For the last few Fringe seasons, the Tiger Mountain food stall has materialised next to the Exeter – as if emerging from a haze of smoke (generated from the grill’s glowing coals) – before packing down again for another year.
Now in its fourth iteration, the pop-up from Mark Kamleh (Syrian Mobile Disco) has hit its stride, with a startlingly good line-up of smoky, charred food you can eat with one hand (while holding your beer in the other).
Kamleh tells Broadsheet he’s particularly happy with the food this year. That’s no small call, given he’s teamed up with the crews from Low & Slow and Orana in previous years. But this time the recipes are all his, including a super tasty, super textural charcoal chicken roll with greens, fried shallots, sesame, miso and sweet pickles (plus a veg equivalent with marinated and roasted eggplant). There are also crunchy fried chicken wings, vegetable dumplings and shallot pancakes (made with layers of crisp, flaky roti instead of chewy flatbread).
“It’s maybe my best work,” Kamleh says of the latter. “Instead of having a disc of dough with a scattering of spring onion, there’s heaps of spring onion and it’s all crunchy … and seasoned pretty enthusiastically.”
The menu is broadly Asian (“just tasty bits from that area”, says Kamleh) including Malaysian roti, and Japanese miso and nori. “It’s not authentic in any way, [but] I love Asian food. I’d eat noodles, like, four times a week. I spend most of my time eating around Gouger Street and Wright Street.” What does connect all the food is the use of fire. “All the meat’s cooked over charcoal, so is the veg … that’s always been the backbone of all my food stalls.”
Visitors can grab the food to-go or sit down at the pub. “It goes well with what the pub’s serving,” says Kamleh. “It’s not fancy, it’s not expensive. It’s no-frills, tasty, salty food.”
While the menu this year might be Kamleh’s baby, he isn’t flying solo. As in previous years, he’s getting (many) of his friends from the industry involved, including chefs James Roberts from Part Time Lover Aaron Caporn from Sibling, Tom Parbs from Lucia’s, Alix Gannon from Udaberri, Joel Tisato from Africola, and Hannah Jeffery from Peel St. He’s also recruited, among others, Billie Justice Thomson, who designed the stall.
“They don’t need to do anything as far as prep’s concerned,” says Kamleh. “During the day and during the week I do all the marinades [and] all the time-consuming work. They just come in, grab a beer and start service. For these chefs this is a walk in the park.”
With so many hands on deck, this is the first year Kamleh – who is also DJing at RCC, Fringe Club, Gluttony and Sugateca during the Fringe season – has been able to take some nights off. “The team’s better than me. So when I’m the weakest link it’s okay for me to leave.” It’s in good hands, I suggest. “It’s in better hands,” he laughs.
The Tiger Mountain stall operates every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening during Fringe, until March 15.