Terry’s Kitchen, Wantirna South

Where: Terry’s Kitchen, 1248 High St Road Wantirna South

What: Malaysian food worth driving 40 minutes for (especially if you’re not the one doing the driving)

Who: Mama WFYB, Papa WFYB

Bloat score: 2 – The belt had to be completely removed

I don’t know what Papa WFYB did in his last life to deserve a daughter who doesn’t drive but alas it has turned out such – just as he spent my teenage years ferrying me back and forth between violin classes, maths tuition and my friends’ houses, so he spends my adult years ferrying me back and forth between his house and mine (thankfully for him, I’ve moved much closer). This same charitable stance towards driving is adopted when he drives Mama WFYB and I across Melbourne to try Malaysian restaurants my mother has discovered through the infamous Facebook group Melbourne Cari Makan (if you know, you know).

One of her discoveries through this group was Terry’s Kitchen, a no-frills Malaysian restaurant situated within a church complex in Wantirna South in a cafeteria-style setting. We’ve been twice, and each time has made it into my top 10 Malaysian food experiences in Melbourne. Terry’s has an all-day breakfast menu comprising the likes of nasi lemak bungkus, roti banjir (roti canai flooded – ‘banjir’ means flood – in curry), toast with kaya (coconut pandan jam) and several noodle dishes like kolo mee, ocho mee and loh shi fun (more on all these later), while its weekly rotating lunch menu starts after 11am. The breakfast menu has a constant representation of Malaysian food, while the lunch menu is prone to featuring Japanese dishes like chicken katsu rice and tempura prawn rice, though this also differs from week to week, with Sarawak laksas often featuring on it. What’s a guaranteed mainstay on the lunch menu is the special nasi lemak, though the specialness differs every week – the accompaniments can range from garlic lime tiger prawns, ginger turmeric fried chicken and butter chicken to sambal stingray, lamb shank and crispy pork.

What keeps Mama WFYB coming back to Terry’s, however, is its selection of Nyonya kueh and curry puffs. The first time we visited, I tried the sardine curry puffs, with sardine being an underrated yet highly popular curry puff filling in Malaysia and perhaps my favourite variation of curry puff. Flaked sardine cooked in a chilli-spiked concoction of tomatoes, onion, curry powder and chilli powder were encased in a soft yet crisp (this is the best way I can explain it!) pastry with ornate pleated edges. Some people like their curry puffs wrapped in excessively buttery, flaky pastry but this isn’t my preference – I like the simpler, less oily version.

Mama WFYB took away some kueh to eat at home and raved about it later. We also tried Terry’s siew bao, baked barbecue pork buns not to be confused with the fluffy steamed char siew baos you find at yum cha restaurants. The sticky sauced pork coupled with the thin golden pastry was the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Siew pao can often be found in Chinese bakeries in Malaysia.

Papa WFYB and I ordered two noodle dishes off the breakfast menu – he, the kolo me and me, the ocho mee. Kolo mee hails from Sarawak – the largest Malaysian state, located in Borneo – and is a dry egg noodle dish tossed in a flavoursome pork and shallot mixture topped with fragrant fried onions, with just enough sauce to coat the noodles. ‘Kolo’ comes from the Cantonese phrase ‘gon lo’, meaning ‘dry mix’.

The savoury pork mixture typically is a combination of barbecued pork and pork mince, and Terry’s iteration had fried fish balls and a ladle of pickled green chillies (how you know Terry’s is a legit Malaysian restaurant). Like a lot of Malaysian dishes, there’s no delineation between when it can be eaten – it’s as common to eat it for breakfast as it is for lunch and dinner.

Terry’s ocho mee appeared to be a spin on kolo mee, except instead of fish balls there were cuttlefish balls, and the sauce had the addition of light black vinegar, which added a wonderful savoury tartness to the dish once you mixed it up so the sauce pooling at the bottom coated each springy egg noodle strand.

Papa WFYB and I both greatly enjoyed our largely similar noodle dishes, but I found the generous bowl of wheat was too much for my gut, and let’s just say I had to make an unscheduled pit stop before we left. (Very important note for my fellow IBS sufferers: Terry’s has impeccably clean and accessible toilet facilities.)

Mama WFYB ordered the nasi lemak bungkus and liked it enough, but found the rice a touch too overcooked – ‘I like the rice to be a bit grainy’ – and didn’t love Terry’s replacement of ikan bilis (fried anchovies) with salted fish, though I thought this was an interesting substitution that added a Chinese flair to an otherwise traditional Malay dish. She did love the sambal, however, and thought it had just the right level of heat.

The second time we visited, I insisted we arrive after 11am so I could have my pick of the lunch menu. I was after the nasi lemak special, of course, and on this occasion, it was nasi lemak with marinated crispy pork (!!). If you’re eating a traditional Malay nasi lemak, it won’t have pork because this, of course, isn’t halal but there is nothing I associate more with Chinese food than pork, so it’s fitting that Terry’s Chinese-Malaysian riff had crispy pork.

The pork was still attached the bone and was incredibly moist and flavourful, while the addition of crispy school prawns atop the rice was a fancy flourish. Mama WFYB tried the rice and said it was impeccably grainy, and remarked that the nasi lemak bungkus she tried earlier must’ve come from a different supplier (lol).

Mama WFYB tried the loh shi fun off the breakfast menu. Often referred to as rice drop noodles, the noodles in loh shi fun are made of gluten-free starches such as rice flour, corn starch and tapioca starch, after which they’re partially cooked in hot boiling water and then hand-rolled into thick, semi-translucent strands. They’re a popular hawker stall offering and are often either freshly fried on the spot or cooked and served in a claypot with a fried egg atop. Terry’s Kitchen’s iteration was interspersed with marinated minced pork and topped with fried stuffed bean curd skin, which tasted (to me) reminiscent of the Malay fish cracker snack keropok lekor, a characterisation Mama WFYB didn’t agree with. Though Mama WGYB wasn’t bowled over by the nasi lemak bungkus she had on her first visit to Terry’s, she loved the loh shi fun.

Papa WFYB stuck to what he knew and got the ocho mee that I ordered the last time – he couldn’t go past the springy, vinegary egg noodles.

The lowlight of turning up after 11am was that all the curry puffs and most of the kueh had run out, something to keep in mind if you want to both try Terry’s delicacies and their lunch menu.

Boasting steelier stomachs than me, Papa WFYB and Mama WFYB ordered a Malaysian coffee each after their meals. The main thing that differentiates an Australian / Italian coffee from a Malaysian coffee is the latter has the elixir of life known as condensed milk, although there’s always the option to have it ‘kurang manis’ (less sweet). And even though I didn’t have a coffee so as to not tempt fate, the 40-minute drive back was a touch-and-go situation if you know what I mean.

We only visited twice, but judging from other weeks, Terry’s Kitchen repertoire extends to lesser-known Malaysian dishes like mee goreng basah (‘basah’ means wet, making this a brothier version of your average mee goreng), nasi kerabu (fragrant rice infused with butterfly pea flowers) and cha chu mee (a soupy fried noodle dish with tiger prawns). It’s food made by Malaysian people for Malaysian people.

Papa WFYB is still too fatigued from the last 40-minute drive to Terry’s Kitchen and back but when he’s ready for round three, I’ll be waiting.

Terry’s Kitchen is open Wednesday to Sunday 8am to 2pm, except on Saturday when it opens at 10am.

Author: Sonia Nair

Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based food writer who persists with her love of everything deep fried and spicy, despite being diagnosed with a histamine intolerance and lactose intolerance after incorrectly thinking she was fructose-intolerant for several years.

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