Mamaling’s Takin’ It To The Streets, Asian-Style

It appears as if Mamaling, the Asian street food eatery on Cypress Pkwy, set themselves a rather difficult task when they decided to present local diners with versions of dishes that many Asians eat daily in their respective countries.
The biggest challenge would seem to be trying to take some of the flavors native to these countries and making them palatable for western diners. If you haven’t eaten real food off the street in, say Bangkok, which I did for 23 years, you couldn’t be expected to completely understand this.
Quite simply, the flavors in some of these dishes are just too intense for our more sensitive palates. Seriously, most diners here just wouldn’t be comfortable with some of the tastes they’d encounter. I know from personal experience.
And it’s not just the level of spiciness, which is not present in a lot of dishes but which at times almost took my breath away, but the strong, sometimes almost pungent flavors that really affect you.
So the challenge for a place like Mamaling is to try to preserve as much of the basic integrity of the dish and the flavors that it should contain, while at the same time making it appealing to diners here.
A recent dinner at Mamaling revealed what they’ve done and how well they’ve done it and they should receive high scores for both.
First, the menu is not as adventurous as it could have been which is smart for a number of reasons. Instead of trying to score points for degree of difficulty, because some street dishes would require a lot of work to make them presentable here, they’ve opted to take more mainstream dishes and take them to a higher level of execution in the kitchen.
Street food is usually quite simple by necessity. These dishes are anything but. The fried rice, which we all agreed was the star of the night, is a perfect example of their concept here.
Fried rice in Bangkok was always very boring to me. A street chef only has so much time to cook something and a much more limited number of ingredients to use. Talented chefs in a modern kitchen, as they have here, can make things taste great. That’s why they’re chefs.
And whatever they did to the fried rice — it worked. It was really delicious as well as great looking. The other dishes we tried echoed the same theme and the Szechuan tacos provided a bit of east-west fusion as well.
Come here if you want to see what talented chefs can do to simple street food to bring it to life in a different context. The results are delicious. Try it and I think you’ll agree.
— Tom Aikins