Located on the quieter end of the street, Lulu’s Char Koay Teow always manages to pull a crowd that rivals its neighbours – and though it’s inspired by the hawker stalls of Malaysia, there’s no hawking necessary here. Day or night, the small, bustling eatery is almost always packed to the brim, clear evidence that the food speaks for itself.
Their signature is – you guessed it – the char koay teow, which has been steadily gaining the restaurant cult status since they opened three years ago. It’s deeply flavoured but not too saucy and chock-full of ingredients. Choose from blood cockles or razor clams or (my personal favourite) duck eggs, which are folded into a base of thick, chewy rice noodles alongside prawns, Chinese sausage, pork lard, chives and chilli.
Unless you go for the $9 vegetarian version, which swaps the animal products for tofu and veg but manages to pack the same punch, even when packed up and reheated at home. It’s probably thanks to the special sauce, a secret recipe borrowed from the owner’s mother-in- law who used to run a popular CKT stall in Penang. In other words, this is probably the closest thing you’ll find in Melbourne, and that’s something to get excited about.
For the sake of doing one thing very, very well, you’d think Lulu’s might stick to the classics but they’ve been expanding their menu as of late. Thankfully, quantity has not sacrificed quality – options like the jawa mee, a soupy hokkien noodle dish topped with potatoes, tofu, crushed peanuts, hard boiled egg and vegetable fritters, are just as worth a try. It was served on the cooler side (granted I was sitting outside under the bright red awning, the only seat in a packed house), but the abundance of textures overflowing in the dish was enough to make me quickly forgive and quickly.
As I arrived later in the evening, I took my time getting through the large serve but there is an unspoken pressure to eat and leave quickly during peak hours. The queue moves fast but is almost always snaking down the block. That said, Lulu’s is more than just a place to get good noodles – it’s a true taste of Malaysian culture on the streets of Melbourne and that, in my opinion, is something worth queuing for.
If you want to land a coveted seat inside amongst the framed hawker snaps and vintage Milo posters, however, a morning visit is also an option. Lulu’s is open from 10:30am on Sundays and 11am every other day. Though the thought of downing that many carbs first thing in the morning might turn you off, at least pop in for a tek tarik. Strong, sweet and served with a pair of cream crackers for dunking, there’s simply no better way (or place) to start your day or end your night.