Malaysian food is complex. And at Mamak – a term which for this Orlando venue’s purposes invokes the nation’s street-food stalls – you’re likely to enjoy layers of flavors that evolved from the nation’s long-ago influx of South Indian culture.
And, man, is it good.
The street taco done Korean, with bulgogi beef, at Mamak Asian Street Food — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Longtime Orlando residents will remember the space now occupied by Mamak Asian Street Food as belonging to two different Vietnamese restaurants: Ha Long and, before that, Vinh.
A makeover has given the open room a sleek, modern vibe, but hardly unapproachable. It’s a warm space, shared by young fashionables and (notably) seniors and the demographics betwixt.
One night in Bangkok? Nah. The sleek space of Mamak Asian Street Food makes its home in the less hard, more humble confines of Mills 50 — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Adventurous palates will find exotic new dishes to sample, while those who prefer to play it safer will have no problem finding items that appeal. Small plates offer both in spades. And, yes, this is one that’s even safe for kids.
If you're bringing the tots – and looking to open their eyes to the infinite joys of vegetables – try the stir-fried green beans along with kid-friendly Asian staples such as potstickers or spring rolls. Less healthy, but a reasonable foray for children used to the drive-through, Mamak's fries are crisp and dusted with five-spice, a solid gateway drug to more exotic fare.
Satay skewers are a safe bet, as well, char-grilled and served with a (not overly) spicy peanut sauce.
Chicken satay is served with an ample side of peanut sauce — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Asian tacos abound. Diners can choose from the aforementioned satay in chicken or beef or opt for roast duck, five-spice-infused protein options or Korean-style bulgogi.
The Indo-Malaysian flavors, truly, are not to be missed. For those interested in wading in, the house special dishes are a great place to start.
In the noodle soup realm, the kari mee is worth a long, loving gaze before you dig in. It's both flavorful and aromatic, with an abundance of textures, featuring egg noodles, various proteins, bok choy and hard-boiled egg.
"Kari mee" – it's a favor you may ask your dining partner when you've finished the steamy, curry-infused bowl — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Malaysian coconut kari will please the Indian-food-lovers. Choose your meat, and enjoy it curry-cooked. Chunked potatoes in the mix dissolve creamy-like. And you’ll want to sop up the sauce with something – if not the rice that comes with, perhaps a side of roti.
Another fine choice for the kids (Ask for a less spicy take, if need be.): char kway teow. A wok-fried noodle plate – the texture here is reminiscent of Chinese chow fun – shrimp, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts and chives round out the flavors.
Mamak offers up the exotic with zero intimidation factor. Malaysia may be a couple thousand miles from Tibet, but servers here are affable Sherpas for newbies navigating a delightfully lofty menu.
Char kway teow may become a new favorite in your mental menu of carby comfort food — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson