose-flavoured, this one is the drink to go for.

Petaling Street Malaysian Hawker Food

Name: Petaling Street Malaysian Hawker Food
Location: Corner Swanston/Bourke Sts, near Boost Juice.
Price range: Mains are $10-23. Mostly around the ten-mark, so it’s a cheap student-eats place.

Combination Hor Fun with egg gravy ($9.90)
I choose this because I like Hor Fun, which are wide flat rice noodles. Hor Fun stir-frying skills are essential for a short-order SE Asian chef, since it tells the customer a lot about the strength of the heat (specs of the kitchen) and tossing skills of the chef (specs of the chef crew).

Stir fry some Hor Fun/Stir fry some seafood and veg/ Add gravy real quick

I have had better combination Hor Fun with egg gravy at Kopitam.
At Petaling, the combination hor-fun with egg gravy is overly salty, the egg gravy is gluggy with cornstarch, the chicken tastes like its been sitting in seafood, but the seafood is passable. The Hor Fun themselves were sweating under the hot blanket of egg gravy, and became greasy and limp.  I’d give the skill check a fail, but the kitchen specs a bare pass. (needs more fire power) I am willing to overlook the lack of fire power and state of the Hor Fun  if the chicken and egg gravy were better.
Would I order it again? No.

Tomato soup rice noodles with fish balls ($9.50)

Chef recommended/ Leaves much to be desired/I am disappoint

This is another one of my orders. It was a ‘Chef’s recommendation’, so I trust the crew of Petaling would recommend something tasty. I am also a slave to curiousity. Tomato soup rice noodles you say? You’re on!
Unfortunately, it’s bland and uninspiring. It’s disappointing. The tomato soup tastes like watered down dregs of tinned Spag, with copious amounts of rice noodles (I don’t like that type of noodle, so it met my initial bias. The rice noodles used were the thick oily reconstituted ones with a round cross-section.). Fish balls and fish cake are okay in a noodle soup, but it needs something else with it.
Would I order it again? No.

Fried fish with Thai sauce ($12.80)
This is ordered by a lunch buddy. I was initially wary of fish, because it can go wrong in so many ways.  Fish is either fried or steamed here, with two sauce options for each. Here’s a picture.

Fried fish with salad/ With sweet and sour dressing/ A Win in my book

Looks good. Tastes good too. My wariness is dispelled. The fish is crispy on the outside, and still juicy on the inside. The wait was shorter than expected due to the cuts made into the fish to decrease cooking time.
Would I order it? Yes, and so would my lunch buddy (and has.)

Cham ($3 hot, $3.50 cold)

Drink a hot beverage/ Would you like tea or coffee?/ Why not have them both?

Cham is a mix of coffee and tea. What did I say about curiousity?
It’s actually tasty. I’ve had it twice. The first time, it is better than Kopitam’s (taste-wise, and quantity-wise if you order it hot), but the second, it was ordered during lunch rush hour and was overly sweet. It’s hit and miss.
Would I order it again? Yes.

Ribena Sprite ($3.50)

Bounce bounce Ribena/ Not as much vitamin C/ As stated in ads

Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s so pretty.

In advertisements here, Ribena was marketed as a rich source of vitamin C due to its blackcurrant content. Unfortunately, any high schooler versed in basic chemistry is able to titrate and calculate that this claim was false, and that it only contains roughly 10% of that advertised. It’s still a sizeable amount, but I can’t help but feel betrayed by one of my favourite childhood drinks for letting me down. Not that anybody should rely solely on Ribena for their vitamin C needs. I only wish that I had debunked the Ribena myth in my high school years instead of wasting my time trying to determine the pH of Salt & Vinegar Pringles, how concentrated the acid would become in a parched mouth of an overzealous individual, and if the acidity was able to give the sides of your mouth chemical burns. (That study was inconclusive. Also, I still have a test subject waiting to be fed a tube of Pringles.)

 

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