The first thing that strikes you about Sri Pinang (356 Karangahape Road, Ph: 09 358 3886) is the efficient service. Then you meet the host and proprietor, Angie, and you understand why this unassuming place is packed night after night, even after 21 years. Angie’s warm and engaging nature makes her the perfect host and she is truly the heart of Sri Pinang.
Coincidentally, the night we visited was Merdeka day, the anniversary of Malaysia’s independence (31 August 1957). This year is rather special; the celebration coincided with the Muslim New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, resulting in a double celebration of Merdeka Raya.
The sambal okra ($17) was sublime, our favourite dish of the evening. I’m Malaysian, but I normally shy away from sambal. It’s not an easy flavour to get right, it can be too salty, too pungent or too spicy. Sri Pinang’s sambal was perfectly balanced; the belacan was fragrant and mellow, the chilli was spicy without going overboard, the sweet/salty ratio was perfect. The fresh, crunchy okra made a great vessel for the sambal.
Pinang fish curry ($26, whole or if you are bone-adverse, also comes filleted) came in a claypot, with thick pieces of snapper and chunky vegetables (okra, green thai eggplant, tomato, onion and pineapple) enveloped in a delicious thin, spicy, sour-ish curry. The fantastic curry gravy was slurp worthy. My dining partner, whose mum comes from Penang, declared this a very good version of a Penang fish curry.
The garlicky, bean-flavoured stir-fried spicy chicken ($15.50) was good but could not stand up to its more wonderfully spiced neighbours. Watch out for the pieces of dried chilli among the onions, courgettes and garlic scapes.
A phrase by Todd Kliman (dining editor of the Washingtonian magazine) echoed in my mind at this point “I paradoxically knew I had ordered too much, and yet, somehow not enough”. I had ordered too much food, but certainly not enough to give us a complete feel for the culinary pleasures of Sri Pinang.
We managed to find room to tuck into the banana fritter partnered with a scoop of passionfruit ice-cream and drizzled with mango sauce ($6.50) and the sago coconut pudding ($5.50). Unfortunately, the banana fritters was on the oily side. The sago pudding was deliciously cold, smooth and creamy, the taste highlighted by the treacle notes of the palm sugar syrup.
Sri Pinang is a must visit for a taste of excellent Malaysian cuisine; there are some remarkable dishes on the menu. If you get stuck, be sure to ask Angie for recommendations.
easyfoodhacks dined courtesy of Malaysia Kitchen programme