Mami PG’s Cooking Offers Authentic Malaysian Lunch Box Delivery to Midtown

I’m thrilled to report — there’s a new way to get your Malaysian food fix in Midtown! I think it will appeal to folks who love both authentic cuisines and great deals. I first heard about Mami PG’s through the blog Eating in Translation a few weeks ago when I read a post about authentic Malaysian “lunch boxes” currently available for delivery to Midtown (as far west as 6th avenue). This is great news for Lunchers who like Malaysian food, as Midtown is almost devoid of the stuff… (although it has popped up here and there over the years).

If you’re not comfortable with a small dose of uncertainty, Mami PG’s Cooking probably isn’t going to be as appealing for you as it is for flexible, adventurous Lunchers. There are many quirks about Mami PG’s Cooking that, in my opinion, make it nothing less than wonderful. Firstly… obtaining your lunch is an adventure in itself. Eating at Mami PG’s takes a little planning and teamwork. It doesn’t have a storefront. It’s not on Seamless or GrubHub. In fact, you can’t just decide you have a hankering for Malaysian food and walk over or call up to order your favorite dish.

Here’s the concept: you go to the Mami PG’s facebook page and check out what days delivery is available (this past week it was Thursday and Friday, but it varies). Then, you look at the lunch box option(s) for that day, and determine if it’s something you would like to try (you can view this page without a facebook account as far as I can tell). Before 7pm the day before, you call or text how many lunch boxes you would like (note that 3 is a minimum order, so you’ll need to get some coworker buy-in), and the owner, Nani, will meet you at the corner of your choice in Midtown East (as far as 6th Avenue) to make what I’ll call “the exchange”. And the exchange rate is a modest $7 for each delicious lunch box.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve tried two separate halal lunches, both of which were unique and tasty — and unlike anything I’ve sampled at a Malaysian restaurant in the US. (Straits Cafe, a restaurant I frequented in San Francisco, and the far less frou-frou Penang Restaurant in Elmhurst are the Malaysian restaurants I’ve tried.)

My first lunch box was Nasi kandar, which is rice with curry and other side dishes. Specifically, this lunch box features beef, so it can be called Daging Nasi Kandar, or beef cooked in special spices from the Penang region of Malaysia, where Nani is from. Accompanying the beef is king fish curry. In Penang, when you eat nasi kandar, you put all of the curries on top of the rice, mix the sauces, and eat with the okra and green pepper. Two Indian crackers are wrapped separately. According to Nani, when you go to the Nasi Kandar shop in Penang, they will give you the crackers on the side to eat with your rice.

For my first time eating this type of food, here’s my take. The combinations of flavors in the beef were elaborate… and addictive. I promised a friend I would save some for him, and it was very difficult to stop eating the beef and the juice-soaked-rice with its the spicy, just slightly sweet, and almost clovelike flavor. The fish curry was also wonderful — it was not something I would have normally ordered but I’m glad I had a chance to taste it. It had a mild, pleasant curry flavor and the whole filets on each side of the small fish were moist and perfectly cooked (do beware of bones, however). I personally loved the okra and pepper on the side, being a huge fan of both vegetables. The okra was steamed perfectly, so it ended up being firm, bright green, and not soggy at all; the pepper was crunchy and happily added more heat than I had expected.

The Indian crackers reminded me of papadums, but they were thicker and much saltier: I would say better than any papadum I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant (I expect the recipe seems to include more salt than I’m used to, and I love me some salt).

The second lunch box I tried (and many of my office mates joined in) was called nasi lemak. According to wikipedia, Nasi Lemak can be considered Malaysia’s national dish. This dish is traditionally served over a banana leaf with fragrant rice. Beef and fish were again the stars of the show. This time, the beef was called Rendang Tok. Rendang Tok Daging is a beef dish cooked with a special traditional hand ground Malaysian herbs and spices with an added touch of Kerisik or grated, toasted and ground coconut paste. The dish includes lemongrass, galanga, tumeric and tumeric leaves. With the beef rendang tok is sambal ikan bilis, or anchovy sambal – a dish made with chilis, tamarind paste, shrimp paste, and (of course) anchovies. The ‘chovies surface again in an important part of the dish with the kacang dan ikan bilis, or peanut with fried anchovy. On the side is a telur rebus, or boiled egg, and fresh slices of cucumber, along with separately wrapped fish crackers. All of this was over a generous helping of coconut rice and if you get far enough to the bottom, you’ll see the banana leaf.

I was impressed by this meal as well. I am a big fan of coconut in meat dishes, and you could immediately taste this sweetness along with the complicated flavors I’ve not tried elsewhere. I also overcame my slight issue with eating tiny little fishies whole to give the anchovy sambal a try. I like to think I’m an eater who will try just about anything, but I’ve it’s taken me some time to get over my aversion to some fish dishes. (This might be explained by my Midwestern upbringing, where I often enjoyed fresh catfish and trout, while seafood dishes were usually frozen and at best disappointing, at worst just all kinds of wrong.) I’m getting over that slowly but surely, and Mami PG’s Cooking has helped me along the way. The anchovy sambal was very spicy, salty, sour, somewhat chewy, and certainly anchovy-esque. As I mentioned, several coworkers from my office tried this dish, and those who aren’t as partial to coconut with savory dishes preferred the anchovy sambal to the beef. I also enjoyed the fried anchovy with peanut much more than I thought I would — along with the egg, cucumber, and rice, the sides give you plenty of bite combination options.

The fish crackers with this dish were much smaller, sweeter and had a different texture than the Indian crackers before. These were much more like prawn crackers, but better.

Don’t expect Mami PG’s Cooking to be tweaked for American tastes. Nani shared that until the blog post in Eating in Translation, she had mainly Malaysian customers. I have a feeling she’s not going to be changing her recipes. She gets her spices from someone who hand-mixes them in San Francisco, but they are imported from Malaysia. It’s certainly not the type of food you would find on every corner of Midtown, and at $7, I’d say this is a true gem. The food is a great value per portion, you’ll experience a divergence from the day-to-day along with your coworkers, and you’ll have a chance to learn about new foods if you’re unfamiliar with authentic Penang-style food. For more food pics, visit Mami PG’s photo album on facebook.

The +

  • I really like trying new things, and this is real, real, REAL Malaysian food, Penang style!
  • I love to impress coworkers with my unique lunch know-how.
  • All of this for $7? Shit yeah!
  • Let’s be honest. You really can’t get anything else like this in Midtown. I’m ordering this as often as possible.

The -

  • Pre-planning and teamwork are required, neither of which I’m good at.
  • I work in Midtown west… Gah!
  • I only eat food I’m comfortable with and I’ve tried before, so this seems a little too exotic for me.

Mami PG’s Cooking on Facebook, (347) 853-1012

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