Hawker Walker – A Malaysian Cuisine Gem in Adelaide
It was about a couple month ago when I caught wind of an ever-packed Malaysian eatery located on Rundle Place (off Rundle Mall), next to the City Library. On further recollection, I suddenly remembered that I’d walked past there a couple of times on the way to getting my hair cut at De Costa Arcade and didn’t take any notice because if would have been in the morning before it was open. Without much street signage the place was pretty inconspicuous and easy to miss. While trying to come up with a place to have a work team lunch, it came to mind. And that’s how we ended up at Hawker Walker for the first time. As an indication of what I thought about it, I went back there for dinner that same evening. Before I left, I took the opportunity to have a chat with Clarence Chua, an overseas student from Sarawak, as well as part owner.
It all started as a group of Malaysian overseas students (mainly from Sarawak) missing home and particular the food that their mum’s and grandma’s (Poh-Poh or Ma-Ma) served up, but often took for granted. Their search for genuine home-style Malaysian cuisine in Adelaide to give them a sense of home became a passion. There came a point where they felt that they could do better than what was on offer in and around the city of Adelaide. So together, they pooled all their resources and joined forces with Kenny Ting, an experienced in restauranteur and uncle to one of the group, to start the ball rolling. Add head chef Kenneth Wong and stir-fry specialist John Yong to the mix and Hawker Walker was born. Here’s what you can expect.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk through the doors is the minimalist decor. Lots of light coming through the predominantly glass front, exposed air-conditioning ducting in the ceiling and simple functional furniture. A fresh look. Nothing over the top (no red paint or fake antique pieces in sight!), something that some of the more traditional of us Chinese have not moved on from. Given your purpose there is to fill you belly, not learn about Malaysian-Chinese history, it was refreshing.
The next notable was the menu. Like the decor it was consciously limited. Only Malaysian classics, with the likes of Wan Tan Noodles, Nasi Lemak, Kwei Teow, Laksa (including the Sarawak version). It could have been a list straight out of the index of Poh Poh’s or Mama’s favourite recipe book.
Lastly, the meals arrived as we barely sat down. A reflection of one of the three core principles form the foundation of how this place operates. (1) Good quality home-style Malaysian food (2) affordability and (3) timely service. A simple model but you can see how that would resonate with their target market – students and office workers. And it does. It’s always pretty full at lunchtimes. The good smattering of Malaysian natives in the crowd is always a good indicator of quality and how close to the mark the food is to the real deal. I can certainly testify that it is indeed the real deal. So, go ahead and get some Malaysian in ya’! For what it’s worth, tell them the guys who promised a write-up ages ago sent you.