You can’t tell it, though you’d know if you could see the smudged keys on my computer, but I just finished the leftovers of the food I got last night at Mamak Asian Street Food UCF, an east side version of the Mills 50 Malaysian restaurant. And every little bite of noodle, rice and meat and every little drop of sauce and broth were just as delicious today.
When the downtown Mamak opened in 2014, most people, including me, assumed it was trying to profit off of the popularity of Hawkers, which had opened three years earlier (right about this time 10 years ago; seems like it’s been around longer, no?). Both restaurants’ concepts are based on the premise of Asian street fare and, technically, both names mean the same thing. Mamak is the word for food stalls or the people who hawk the food from them.
But Mamak gained its own following with the quality of its food, and based on my just-finished meal from the new location, it may just out hawk Hawkers.
As coincidence would have it, my order at the UCF location mirrored what I had had in 2014, though this time I opted for takeout, which is, after all, the best use for street food.
From the list of appetizers, listed on the menu as tapas, which is odd because that’s a Spanish word, I selected the crispy roast pork, little bites of belly roasted until crisped and served with a hoisin dipping sauce.
I also got the roti canai, a popular Malaysian bread. It’s referred to on the menu as flatbread, but it shouldn’t be confused with with the pizza-like flatbreads served in American restaurants. The word roti is Sanskrit for bread, and canai is a Malay word meaning to roll thinly. So, flatbread. But this is flakier, almost like a flattened version of a croissant. It was served with a rich and flavorful dipping sauce of coconut kari (curry) gravy. I had to stop myself from just drinking the kari outright.
But I had the kari mee, too, a popular Malaysian soup with noodles, shrimp, chicken, some fried tofu, bean sprouts, a hardboiled egg and leafy yu choy. The dry ingredients were served separately from the broth, which was more of the coconut kari. Delicious.
So was the char kway teow, a rice noodle dish similar to pad Thai, with shrimp, chicken and eggs tossed with flat noodles in a sauce of light and dark soys.
Another dish was called Malaysian coconut kari but came with a choice of protein added in – I got beef with potatoes – making it seem like an Indian style curry, especially when ladled over the wonderfully gummy jasmine rice.
The UCF location is slightly larger than the original restaurant and has the same yellow and brown decor motif. The space was large and the tables were spread out. I would have felt comfortable sitting at one of the tables to eat my food, though I’d choose a booth over the uncomfortable-looking metal chairs.
Mamak’s online ordering is a bit wonky. If you click on a dish to add to your cart you may have to hunt around to figure out how to get back to the menu to order more dishes. While making selections, the pickup time was listed as “ASAP (25 minutes)” with no way to indicate another time. It was only when I had made all my choices and went to check out – after waiting until I knew I could hop in my car and go – that I was given the option to select a different pickup time. Also, although the Malaysian coconut curry stipulates that it comes with a choice of protein, all protein choice have an additional charge.
Not that the food is anywhere near overpriced, even with that added charge. In fact, it’s such a good bargain – and portions are larger than “street food” would suggest – I can’t imagine why any college students in the area would eat anywhere else.
Mamak Asian Street Food UCF is at 3402 Technological Ave. (it faces University Boulevard), Orlando. The website says that it is open for lunch and dinner daily but hours may be limited to dinner currently. Call first: 321-235-6394.