A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published May 12th 2016
From Continental to KL
I'm addicted to those Laksa flavoured Cup-a-Soups, but there's no comparison to an authentic spice-infused Laksa that tastes like it's straight from the streets of KL. Introducing Hawker, a fresh Sydney restaurant which is great if you have similar cravings. In the heart of the city on Sussex Street, it offers foodies an array of Malaysian-Chinese flavours, and a taste of this vibrant culture.
This modern spin-off from the award-winning Mamak restaurant in the CBD is reminiscent of hawker food centres in Malaysia. These are renowned for their open-air or otherwise large hall-like dining spaces, which would explain the high ceilings in this Sydney restaurant. As it's well-lit, you'll feel like there's plenty of space, no matter how many seats fill up.
Photographs from the home of this street food surround you. Blown-up on canvases and displayed around the space, Hawker becomes somewhat of a cultural gallery. This is also the case through the open kitchen. As you see giant woks ablaze, hear chefs on the go, and watch dishes and desserts in the making, you are taken another step closer to experiencing street food culture in Malaysia.
In true hawker style, eating here is budget-friendly too. A main meal for dinner, a drink, and share of two desserts came to about $20. I got the Curry Laksa with chicken and tofu. The creamy coconut milk through the spicy broth made every bit divine. Look forward to trying more traditional favourites on offer - from the Hainanese Chicken (great comfort food), to Char Kway Teow with its signature Chinese sausage. Feeling more adventurous? Try the Penang White Curry Mee with cuttlefish and blood jelly.
Drink-wise I went with a traditional Teh Ping, or ice milk tea - appealing to the sweet tooth. Also find a selection of Kopi (coffee) and old-fashioned barley water among other drinks, in both hot and cold form to make them right for any climate. If you're looking for authentic Malaysian desserts, you're also covered. We decided to get adventurous and try something new.
Have you heard of durian? It's the thorny fruit native to Malaysia that you may know for its stink. Previously, in making it past this pungent odour that is likened to onions, I'd enjoyed the unique flavour. So the first dessert I convinced my friends to taste at Hawker was a crispy battered deep-fried durian; at least it came with ice-cream if things didn't go so well.
It was intriguing to the senses. Hints of savoury were noted before the sweetness of the fruit came through. One thing for sure was that the classic durian favour that people seem to passionately love or hate wasn't lost in the deep-fryer. The ice-cream paired well with this exotic sweet.
Secondly, we tried the Apam Balik. I liked how the making and display of this crispy turned over pancake is right beside the entrance to the restaurant. Crushed peanuts and butter gave it a smooth, well, peanut-butter flavour on the inside. Not full on peanut-butter though - creamed sweet corn diluted it.
Exotic cuisine here at Hawker makes it a little bit easier when you want to pretend you're in Malaysia. It's no surprise that, like Mamak, it has taken off in Sydney. It's great to be able to get a taste of traditional ingredients, recipes, and the vibrant hawker culture without the excessive expense of taking off in a plane. Anyway, for now, back to the soups.