When you find a restaurant that is so uncompromisingly authentic it feels like you’re feasting at your mum’s house, you know you’ve found a gem (and a venue for your next get-together with life-long friends). Hidden on the high street in Neutral Bay, next to Dymocks, is the Malaysian treasure, Makan by Chef Tan.
With a menu crafted to resemble a traditional family feast, Makan by Chef Tan combines high quality produce with authentic cooking styles to deliver a sincere authenticity of spice to your plate.
Designed by chefs from the Malacca Straits most of the menu is reflective of hawker stall deliciousness. There are, though, still many surprises that combine flavours from the region. The crispy egg salad, for instance, is a dish not to be passed by. It’s easily the gold medal winner of the menu and combines Malaysian and Thai flavours to create a surprisingly moorish salad of not surprisingly, crispy egg. The spicy, sweet and tangy dressing ensures you return to the dish, so even when you can’t fit another morsel in, the egg salad beckons.
The chicken satay is accompanied by a thick, rich peanut sauce with crunchy peanuts – not peanut butter.
The honey glazed lamb ribs followed as a main, and are cooked in a traditional Hainanese recipe passed down from Chef Tan’s grandmother. These are so well cooked the succulent meat simply falls off the bone. If you are visiting Chef Tan with friends whose opinion you no longer care for, use your fingers to eat the lamb and continue to enjoy the lingering flavour after the dish has been gobbled up as you lick the honey lamb goodness, in an act of food hedonism.
The Ayam Percik Kelantan – uses a top secret recipe, passed down from one generation to the next, that includes coconut and curry, and that’s all that we were allowed to know! The chicken is juicy and the curry is aromatic, with a sauce begging to be mopped up with roti or rice.
The Kam Heong prawns were without doubt the hero dish. They are cooked using a mixture of dried chilis, curry leaves and dried shrimp and the flavours are encrusted into the more than ample serving of crustaceans. Eat them whole or chew them slowly, either way, these prawns are likely to change your life.
Desert included the Kuih Ketayap, a pandan flavoured crepe filled with toasted coconut and served with vanilla ice cream. It is the perfect salve to chili-tingling lip. The Sticky Rice Pudding with Egg Custard is served with vanilla ice cream and coconut milk, sweet and sticky – as promised.
Makan by Chef Tan is filled with dedicated locals – and people willing to travel for a genuine taste of Malaysia. It’s like coming home for a food hug, or revisiting your favourite holiday. And just like popping by your mum’s place, you can even take a mud crab and the team will cook it in the traditional Singaporean Chili Crab Style or Kam Heong style.
Chef Tan is certainly an Asian kitchen to make your own.