Sophisticated Malaysian hawker fare comes to Smith Street
While Vietnamese and Thai restaurants have dominated the South East Asian cheap eats scene for years, Malaysian hawker cuisine is yet to get the same kind of recognition despite the popularity of places like the CBD’s Mamak, and Flemington’s Laksa King.
There are signs that this is about to change, and one of them is Smith Street’s Sugar Prawn. Focusing less on cheap eats and more on upmarket hawker fare, Sugar Prawn is bringing Malaysian street food off the streets and into its prawn-y pink interior. Chef and co-owner Travis Tong, who owned Masak Masak in the same spot before its closure earlier this year, named his eatery after his late father (whose name in Chinese characters means Sugar Prawn) and brought along Malaysian street food favourites after an extensive research trip around Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
On the menu you’ll find familiar Malaysian fare like Hainanese chicken with rice, curry laksa, beef rendang and char key teow – all of which come with a free can 100Plus (Malaysia’s answer to Japanese soft drink Pocari Sweat) during lunch hours. Come dinner service, sharing and eating with your hands are encouraged. Smaller dishes include the master stock bone marrow with prawn crackers and chicken satay with rice cake (nasi impit). The larger plates feature less familiar items like grilled stingray with a fresh achar salsa and prawn curry served in a coconut. The whole steamed barramundi makes a simple but impressive centrepiece to a shared meal.
Taking cues from Malaysia’s hawker markets, diners are seated on plastic chairs and dishes are served on melamine plates and bowls, with a metal enamel cup to spit your fish and chicken bones into. The only things missing are the sounds of vendors yelling out orders in Hokkien and the tell-tale sound of metal spoons scraping against a wok.
Aside from Tong, Sugar Prawn’s founding crew is an eclectic bunch including Fred Mora of the Lucky Prawn creative collective, Alex Albrecht and Hugo Atkins of Hugs and Kisses and Everyday Coffee fame. Atkins and Albrecht make their music backgrounds known at Sugar Prawn by setting up decks by the door for an in-house radio station. Diners chin-deep in their laksa on weekend nights will have their meal accompanied by suitably spicy tunes.
|Venue name:||Sugar Prawn (closed)|
230 Smith St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sun noon-11pm|