Petaling Street, Sydney

With all the fine dining places I’ve written about, you might conclude that I’m fancy schmancy! I’m not.

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My friend Queen Pea was in town for a medical conference this week and wanted to meet up for dinner. She requested somewhere cheap and cheerful so I suggested Petaling Street in Chinatown. Petaling Street is the fourth restaurant of a Malaysian hawker food chain that started in Melbourne, Australia. It’s the first for Sydney and opened up late last year. The restaurant is named after Petaling Street, a real street in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.

Queen lives in Canberra where there’s a dearth of great Asian eats. It’s more expensive to eat out in Canberra and a comparable noodle soup might be $12 as opposed to being $9 in Sydney. When I catch up with Queen Pea, we often meet up in Eastwood, a Sydney suburb with a significant Asian population. Previously dominated by Chinese shops, over the last 10 years a Korean influence has emerged, reflecting the demographic shift.

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King and Queen Pea take this opportunity to stock up on Asian groceries before the drive back to Canberra. So we usually end up eating Korean. I love kim chi and the other varied small vegetable dishes you are served on seating at Korean restaurants. There’s a homey charm in how the little dishes vary greatly between eateries.

So why is she called Queen Pea? Attending the same high school, we’ve been friends since we were about 12 years old. Famished at school one day, I asked if anyone had some spare food. Queen had some fried rice that she had brought from home. QP balanced me a single pea on her fork and held it out to me, slowly saying “You may have a pea”. Queen’s tone was well…queenly and how I imagine Marie Antoinette spoke to her ladies in waiting.

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At Petaling Street, it was just the two of us so we only ordered two dishes – a combination hor fun (flat rice noodle) and an Assam laksa. I only bring out my inner piggy when I’m with Kitty, the fat kid. Running my eye down the menu, I noticed a beverage named Michael Jackson which was soy milk with grass jelly. Not really a special drink but I ordered it just so I could say: “Can I also have the Michael Jackson please?”. Yes, I’m juvenile.

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The Assam laksa was one of the better ones I’ve eaten but I don’t eat them very often. My mother grew up in East Malaysia but I’d say that 70% of the food I ate growing up was Cantonese style Chinese food. Some South East Asian elements would sneak in sometimes but I haven’t spent enough time in Malaysia to enjoy all the eating delights the region offers. Originally from Malaysia, Queen Pea thought the Assam laksa was good but could have had a bit more shrimp paste to intensify the flavour. It’s lighter than curry style laksa with the hot and sour soup combination.

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The combination hor fun was good in a smoothly bland way but was lacking seasoning. A little salt would have gone a long way. Have you ever heard of the expression – breath of the wok? It’s translation of a Chinese phrase about the smoky intensity gained when food becomes faintly charred from very intense wok heat. True breath of the wok gives a dish a rounded fragrace that tickles the taste buds. Petaling St’s hor fun had a very light breath of the wok scent. We ate everything with pickled green chillis and fresh red chillis.

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But the rare one-on-one catch up was worth sharing any kind of food with Queen Pea. I wish we were able to see each other more often. I was also chuffed because Queen Pea and her husband cheekily pay for the meals whenever we meet up. On Wednesday night, I was able to insist it was my shout this time.

Doesn’t everyone have a friend that always insists on paying? It’s stressful and makes me feel beholden. Finally, I was able to treat Queen Pea but more importantly we sat and swapped our latest stories over a shared meal.

Petaling Street Malaysian hawker food
760 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
Open 7 days, 11am till late
Phone: (02) 9280 1006

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