I have to admit, when PappaRich first opened in Sydney, I thought the name was very odd. “PappaRich” to me sounded like a name for a hustler or something along those lines, not quite a name I would associate with a hugely popular world-wide chain of Malaysian restaurants! My sources inform me though, that the name is apparently derived from a founder, called “Mr Rich”; and as he was seen as a father figure for many, he was coined the name “PappaRich.”
They had opened up a new store in Broadway, and even though it was 2pm there was a line along the front of the restaurant. Lucky me – I had received an invite to lunch and managed to skip the ridiculous queue – phew!
There’s an open kitchen inside the restaurant and the noise level is medium social chatter. It’s decorated quite extravagantly for an Asian restaurant, but talking to another food blogger who has actually dined at the Malaysia PappaRich, she said the decor is uniform across the restaurants worldwide. But in comparison to the environment in which Malaysian food was born and raised – the streets – it’s a stark contrast.
There was a group of about ten of us food bloggers, and we were invited to order anything we liked from the menu, or if we had no particular preferences, the restaurant would bring out a selection of dishes that they felt were their signatures. We were perfectly happy to go along with that – so long as there was plenty of buttery roti!
We made our drinks orders first and I went for the Pappa Cham (coffee + milk tea), as I wanted to sample the “pulled tea” (where they make the tea frothy using a “pulling” technique – pouring it from one glass to another from a height), and was also interested to taste how it would be combined with the aroma of coffee.
It was very refreshing and milky, with a definite hit of condensed milk flavour. The black tea was just the slightest more dominant in flavour than the coffee.
The food then began to arrive very quickly. I wasn’t sure exactly how much food was going to emerge, so to play it safe I restrained myself to sampling each dish sparingly so someone wouldn’t have to roll me out of the restaurant afterwards.
We had the ever-popular Roti Canai with Curry Chicken first. There is something so great with the tactile nature of being able to dispense with cutlery and use your hands to tear apart the hot roti, wrap up a piece of tender curried chicken and dip it in the shallow trays of accompanying sauce.
The same curry chicken also comes with the Steamed Mantau – a steamed, lightly sweetened bread I’ve had quite frequently back in Taiwan. The soft sponginess of the steamed bread is excellent for mopping up the residual curry sauce.
We also had the Roti Canai with Tandoori Chicken, the chicken beautifully spiced and with a yoghurt-based dipping sauce.
You can’t have a Malaysian meal without some satay, so we had the Satay Chicken and Satay Beef, which interestingly came with chopped Spanish onions and cucumber. No one touched the Spanish onion – not wanting to make one’s unfortunate neighbour suffer when you talk to them later, but the cucumber was a refreshing addition to the heat and heavy flavours of the satay.
Then this dish arrived. The Deep Fried Chicken Skin is clearly a good example of utilising all parts of the animal in an ethical and non-wasteful manner. I highly approve.
It’s ridiculously dangerous to have a whole plate of this right next to you. I can imagine this would be the perfect food to have at a bar with a yeasty beer accompanying it.
And another dish that would be perfect for a bar was the Deep Fried Chicken Wings, which came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
At this stage we were greatly enjoying ourselves, but were craving a little more variety. So far we had had dishes from the menu that are easy to share, but we were interested in trying some Malaysian classics and seeing how PappaRich executed them.
And of course if you’re going to go with a Malaysian classic, you can’t get much more old school than the Pappa Chicken Rice with Steamed Chicken. Tender boiled chicken, fragrant chicken rice, chicken soup, bean sprouts and a dipping sauce that was a combination of chilli, ginger and dark soy. What a classic.
The Hainan Curry Chicken Chop could rival any pub schnitzel you’ve ever had. I have to admit, despite having visited Singapore before, I’m still not used to this whole egg-accompanying-your-meal thing. Hey, extra protein?
Time for noodles. We had the Curry Laksa (Vegetables), which isn’t actually vegetarian as the soup base is chicken. It’s a massive bowl of noodles in spicy coconut curry gravy with tofu puffs, foo chok (beancurd skin), eggplants and bean sprouts. Perfect winter comfort food. I couldn’t believe people were eating it in the street in Singapore when it was 42 degrees.
Pappa Rice Fried Noodles with prawns, egg, shredded chicken and bean sprouts. I might start just naming things from this point on because I was getting so full that everything started to blur together in taste. But this reminded me of Thai-style chilli basil noodles – very saucy, a little spicy, and generous on the dark soy.
You start and end with the classics. The Pappa Char Koay Teow looked a lot darker in the photographs from the menu, probably due to more soy. With everything that we had eaten so far being quite generous on the salt, soy and spice – this classic dish left a little something to be desired. Mind you, I had had about ten dishes before this…
But who has time to rest? Certainly not ten food bloggers. We still had dessert to come! And first was the most unusual thing we had spotted on the menu, so of course we had to go for it. No meal is complete without dessert!
The ABC is a mound of shaved ice, topped with rosewater syrup, read beans, grass jelly…and corn kernels. And at the base there’s tinned lychees…and raisins. The Caucasians among us were quite hesitant about tasting this unusual concoction of ingredients, but those of us who were Asian are not unfamiliar with the combination of sweet with savoury and so dug in. It’s quite a creative, well-balanced dessert…but I could still do without the corn 😛
The Egg Sago Pudding is for those who like their Chatime and EasyWay drinks, as sago is an acquired taste. The egg pudding had a beautifully milky, caramelised flavour.
And then the sweet roti breads started to roll out *groans and clutches stomach*. The Roti Bom is a thicker, sweetened version of the classic pastry and interestingly enough, you tear it apart and dip it in condensed milk and then sugar. After this lunch, I don’t understand how the vast majority of Malaysians don’t have diabetes.
The Roti Kaya is another spin combining two classics – buttery roti, and kaya, the coconut jam that is traditionally used as a spread on toast.
And at long, long last – the finish line finally emerges. The Roti Banana with Vanilla Ice Cream is a sweet roti sandwich which encases hot, hot slices of banana. With a massive scoop of dribbling, melting vanilla ice cream on top. Lord have mercy.
It’s simply amazing to see how many Malaysian classics are available on this chain’s extensive menu. There’s really something to suit all tastes – whether you feel like indulging in a traditional laksa, or being a little more adventurous and sharing an ABC with your friends. Personally, I’d definitely go back for the roti banana…and, I’m embarrassed to say – that deep fried chicken skin!
Shop 5/185-211 Broadway
Ultimo NSW 2007
(02) 9281 3228