The kopi tiam of old Malaya has been revitalised into a modern setting, with dark brown panel surroundings, Australian sourced ingredients for classic dishes from street and home of another era, another place and another cuisine. As immigration from Malaysia continues to flow into the Antipodes, the soul food of childhood and family for many of these arrivals are represented and repackaged for another generation. Does this symbolise the infusion of more Asia into a continental island that is so close geographically and yet have remained for most years apart, culturally and politically? Australia offers a fresh start for the adventurous, disenfranchised and business dynamic from other lands - and in return it is enriched with new thoughts, new cuisines and new colours.
South Indian rotis, Cantonese noodles, Straits Chinese snacks, Eurasian cakes, Malay satay sticks, Indonesian nasi lemak, Western influenced breads, Hainan chicken rice and amazing drink combinations ( Ribena and water melon slices?) litter the interesting menus at Papparich outlets. The food is already a fusion from a few hundred years of demographic intermixing above the Equator - and now they arrive in another land of more than just a few racial groups. Australia will have a pride of its own evolving and distinctive cuisine in the future. In the meantime, this nation absorbs, allows and experiments. White coffee is mixed with milk tea (cham) and longans are dropped in soya milk honey. Silken tofu is served cold and lightly laced with a palm sugar syrup. Roti canai is provided with chocolate, ice cream and banana cuts in a heady colonial era theme. Bread slices coated with a coconut cream custard called kaya can be ordered at any time of the day and night, and not just at breakfast time. The staff are mostly with East Asian and Indian faces, unlike those at Papparich branches back in the homeland.
On a cold weekend, I relished the comforts of a simple combo of soft congee with steamed chicken a la Hainan (photo above). This most subtle of a meal requires great care in preparation, to ensure that flavours rise above the apparent plain look and that garnishings and sauces do not over whelm our palates but instead give us an overall warm feeling of satisfaction inside. Soothing, this can be looked forward by those sensing an impeding cold setting in or savoured by the elderly or their grandchildren without any hint of complications for digestion.
The plethora of street food familiar to most Australians these days - curry laksa, char koay teow and prawn mee - are available, but some with a twist. How about curry laksa with cockles off their shell?
White coloured rice noodles can be served dry or stir fried in a wet rich gravy. Are you game for a Thai inspired dish utilising tamarind and flaky fish in the unusual soup - the assam laksa? I am surprised that you can even order a plate of deep fried chicken skin, something so niche but great to accompany with beer. And don't forget - you can have your yum cha offerings like dumplings and vegetarian rolls as well. What a melting pot!