Coconut House is a cheap and cheerful Malaysian eatery that has gotten a rousing thumbs up from food bloggers across Melbourne and after salivating about all Bryan's fabulous eating adventures in Malaysia, I was dying to check it out.
It's cosy inside. Ordering is done at the counter and the prices are pretty fab - almost everything under $10. The kitchen is right there in the restaurant, behind the counter and you can see the cooks working as you place your order. It looked a bit haphazard but I had faith. Hey, the universe can't be wrong!?
Everyone loves laksa, me included but you can get a bit jerlak of it (Malay for "being sick of eating too much of the same thing" - such a great word!). I was curious about har mee which is (to my untrained Malaysian palate) similar to laksa but without coconut milk. I thought this was delicious - the special thing about har mee is the stock made from prawn shells and heads and this version had a fabulous shrimpy flavour. A mixture of hokkien-style yellow noodles and bee hoon or rice vermicelli provided textural variation. The prawns on top were perfect, half-cooked when the bowl was brought to us which means they could finish cooking in the hot stock and we could gobble them up at their most tender and juicy. Wilted kang kong or water spinach added a very authentic touch. Yummy!
Hainanese chicken/BBQ chicken rice combo
My friend M went to Malaysia pretty much just to eat Hainanese chicken rice. He told me about one amazing restaurant where he went, ordered and ate and then went back to the counter and ordered another plate of the exact same dish. The staff were totally perplexed! This is seriously amazing chicken rice. The BBQ or "black" chicken had lovely dark glazed skin while the Hainanese chicken was incredibly delicate and juicy, scented with ginger. The light sauce or dressing it sits in is just amazing, sweet, light yet rich. The rice is very much a part of this dish, cooked in chicken stock with ginger and a little chicken fat. The chilli sauce is another integral part and is light and somewhat thin - I think it is more like pureed red chilli than a commercial sauce.
Soy milk, both cold and hot
I can't wait to go back to try more Malaysian goodies but the first thing I will always order is the homemade soy milk. I had the chilled version and it is totally divine. It's much thinner than commercial soy milk and actually tastes like tofu, a sweet liquid silken version. So refreshing yet so healthful. Apparently it is freshly made daily, is 100% natural and from Australian-grown beans which means no GM.
Cendol is a kind of dessert/drink - Bryan was surprised this was served in a glass as he has normally seen it in a bowl. Little green worm-like mini noodles bobbed amongst tiny jelly cubes and ice in a long, cold glass of coconut milk. All of this levitated above a dark and mysterious layer of gula melaka or palm sugar syrup. I can't get into the bubble tea thing of sucking solid things up a straw but I loved the coconut milk - so simple, so cool and creamy. The little bits and pieces were fun to eat with a spoon.
So what was the universe trying to tell me? It may be a bit rough around the edges but Coconut House has great grub. I think the message was just as simple as that.
449 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne (map)
Phone: 9329 6401
Phone: 9329 6401