Saturday , November 18 2017
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Mama Sayang Revisited

The Sambal Udang Petai. Are you wondering why the udang doesnt look like udang?
The Sambal Udang Petai. Are you wondering why the udang doesnt look like udang?

Actually Mama Sayang has been revisited many, many times through the years. Yesterday was probably our 8th or 9th or 10th visit since we “discovered” it coming out of the Taman Desa Hospital in a plaster cast one fateful day in 2011 or 2012, or was it 2013?

I had broken my arm you see, having slipped in a most ungraceful fashion in my own backyard in a moment of two-left-footedness, something I had been born with I’m afraid (yeah, two left feet). And while the fall itself was as unspectacular as it was quick, it managed to do its damage and I would up in the hospital.

This Yam Basket has become so much of my favourite that it's become my staple in Mama Sayang
This Yam Basket has become so much of my favourite that it’s my staple at Mama Sayang. And take note: No chicken has been harmed in the making of this dish.

That’s one painful story we’ll save for later but coming out of the Orthopaedic ward hours later, plastered up, reeling from disorientation but feeling strangely euphoric and yes…hungry as hell, we stumbled into Mama Sayang Vegetarian Restaurant located on the same row just a few steps down the block.  Grateful for being able to find sustenance so quickly, we ordered without further ado and wolfed down our meal. But from the first taste of its richly-Nonya, home-styled cooking, we were forever sold.

We did wonder afterwards why the meat in all the dishes seemed different. See, we were that famished we didn’t realise it was a vegetarian restaurant. But meat or no meat, the cooking was so good that the flavourful memory of  it all  ingrained itself onto our tastebuds to remind us, time and again, to go back there to eat.

Old World Charm of an era past but always cherished
Old World Charm of an era past but always cherished, fondly remembered and nicely replicated
Its a small restaurant with a quiet ambience made for full concentration on the food
Its a small restaurant with a quiet ambience made for full concentration on the food

So yesterday, being a day that felt like a Mama Sayang day, we made a reservation for a slap-up feast.

Can’t explain our loyalty to the restaurant really. Maybe it’s got to do with being able to count on it despite the mushrooming of newer vegetarian restaurants ─ which we have never tried of course, or ever felt the need to. After all, we had found “The One”.

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So it was on to Mama Sayang with stomachs rumbling. This time around, we thought we’d be adventurous and order a few more dishes than the usual “core”.

The Thai Style Beancurd, crispy, tangy and hot with the right bite and flavour
The Thai Style Beancurd, crispy, tangy and hot with the right bite and flavour

My Yam Basket was a must-eat. Actually, it has become almost a staple as it is my “signature” order.  Looking

through the menu for try-outs, the Otak-Otak caught my eye.  I was curious about how it was going to taste being made completely out of soy but the picture looked so much like the real thing I was enticed.

My first companion ordered the Sambal Udang Petai and the Thai Style Beancurd. The second companion went for the Sweet and Sour Soya Fish, while the third companion ordered the Curry Soya Fish Head. See, we all had a chance to pick our own dishes.

We ended up ordering six dishes for four people, not inclusive of some exotic drinks. I stuck with my favourite cendol while the others went for cucumber juice and carrot milk.

“I feel like having a coke,” I said as an afterthought.

“There’s no coke here,” reminded my first companion. “They don’t serve anything unhealthy in this restaurant,” she said, giving me a wry look.

Right.

Big Picture of the Big Meal! Mmmmm
Big Picture of the Big Meal! Woolala!!

“Oh, look,” said the second companion who had gone browsing around the restaurant looking for stuff to pick up while waiting for dinner to arrive.

Barbequed “meat” ala Chinese New Year! She held up a box. Hmmm…interesting, only the “meat” was mushrooms.

OK, so it doesnt look like the real thing. But that's because it isnt. It's made of mushrooms, believe it or not!
OK, so it doesnt look like the real thing. But that’s because it isnt. It’s made of mushrooms, believe it or not!

And it looked like the real thing!

How amazing is that! We bought a box, two actually, and decided to eat one as hors-d’oeuvre.

Verdict: Well, it’s a lot flatter than the real thing, a lot “rubberier” and chewier too, but it sure smells like the real thing, the sweet barbeque sauce is almost like the real thing but one bite and you know, it’s fake meat. But isn’t that what it is? Fake meat? Duh!

We had little time to wonder about that when our feast arrived.

We tucked in with gusto. Companion one and two loved the Sweet and Sour Fish that was cooked rather differently from the usual real sweet and sour dishes they serve up in Chinese restaurants. This one was piquant with a soy sauce kind of flavour. I wasn’t as crazy about it as the other two.

The Sweet and Sour Fish with a twist. My fellow connoisseurs loved it.
The Sweet and Sour Fish with a twist. My fellow connoisseurs loved it.

Companion three loved the Thai Style Beancurd with Thai chilli sauce. “Its really different,” he said. “Crispy and sharp in the right places.”

My Otak-Otak was a wonder too although the others didn’t like it as much. All the hot and fishy spices were about right except it was rather dry and flakey as the first companion pointed out. But I didn’t mind it because otherwise, it almost tasted real. But it was good imitation nonetheless, in fact I think it’s technological wizardry to be able to turn soy into otak-otak don’t you think?

My Yam Basket was as usual, a winner to me, but that’s because I’m biased.

The Otak-Otak! Isnt it amazing? It looks so real. The taste is almost there too!
The Otak-Otak! Isnt it amazing? It looks so real. The taste is almost there too!

I particularly liked the Sambal Udang Petai, as did everyone else. The sambal (no real shrimps used and yet they got the taste) and the petai made the dish a pungent standout  ─ no wonder it was wollaped in a minute ─ but the clear winner of all was the Curry Fish Head. Everyone gave it their resounding vote. The curry was full bodied, luscious, tangy in the right places, hot, rich and completely satisfying, not to mention, really aromatic. No one noticed there was no real fish head inside. Of course the ladies fingers and tomatoes added the necessary oomph. What a pity the portion was so small. It didn’t seem enough for everyone.

Needless to say, we stuffed our faces. And we left with very full stomachs. All for a bill that came to RM165.06 inclusive of 6% GST and 5% Service Charge, and including those two boxes of fake barbequed meat too. Otherwise our bill would have been RM23.00 less.

The Crowning Glory of the Day -- The Curry Fish Head. It got the Thumbs Ups sign all around and we actually scaped the bottom barrel till the last drop! Yes, it was that good.
The Crowning Glory of the Day — The Curry Fish Head. It got the Thumbs Ups sign all around and we actually scraped the bottom barrel till the last drop! Yes, it was that good.

Not too bad, don’t you think?

The drinks we had to wash it all down: cucumber and carrot juice.
The drinks we had to wash it all down: cucumber and carrot juice.

So, what is it about this nondescript little restaurant that has “found its way to our hearts through the stomach” you might ask. Well, perhaps it’s the combination of everything, like its almost monastery-like tranquility, its quiet coziness, its old world charm being décored in traditional Malaccan furnishing with marble table, wooden chairs and all, its simple values of serving good, healthy food in a clean, quiet environment, its consistency of taste in all its dishes and ─ very important ─ the speed with which all food arrives. Yes, orders come at the speed of light (well, almost) and that’s the way we like it.

So, till the next time the stomach rumbles….Mama Sayang, we’ll be visiting again!

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For more Good Eat Reads on livingmsia:

Goto 30 minutes at bbq

Or, Fused and Mused at Golden Fusion Cafe, JB

Or, Hey it’s Lobster Thermi-Thaw!

Or, Ooodly Noodly Inspired at Dui Dui Mien

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