I was so dreading ending our European honeymoon and returning to Australia and the ‘real world’ that I booked our next holiday before we even set foot in Australia. No, that’s a slight exaggeration – while I did book our next holiday, it had more to do with the fact that my cousin is having a wedding ceremony in Sri Lanka at the end of the year than my own despondent emotions!
We decided to go to Sri Lanka for the ceremony with my father and brother with some quick stopovers on the way – Singapore on the way there, and Kuala Lumpur on the way back. My father hasn’t been to any of those countries and is particularly excited about the trip, and of course the eating we’ll be doing!
To give him a sneak peek of what Malaysia has to offer, we went to the 2016 Fiesta Malaysia, a festival held at Federation Square run by the Malaysian Student’s Council of Australia. With multiple food stalls featuring some of the best Malaysian eateries in town, performances on stage and giveaways, it was quite an event to behold.
Dad enjoyed watching the lion dancing performed by the Chinese Martial Arts Association of Australia. It was less popular with other members of the crowd though, with more than a handful of babies and young children bawling their eyes out as they got scared.
The main attraction for us was the food! We started off at the Mamak stall, as Dad remembered the meal we had enjoyed at Mamak in Chatswood when he came to visit me a few years ago. They kept their street festival menu simple, with only chicken satay, a few different roti and cold drinks on the menu.
The surprisingly warm winter’s day had us yearning for a cold drink – and what better cold drink than a teh tarik ais? The concentrated condensed milk sweetness of this drink made my father’s teeth ache, making K laugh as it hardly compared to the sweetness of most iced drinks in Malaysia.
The Mamak chicken satay was where it was at, with beautifully smokey chargrilled firm but tender chicken. With the sweet peanut satay sauce poured over the top of the skewers, I happily devoured my three skewers in under half a minute.
Our next stop was at Little Ipoh for their Chao Kway Teow which came with a surprisingly hot chilli kick. While full of flavour and a generous serving of prawns, meat and tofu, it lacked that genuine ‘wok hei’ that you want to find in dishes like this. I’m giving Little Ipoh the benefit of the doubt though, as I think it’s just a result of working within the limitations of a market stall rather than a full commercial kitchen.
We got a serving of the Pulut Panggang to share as well. Pulut Panggang is made of glutinous rice and desiccated coconut wrapped in banana leaves before being grilled over an open fire. It’s not actually something that I often see on the menu in Malaysian restaurants, so I was happy to give it a try. This actually tasted a little bit like dessert with the sweet desiccated coconut and plain glutinous rice!
Our last savoury stop was at Quali Food Truck which made its debut at Fiesta Malaysia. They were still working out some logistic issues on their first day of trading, so that some customers ended up waiting up to half an hour for their food. I hope these issues have since been sorted out!
To be honest though, I’d be quite happy waiting that long if it meant getting some of this delicious 100 Spice Fried Chicken – otherwise known as a fancy ayam goreng. Everything about this was right. The chicken was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The varied spices of the batter made the chicken equally chilli, savoury and salty. I had two pieces, but definitely could have had more!
We also got a serve of Nasi Lemak from Quali, complete with two additional pieces of fried chicken. Served with sambal, cucumber, hard boiled egg, peanuts and coconut rice, this nasi lemak ticked all the right boxes and was quite a generous serving. Again, definitely one worth waiting for.
After sitting on the steps of Federation Square for a little while to digest our meal, we decided to go back for dessert! Our first stop was the Rolling Scoops to try some Malaysian-inspired flavours designed for the festival.
We got one scoop each of the Pandan and Coconut Gelato and the Durian Gelato to share between four people – this is despite the fact that I’m really the only person in my family to really appreciate the complex flavours and smell of durian! My dad insisted though as he was interested in trying durian for the first time in a number of years…but walked away preferring the pandan & coconut flavour anyway!
Dad wasn’t daunted though and went on to try more durian desserts from the Taste of Malaysia stall. They offer a little tasting plate for $15 – unfortunately they’d sold out of the durian slice before we got there, so we had to have two durian crepes instead. I loved the strong flavour of the durian crepe but K found it too creamy. The macaron was a tad too chewy, but the mini cheesecake was delicious.
We also bought a little box of kuih to take with us – a chocolate and pandan flavoured slice cake. It wasn’t remarkable unfortunately, and I would definitely have preferred having some kuih lapis instead!
I think we’ll be back to Fiesta Malaysia next year! We had a great time, and ate so much delicious food from different vendors. There’s nothing quite like a great street food festival to get me excited.
Fiesta Malaysia was held on 21 May 2016 in Federation Square, Melbourne.