Just a block away from the Mamak mothership sits Hawker, a no-fuss food hall with a Chinese Malaysian accent. Boasting a deliciously daring menu of street-food favourites, the question remains, which queue will you choose?
Like Mamak, Hawker offers a free pre-dinner show. Watch from the front window as chefs fry, flip and fold crispy turnover pancakes, an enchanting and somewhat cruel spectacle for the hungry patrons in line. While the industrial open-kitchen and floor-plan is infinitely larger than a hawker kitchen cart, the food is spot on, with steaming bowls of soup, wok-tossed plates and a delightful array of fried finger foods on offer.
One dish you may recognise on the menu, laksa, will take you completely by surprise. While you may be familiar with local Thai laksas, rich in coconut cream with those adorable tofu puffs, you’ve probably never tried an Assam laksa from the Island of Penang before. Hawker’s version ($12) sees thick rice noodles in a spicy, sour and pungent fish soup topped with shredded lettuce, pineapple, fresh cucumber and mint. Weren’t expecting that, were you?
Don’t get too comfortable as there's plenty more where that came from: creamed corn in the pancake, and best of all, crispy pork fat on the noodles.
You can try, but you won’t escape the deep-fryer. One quarter of the menu consists solely of deep-fried buns and breadsticks (all $3), while there’s a whole platter of finger-thin deep-fried five-spice pork rolls ($12) wrapped in bean curd skin and served with flat slabs of prawn cake (deep-fried) and taro fritters (deep-fried). For dessert, choose from the deep-fried banana or durian fritters ($6) served with ice-cream, or there’s the house speciality, a turnover pancake ($6), which is delicate and crispy, stuffed with peanuts, butter and creamed corn. You heard correctly. Butter is one of the fillings.
Hawker is BYO, and there’s a bottle shop conveniently located across the road for those ill-prepared. Otherwise, take your pick from a range of cold teas ($4), coffees ($4) and a hybrid tea-coffee ($4) for a caffeine-injected pick-me-up.
From a unique Chinese/Malay perspective, Hawker gives you bold cuisine and yet another queue to choose from.