BAK kut teh, char kway teow, roti canai, roast chicken rice and nasi padang. With $10 in his pocket, Hadi Ismanto goes in search of the best and most affordable places serving up a taste of home.
Whether it’s the deep fried and oily treats in the streets of Jakarta or the soft and fragrant roti prata along the Malay stalls in Singapore, food is always a trigger for homesickness.
Luckily, Melbourne’s status as Australia’s multicultural city means there are plenty of restaurants serving up a taste of home.
Here’s our list of 10 of the best comfort food and the city restaurants that are serving them up for less than $10.
1. Bak kut teh from Chatterbox, 235 Bourke St, Melbourne
For $8.50, you can get this Chinese soup popular in Malaysia, Singapore, China and Taiwan. Bak kut teh directly translates to ‘meat bone tea’. It involves meaty pork ribs simmered for hours in a mixed broth of herbs and spices. With a serve of rice, vegetables and youtiao (Chinese doughnuts), Chatterbox’s bak kut teh is the dish to enjoy during the cold and chilly times in Melbourne.
2. Mixed rice from Norsiah, 604 Swanston St, Carlton
The almost legendary Norsiah’s kitchen offers various Malay and Indonesian dishes. Think oily, fried and lots of santan (coconut milk) goodness. With its central location around universities and the unbeatable price of $6.50 for a set of rice and three dishes, what more can a student ask for?
3. Nasi padang from Minang Nasi Padang, corner of Pelham St and Swanston St, Carlton
Located below Seasons apartment on the corner of Pelham and Swanston streets, Minang Nasi Padang offers a regular and consistent selection of delicious vegetables and meat. Similar to Norsiah’s, a plate of rice with three choice of dishes here will only cost you $6.50. Try their paru (crispy ox lungs) and their perkedel (fried mashed potato).
4. Roti canai from Mamak, 366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
A type of Indian-influenced flat bread, roti canai is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Soft, fluffy and crispy on the outside, roti canai is usually served with curries and occasionally a spoonful of white sugar. Definitely one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Mamak offers the best interpretations of this dish in Melbourne for just $5.50.
5. Mie goreng from Es Teler, 300 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Indonesia’s favourite and most easy to prepare dish, mie goreng offers something different to the taste buds. A classic fried noodle, Es Teler’s version is much nicer than the regular home-cooked mie goreng. Simple, lovely and served in a huge portion, Es Teler’s mie goreng is a no frills, quick dish to enjoy at just $9.50.
6. Spicy pork BBQ Set from Tarng, 32 A’Beckett St, Melbourne
Plenty of restaurants make Bento boxes with white rice, a selection of meat and various side dishes. But whether it’s the quality or the quantity, Tarng make one of the city’s best. For as little as $9, you get a big serve of meat with several side dishes that’s large enough to satisfy any hungry man. As well as being centrally located, Tarng plays a constant loop of Korean music videos that transport you back to Korea.
7. Roast chicken rice from Coconut House, 449 Elizabeth St, Melbourne
One of the uniquely Malaysian Singaporean dish, chicken rice is powerful enough to remind you of home and growing up, and Coconut House’s version is just as good as the ones you get in hawker centres or school canteens in Asia. In fact, it’s arguably the best chicken rice in Melbourne. And for just $9, you can enjoy Malaysia in Melbourne anytime you like.
8. Char kway teow from Killiney Kopitiam, 108 Bourke St, Melbourne
Popular with Malaysians, Singaporeans and even Indonesians, a good char kway teow makes everyone’s stomach happy. Killiney Kopitiam delivers just that for $8.80. With a kaya toast set, Singapore laksa and even mee rebus, Melbourne’s Killiney Kopitiam is so good, you can be forgiven for thinking you’re back in the original Singaporean restaurant.
9. Spicy green beans with minced meat on rice from Rose Garden BBQ, 435 Elizabeth St, Melbourne
A favourite lunch/dinner spot for students, Rose Garden BBQ Shop offers wide choices of comfort food. The restaurant serves 10 of Asia’s most popular dishes with most of them priced under $10. The top spot belongs to the spicy green bean with minced meat on rice. With such huge portions and incredible taste to boot, $9 is well spent on this meal.
10. Dumplings from Shanghai Dumpling, 23 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne
If you’re looking for a casual night out on an extremely tight budget, Shanghai Dumpling is the place to go. Your $5.50 gets you 15 dumplings, that’s right, 15! If you are in the mood for something more, you can go for la mian, their in-house noodles topped with spicy sauce. Be prepared to queue during peak dinner hours.
Where do you go to get your hawker food fix? Share your favourite eating spots with us below!