Hello and welcome to the blog. Today we are venturing once again into the Sydney Festival and later we’ll be trying a bit of authentic Malay hawker food…
Sorry, I’m writing this using dictation software which makes me feel as if I want to talk like a 1960s radio presenter. I’ll try to resist the urge to be a prat.
*pauses to scratch ear*
The headset I am using is very old and the original earpiece covers have long since rotted away so I’ve fashioned some new ones using leftover felt from Strop’s many felting experiments. The covers are wool though, and they are making my ears a bit itchy. The Stropolina reckons that this kind of making-do behaviour is the technological age’s equivalent to repairing your glasses with Band-Aids. Something my father is famous for, and something I’m pretty sure he would still be doing if the nursing staff didn’t control his access to Band-Aids. But that’s another story.
As many of you will know this summer has been very strange. With a big fat El Niño lolloping around in the middle of the Pacific, our weather has taken on a schizophrenic character. In fact it’s not really our weather at all. We seemed to be borrowing weather from our neighbours on short term loans. One day a large chunk of Darwin weather will slide down the weather map and sit on top of us for a few days, then it’ll get pushed out of the way by a violent slab of Antarctic weather. It makes the whole concept of seasons rather redundant.
Thursday was one of those days. First, we had the humidity of Darwin, then the baking dry heat of Alice Springs, closely followed by the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding a line of thunderstorms ahead of a blast straight from Davis Station. Obviously a perfect evening to listen to some music in a tent.
Spiegeltents don’t have allocated seating so you have to queue to get in, and we had arranged to meet Wendy and her friend Marina, in the queue. (Wendy and Marina were standing in for Bruce and Laila, who are stuck in London – although from what I hear it is probably warmer there.)
The heavens opened just after we had found Marina, who we hadn’t met before. With umbrellas deployed, we huddled close and started to introduce ourselves. Wendy texted to reassure us that she was nice and dry in a large marquee somewhere. That was a huge relief, we had been worried that she might have had cold water dripping down the back of her neck. After the worst of the rain had passed the Spiegeltent opened its flaps and let us in. Wendy timed her arrival to perfection, meeting us at the door, and looking very dry.
The show we were there to see was an Ethiopian jazz musician called Hailu Mergia (not Hilux merger, thank you dictation software). He had a three piece band: drums, bass and keyboards. It seemed like Hailu would have a go at anything with a keyboard – as well as electronic organs, he had a piano accordion, and even a melodica.
It was unusual music, a tight driving rhythm section, with slippery and almost pause-less keyboard riffs sliding around over the top. It was quite repetitive and sometimes hypnotic, drifting between African rhythms and what I think of as 1970s jazz.
Towards the end of the show another storm came through, drumming ominously on the fluttering canvas. When we emerged from the shelter of the Spiegeltent, it was blowing a gale and pissing down. The patrons waiting for the next show were gathered in the bar, watching one of those fountains that uses computer controlled water drops to write words. The fountain was trying to compete with the wind and the rain and it was losing big time. While we couldn’t make out the fountain’s messages, it was quite clear what the weather was telling us. We took the hint and scurried across College Street, pausing only to put our umbrellas back the way God had intended, and climbed into Wendy’s car.
Our destination was a Malaysian restaurant called Malacca Straits. It is in the courtyard of that big apartment complex on the north side of Broadway. There were excellent smells as we were blown through the laneway and into the relative calm of the courtyard.
Malacca Straits promotes itself as an authentic Malaysian dining experience, and the menu had a lot of dishes that featured duck eggs and banana leaf wrappings.
We started with two of the banana-leaf-wrapped-parcel dishes. One was a spiced fish mousse, and the other, a tasty lump of glutinous rice and shrimp paste. Yum. The Nasi Goreng (not Naz ignoring,), was full of large chunks of chicken, prawn and vegetables. Another yum. Kapitan Chicken was a rich, smooth curry, mild but full of flavour and with loads of coconut. The Assam Udang was a bowl full of prawns, tomato and okra swimming in a tangy tamarind sauce. Much flavour, so yum. Our last dish was very late arriving, and there was some discussion about whether we still actually wanted it. Luckily we took the path of least resistance, because The Salted Egg Eggplant turned out to be Oh So Yum. Eggplant chips, in a light duck egg batter with curry leaves. Light and crisp outside, creamy on the inside.
Malacca Straits made me want to go back to Malaysia and Indonesia. And I will one of these days, in the meantime though I will definitely be going back to Broadway.