Malaysian Mamak

Malaysian Mamak

"Mamak" actually describes the mixed culture of Malaysia's Indian and Malays. Mamak stalls are big Malaysia, but here's some that are in Singapore that you won't need to travel that far for!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Not sure what has happened to me of the late, but after being pretty much on a phase of discovery of Prata places around Sembawang, Springleaf and Upper Thomson, it seems that I have gotten pretty curious on the various mamak stalls around the island — after all, there are just so many of them around, but one rarely hears about comparing one against the other. ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant is a favourite with the dining partner (rumour has it that he orders them on food delivery platforms pretty often) — also a very prominent eating place along River Valley Road where the likes to Boon Tong Kee and Culture Spoon are located. Have tried their Plain Prata under the dining partner’s recommendation previously; thought I would order something a little different with this revisit.

It may be a thing with me visiting Springleaf Prata Place a little too much; those whom are familiar with Springleaf Prata Place would come to know that their cheese prata usually involve the use of melted mozzarella rather than sliced cheese that one can usually get from supermarkets from the dairy section. Considering that, the Cheese Prata from ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant would feature cheese in the likes of the latter — not something one would call “wrong” per se; but definitely a little far from my personal preference. Here, a single slice of cheese is found within the rectangular shaped Prata — not really a fan of the doughy Prata that is a little firm to pull apart, though the Prata does exude a nice doughy aroma. Having tried their Plain Prata here before, the Plain Prata does have a better texture than the Cheese Prata in comparison being less dense, though the Pratas from ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant is something I wouldn’t necessarily call a crispy prata by any means. Interestingly, ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant serves up fish curry and sambal chili by default with their Prata offerings here — very similar to that of Meeras Curry Banana Leaf which we had visited at Springleaf recently. The curry that is served with the Pratas at ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant can be said as moderately spicy, though I particularly like how it wasn’t watered down (pretty thankful that it has been the same for most mamak stalls I had went to thus far ever since I kickstarted this journey), while the sambal is provides a sweet-savoury blend of flavours that gives the Prata a different sort of feel.

Having tried a couple of dishes from ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant, it has been pretty consistent in our visits that they seem to do their other cooked dishes way better than their Prata offerings — had tried their Maggi Goreng Chicken and their Nasi Goreng Ikan Bilis on separate occasions and these were delicious; the dining partner actually swears by their Nasi Goreng Ikan Bilis with his picky taste buds so that’s pretty a testament to the dish on is own. Apart from that, the staff at ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant are also especially friendly as compared to the other establishments we have encountered so far; cracking jokes with the patrons once in a while especially with the younger ones. It’s not like I ain’t a regular at ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant these days, but I guess I am probably going for their non-Prata offerings when we do drop by again.

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Springleaf has always been better known for Springleaf Prata Place when it comes to mamak establishments in that particular neighbourhood, but wandering off slightly down the opposite direction and one will find Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant — a seemingly low profile establishment as compared to the better known Springleaf Prata Place that also serves up Roti Prata, Dosai, Goreng and Meals (i.e. cooked seafood and meat dishes, including various Dum Briyani). Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant also does seemingly have a rotating specials menu with one fixed special item served on each day of the week — beverages available here includes the usual suspects ranging from various teas and coffees to various types of syrups; pretty much the standard with such mamak-style establishments.

Truth to be told, I was drawn to Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant one evening after a meal at Springleaf Prata Place — noticed a table that they have yet to clear with a metal plate typically used to serve Roti Prata with one of the sections being filled up with sambal whilst the rest contained curry. Everyone likes their Roti Prata done differently and saying whether if the one at Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant is good or not is a whole other rabbit hole that I don’t really want to explore, but some may find this akin to the typical Roti Prata elsewhere — the crispness of the Roti Prata doesn’t seem to be much of what they are going for here, but the Roti Prata here does have some sort of tension that requires a little effort to pull apart; probably not so much towards the liking for some who are fans of the crispy sort of Roti Prata that Springleaf Prata Place puts out. One thing for sure though is that the dough does come with and an evident whiff of fragrance that made it pretty appealing to have. Have attempted to ask about the three different dips they had provided with the order but it was either them having difficulties understanding me or if they just weren’t the very friendly sort (maybe both) and didn’t get an answer to what are those — that being said I am guessing that one is a sardine curry, while another is a sambal with anchovies; some have called the last dip a dhal but I am not too sure. Whilst I am one who rarely dabble into the realms of Indian curry and sauces, my Chinese-y taste buds were actually pretty receptive to all three dips served; usually there would be one or more that doesn’t quite hit the spot. Some may have commented the sardine curry being a tad watered down but I do think it is sufficiently flavourful — probably a mismatch of expectations that curries have to be especially rich; the sardine curry was actually pretty easy to have being lighter, though comes with a distinct fishy note typical of canned sardines in its finish. The “dhal” (which I personally think isn’t what it is, but let’s just call it what others think it is because I don’t know any better) would suit those looking for a thicker, heavy sort of “curry” — I would say that this dip actually tastes closer to chicken curry, and their rendition does come with an evident hint of spices in the finish. The highlight for me would have been the sambal with anchovies — largely sweet, but also slightly saltish especially when one have the anchovies together with the sambal, this was pretty delightful and a bit of a fresh change to me as opposed to having Roti Prata with the usual curry; I am definitely all in to discover more places around the island that actually serves their Roti Prata with sambal.

It is probably unfair to compare Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant against Springleaf Prata Place, though with the prices charged here for the Roti Prata Plain at $1.30/piece, the prices are very similar to that of Springleaf Prata Place who charges their Plain Prata at $1.40/piece. That being said, one may argue that Springleaf Prata Place is a bit of a modern rendition of a mamak-establishment that has since poised itself to welcome the masses — perhaps some may call it gentrified especially considering their inventive and wacky creations since a number of years ago. Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant is that sort of establishment that stays true to its roots however, and it’s clientele shows as well. Whilst I am not one who is able to comment on how authentic each establishment is, nor whether if the dips that are served with the Roti Prata at Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant are even good to begin with, they do fit well to my preferences. Still, I would probably need to check out more spots to say to widen the perspective; though Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant is a spot I may consider if I am craving for Roti Prata that comes served with sambal given its proximity from my place by train — if I am not feeling like I want to “Springleaf Prata” of course.

Peace Centre has yet another new F&B establishment — excitedly made the visit to Aladdin’s Castle by ABC since I was back at work in the office and there are some folks around who are fairly open to try out Indian cuisine. Was pretty spoilt for choice for their menu is rather extensive — think mains from fried rice, fried noodles and Briyani to sharing plates such as the vegetarian dishes and meat/fish/poultry options, not to mention Prata, Naan and even a section dedicated to Southern Thailand cuisine.

We were recommended the Mutton Briyani but we decidedly went for the Chicken Briyani and the Madras Mutton on the side just so in case we aren’t into the mutton (PS: The Madras Mutton is something not to be missed here; another dish recommended by the server that is almost like Gam Heong Chicken). Whilst the basmati grains from here aren’t that savoury and even as coloured as some Briyani which some hawker stalls serve up (different style perhaps?), we absolutely dig how the rice was so fragrant from the spices such as star anise and cardamom — light, fluffy and so easy to eat with its fragrant aroma that keeps one going. There was a variant that featured Tandoori Chicken (i.e. Tandoori Briyani), but ours came with a more plain piece of steamed chicken — relatively juicy and tender considering how we left the chicken untouched for quite a while; pretty apt when had with the basmati rice, while the hard boiled egg was. A decent addition to round off the deal.

Indian cuisine is something I don’t have too much of an exposure to — wouldn’t be able to tell fairly on how authentic or ever good the Chicken Briyani from Aladdin’s Castle is. One thing I do know is that we were pretty impressed with the various items we have ordered (including the Palek Panneer and the Madras Mutton) — and it’s a place we will look forward to returning to for some satisfying Indian cuisine when the craving hits. Anyone can recommend some Indian cuisine establishments that I should check out?

Toasted wholemeal bread with the classic combination of margarine and kaya that never goes wrong. Expensive though.

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Thick toast with a savoury-sweet spread. Not worth of its high price though.

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Looked good but was rather clumpy and wet with an ordinary taste.

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Impressive presentation. Coconut-flavoured rice was strong in taste and the sweet-sour sauce for the chicken though barely spicy was very tasty. The fried skin of the chicken seemed a bit limp but meat was still tender. Pretty decent a meal for a food court.

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Roti Egg was rather smooth without lumpy and uneven bits. Roti Canai was more of the doughy and stretchy type. Roti Onion had many chunks of onions but were of un-uniformed sizes. Curry was sweet, sour and spicy.

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Flavourful Basmati Rice with a juicy, crispy and tender chicken thigh which was fried golden-brown and pretty savoury. Curry was sweet, sour and spicy, but the Pappadum was just limp and soft.

Roti Canai of the doughy and stretchy type. Curry was sweet, sour and spicy.

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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