Since I first encountered Nyonya Cuisine in Malacca a few years ago, I have fallen in love with the heady and delicious aromas of this style of cooking arising from the inter-racial marriages of Malay women (Nyonya) and Chinese men (Baba). Think aromatic curries (rempah), fermented shrimp paste (belacan), abundant use of spices and herbs, candlenut, fruits like pineapple, and coconut milk.
Sedap is not entirely Nyonya but is, I think, as close as you will get in London to the real thing found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
The restaurant feels rather like a café with a small number of well spaced tables. It is simply but tastefully decorated, a haven from the noisy Old Street outside. Julie, our waiter, was friendly and service was overall smooth and sweet.
Apart from a few “Roti Prata” (flat Indian bread) @ £1.80, we skipped the starters and ordered a few main dishes to share which included:
“Beef Rendang” (authentic almost dry curry beef) @ £6.90 – the curry was well balanced and deliciously rich, accompanying very tender pieces of beef. My only criticism was the size of the portion - it was shockingly small with only 3 or 4 small pieces of meat on the plate.
“Malaysian Belacan Chicken” (tender, crispy fried chicken marinated with homemade prawn paste and served with sweet chilli sauce) @ £5.70 – another tiny but delectable portion of crispy pieces of chicken. These were deep-fried and as a result the belacan (shrimp paste) flavour was almost completely lost.
“Sambal Brinjal” (pan friend aubergines, spread with homemade chilli shrimp paste and prawn) @ £4.80 – this was a superb dish, having some of my favourite ingredients. The aubergines were deep fried, and had a soft and buttery texture that combined very nicely with the savoury belacan and shrimp combination.
"Sambal Okra" (stir fried okra and prawn in homemade chilli shrimp paste) @ £4.95 – many people dislike okra because of the slime it exudes if not properly prepared. However, I have always loved it, and in this case the lady’s fingers were nicely cooked, still pleasantly firm and not viscous.
"Malaysian Tofu" (deep fried tofu in peanut sauce) @ £3.90 – this was an excellent recommendation by CK of London Chow, and was indeed one of the highlights of the evening. The tofu had been deep fried until it was crispy, and had a topping of beansprouts, cucumber and mint, with a delicious peanut sauce to finish it off.
"Penang Char Kway Teow" (famous stir fried flat rice noodles with prawn, bean sprouts, Chinese sausages, egg, fishcake, soy sauce, seafood stick and vegetables) @ £6.80 - this was as good as versions I have eaten in Singapore, but again the portion was minute.
"Tow Yu Bak" (slow cooked pork with thick & sweet soy sauce) @ £6.50 – this was excellent. The meet was succulent and tender, and the combination of sweet soy sauce and caramelised pork fat was heavenly.
To finish the meal, we had "Coconut ice cream" @ £3.95, and a selection of "Nyonya Kuih" (traditional freshly made Malaysian desserts) @ £2. These were not too sweet, and ended the meal appropriately.
The wine list was reasonable – we had a couple of bottles of the Mondarra Chardonnay @ £13.90. This wine had sufficient robustness to stand up to the complex flavours of the food, and it is good to see restaurants having reasonable quality wines at this price range.
The total bill came to £97 or £18 per person including drinks and service. At first glance this may look like outstanding value however in retrospect we did not order enough food. Had we ordered two portions of each dish I estimate that this very good meal would have cost us between £25 and £30 per person. I think this would still have been a resonable price for the quality of cooking at Sedap.
If you would like to learn more about Nyonya cuisine, take a look at the great site by Petit Nyonya called A Nyonya Kitchen in my Blog List.
Verdict – despite the tiny portions, I felt that the food was overall well prepared and authentic. Outstanding were the slow cooked pork, Malaysian tofu and the Sambal vegetables. Charming, friendly service. Recommended (but I suggest you order more rather than less).