A successful Malaysian franchise offering the country's ethnic mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian street and coffeeshop food, PappaRich has more than 50 outlets across Malaysia. My first experience with the restaurant was the Fahrenheit88 outlet near the Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur but it didn't tickle my taste buds. In my opinion, PappaRich in Malaysia is just another contemporised coffeeshop or "kopitiam" serving street food and drinks at upmarket prices. I much prefer the local delights at coffeeshops like Win Heng Seng and Soo Kee Mee Stall.
Here in Melbourne, PappaRich is a purveyor of what Malaysian local fare tastes like for the unfamiliar. For Malaysians and Singaporeans living in Melbourne, it is a reminder of the flavours of home. Add to these the affordability of meals averaging AUD11 and it is no wonder this coffeeshop-style eatery in QV Building is busy most times of the day with long queues especially at lunch and dinner. Another busy Malaysian eatery is Coconut House near Queen Victoria Market.
Having visited PappaRich QV several times, 2 characteristic stand out for me. The first is the consistently efficient and friendly service despite the high customer traffic. The second is simply the food. Although there are hits and misses depending on the cooks but generally the flavours are near-authentic enough to remind me of Malaysia.
There are more than 50 dishes on the menu ranging from noodles to rice to breads, and it would take several eatings to try them all. If you're craving for a near-authentic taste of Malaysia, here are 6 of my favourite food at PappaRich QV to help you get started.
I believe this is one of the restaurant's best selling dishes, having spotted it on many tables every time I visit. Although it is described as Laksa in Australia, the yellow egg noodles in spicy coconut curry gravy is often referred to as Curry Mee back in Malaysia. Think curry chicken combined with noodles.
One of the attractions of this dish for Malaysians and Singaporeans is actually the cockles. Although they are frozen and lacking in the original coppery flavour, they add authenticity to this popular street food of Malaysia.
2) Ipoh Kuay Teow Soup with Steamed Chicken
If you prefer a lighter broth, the combination of flat rice noodles and steamed chicken is an excellent choice. This Chinese dish originates from a city in West Peninsula Malaysia called Ipoh.
The Ipoh Kuay Teow version at PappaRich QV features silky smooth narrow rice noodles in a clear chicken broth with hints of prawn accompanied by a separate side of boiled chicken pieces also used in their chicken rice. Back in Ipoh, shredded pieces of chicken resting on top of the noodles is the norm.
3) Papa Fried Chicken Wings
Unless you're an absolute fan of fried chicken wings, the 6 pieces make an excellent sharing dish. Commonly sighted at most tables, each individual wing is lightly floured and fried to a golden brown fragrant, crispy to the bite with moist flesh beneath. They make absolutely tasty munchies.
Malaysian Char Kuey Teow is wok-fried rice noodles with egg, fish cake, bean sprouts, garlic chives and prawns. PappaRich QV serves a version common to Penang, a city on the West Coast of Peninsula Malaysia which uses a thinner flat rice noodle.
For readers who are more familiar with Thai food the likes of Home Thai Restaurant in Sydney, the Penang version is very similar to Pad Thai.
5) Satay Mixed
Commonly sold by Malays fanning sticks of seasoned meat like chicken, beef and mutton over hot coals at streetside stalls, satay is a popular Malaysian and Singapore food and snack dipped in a peanut sauce. Pork satay is available in Singapore.
PappaRich QV's balance of lean meat and fat in each skewer ensured the grilled meat doesn't dry out and remains tender and moist to the bite. It is usually eaten with raw onions and cucumbers. A side serving of "ketupat" or rice boiled in a woven palm leaf pouch commonly available in Malaysia would complete the authentic picture. Excellent as a sharing dish, it is also possible to keep them all to yourself.
The special milk tea is a creamy version with the added palm sugar inspired by the 3 Layer Tea in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese may refer to the thicker texture of the drink as "gao gao". This sweet and creamy milk tea reminds me fondly of Malaysia.
I have also sampled other dishes like the chicken rice, nasi lemak and prawn noodles but I found them lacking in the right Malaysian flavours. The rice accompanying the chicken lacked the fragrant chicken, garlic and ginger flavour. There was only a vague hint of coconut in the nasi lemak rice. The yellow egg noodles in the prawn mee were too limp and the broth was too salty and lacked the real prawn stock flavours. The roti canai or Indian-influenced flatbread made onsite was too dense.
If you're next in Melbourne city with a craving for near authentic flavours of Malaysian food, then make your way to PappaRich QV. But remember to arrive earlier before the meal crowd to avoid to queues.