Miza Hambali and Khairul Mahmood moved to Adelaide at the height of the recession in 2013. Jobs were hard to come by, but the bills kept coming. Earning a living meant thinking outside the box. So Hambali merged her experience running a cake shop in Kuala Lumpur with the rich flavours of Mahmood’s Kelantanese heritage.
Indulgence began in 2013 with the duo taking orders and delivering their home-cooked Malaysian meals by bus a few days a week. Before long they were cooking every day, and in less than a year they’d signed up for their first market stall at Newton. Nowadays they’re regulars at Magill Sunrise, Fullarton and Blackwood markets in addition to their catering. Locals and expats alike seek them out for two reasons: Malay-style curry puffs (karipap) and classic Malay desserts such as seri muka, a two-layered dessert of steamed pandan custard and glutinous coconut rice.
The former is their best seller – almost 1000 puffs sell at every market, and for good reason. Hambali makes them at home, pleating the tricky blend of margarine dough and oil dough by hand. This is what gives the puffs their unique crumbly texture once fried.
Malaysian cuisine draws influence from three major ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian. “Most Malaysians here are [of] Chinese [descent],” says Hambali, “so they’re very familiar with Chinese food – but that isn’t really ‘Malay’ food.” The difference, she says, is the use of fragrant spices, shrimp paste (belacan) and creamy coconut milk. There’s no skimping on flavour with ‘healthier’ options: everything here is “full fat, full sugar and full flavour.”
Even Hambali’s sambal paste is made from scratch and features “all the stinky, delicious” things: belacan and anchovies; onion; garlic; and spices. It takes upwards of an hour and a half to prepare every batch. The labour intensive process of making the sambal, preparing puffs and cooking the curries often means the duo pulls all-nighters before market day. “The market closes at one o’clock – by two o’clock we’re sleeping. But it’s a once-a-week kind of deal, so it’s okay. Worry about the dishes later.”
The menu changes weekly to keep things interesting for regulars. One week you might score roti jala (net crepes served with chicken curry). The next, a Kelantanese ayam percik (roasted coconut chicken).
Nasi lemak bungkus is a quick and easy takeaway snack. The banana-leaf wrapped parcels cradle steamed coconut rice, sambal, anchovies, cucumber and boiled egg. “It’s so iconic to Malaysians – they go crazy over it,” says Hambali. “It’s what we’d have in the morning ... at the school canteen when we were kids.” All 100 parcels sold out when the pair first introduced them to the market crowd.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on November 8, 2017. Menu items may have changed since publication.