Guiding you away from the confusing world of alternative milks, City Bites explores Nanyang Cafe, a Renaissance Arcade favourite with roast pork, noodles and big bowls of laksa.
NanYang cafe always has a line during the middle of the day. Although it hasn’t quite reached “old school” status, the cafe in Renaissance Arcade is owned by Emily Leong and her parents, who have been running kitchens in Adelaide for some 20 years.
The café’s style mimics the street foods and hawker markets of Penang – the food capital of Malaysia, where Leong and her family are from. After a few successful runs with two prior restaurants (Maple Leaf and Penang Hawkers Corner), Leong decided to move to Singapore for a while and the family sold up. On her return, they opened NanYang together.
From the front you’ll probably notice a line, and a window filled with hanging roasted duck and pork. It may seem intimidating, but it’s worth stopping.
Wait in line long enough and a friendly staff member will assign you a table, to avoid chaos and shoving. There you can claim the seat and order at one of two counters – upstairs and down. The venue actually seats around 100, which from its humble entrance is surprising.
Upstairs opens up to a large mezzanine filled with tables of families, students and office workers. The specialities mimic those of Penang with laksa, char kway teow and roast duck or pork over wok tossed noodles being the most popular dishes. The roast meat is from the Chinese influence of Malay cuisine and is hand-prepared by chefs every morning at dawn from family recipes.
Sit down after ordering (reminder, it’s cash only), and don’t expect to wait long. The food arrives lightning fast with most of the dishes strategically sold for ease of service.
Wok tossed noodles are fresh and chewy with a slightly sweet dark soy dressing. The roast meat options are BBQ pork, honey BBQ pork, roasted crispy pork or roast duck and a choice of two or three over rice/soup/noodles is available and recommended. Each plate comes with a side of wilted greens and a small plate of spicy pickled green chilies to cut the richness.
Laksa is hot and spiced and covers a deep bowl of hokkien noodles. There’s meat or seafood, both with spongy tofu puffs to soak up the soup. If your chili level is at toddler status then beware, the spice levels are eastern not western. Opt for mild and add extra chili oil (available at the counter) if needed.
There isn’t an item on the menu that exceeds $12.50 so for the budget conscious and time poor the venue suits well. Servings are hearty and generous so it’s no surprise that students flock here.
If you’re missing the food halls of Southeast Asia or just want to try some authentic Malaysian cuisine, don’t forget NanYang Cafe. The line might be out the door, but that just means it’s good.
Open Monday to Thursday 10am-4pm, Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-3pm