Malaysian food is one of my favourites, but I rarely eat it anymore. Having returned to Wellington from Southeast Asia, I suppose I've been afraid of disappointment after gorging myself on so many creamy-spicy bowls of laksa and fluffy, chewy, cooked-to-order roti. But it's been almost a year since I flew home from Singapore and my warm memories of Malaysian food are starting turn into piercingly real hunger pangs. So last weekend I got off my high horse and into Satay Village on Ghuznee St.
Years ago, Satay Village was my Malaysian restaurant of choice. Cheap, fast, satisfyingly greasy (but not gut-wrenchingly so), and to my inexperienced palate, delicious. So, how would it hold up now that I've returned?
E and I were given menus and seated, and moments later two glasses of water appeared on our table. The menu doesn't go beyond the basics: laksa, mee goreng, roti chanai, beef rendang, and so on. The moment we decided what we were having, a waitress appeared magically at our table: "You ready to order?" Not overly friendly, but definitely efficient.
And not long after we ordered, our food started to arrive. We had chicken satay ($6 for 4 sticks) which came with a little saucer of peanut sauce. The chicken was nicely charred on the outside, and not too dry: the texture was dead on. But I felt as though both the sauce and the chicken itself could have done with a bit more seasoning. Still, these were satisfying.
The real test, for me, was the curry laksa ($8) and the roti ($2.50). To put it lightly, I was obsessed with laksa whilst living in Singapore... I'd have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if there weren't so many other foods to try! So, I had to see how Satay Village's laksa stacked up.
The broth was rich and creamy, giving off steam redolent of coconut milk and spice. The noodles were chewy, the chicken and fish cakes standard but faultless, and the fried tofu soaked up the broth wonderfully. The only disappointment was partly my fault, since I unthinkingly replied "medium" when the waitress asked how hot I wanted it. But, for a medium-spicy dish, you would at least expect some heat; I could hardly detect any, and as the soup cooled off it started to taste bland. (I took the leftovers home and added a generous scoop of curry paste; problem solved!)
The roti was not nearly as good. Admittedly I have developed somewhat snobbish tastes when it comes to roti in that I prefer the freshly made: flaky, fluffy, somewhat stretchy. These tasted like they had been reheated (though the crispiness of the edges suggested they hadn't been microwaved): while still chewy enough, they were a little dense and definitely not fluffy or stretchy.
E ordered the chicken mee goreng ($9), a heap of fried egg noodles and chicken dumped unceremoniously on a plate with a smattering of shredded carrots as a garnish. While not the most attractive, it was as good as I remembered: kind of greasy but full of flavour.
All up, my return to Satay Village was a mixed bag, but I think I'll be back. Great value for money, acceptable food, brisk yet satisfactory service. Next time, though, I'll definitely be ordering my laksa "extra hot".
58 Ghuznee St