Recommended by Fastfind Magazine
Good eating options are few and far between in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne but lately, there has been a crop of eateries that are well worth checking out. Rich Maha is one such place.
Located in the Vermont South Shopping Centre, off busy Burwood Highway, Rich Maha specialises in inexpensive hawker style Indian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan fare.
There is absolutely nothing flash about this simple, blue walled, canteen-like cafe.In fact, the less said about the decor, the better. A recent extension inside has meant a few more tables and chairs and there is also seating outside on the pavement for curry al fresco, but the decor and furnishings are largely utilitarian.
There is no booking - just turn up and take your chances.To one side of the cafe, there is a Bain Marie. Do not be put off by this - it holds some of the best curries that I have had, comparable to the ones I have tried previously on a visit to Singapore. This is not surprising because the owner/chef are ex-pat Indian Singaporeans. Authenticity is assured through the largely Indian and Singaporean diners in the cafe.
The menu, amazingly, has over 100 items including standard Indian dishes like Vindaloo, Rogan Josh and Tandoori chicken, but also Sri Lankan dishes like string hoppers and thosai (savoury pancakes). There is a range of Singaporean and Malaysian hawker noodle and rice dishes, like Laksa, Nasi Lemak, Char Kuey Teow and Mee Goreng. Most of these are around $7.50-$9.
Vegetarians do not miss out, with plenty of options like eggplant masala, Gado Gado (mixed veg in peanut sauce), dahl, and more. Curries are around $9.50, seafood dishes around $10-$13.50. There are also specials, like Malaysian fish head curry ($30) and crab curry ($20). A special mention must go to the Roti, which is made fresh on the premises. It is a treat to watch the chefs making it -- kneading the dough, tossing it in the air, shaping and reshaping, much like making pizza.
We have tried many items on the menu over several visits. The Indian "Mama" Mee Goreng is fantastic, wispy thin egg noodles stir-fried with egg, meats and seafood, glazed with a tangy and spicy sauce. It's authentically good. Tasty also are the Indian samosas, crispy parcels with innards of a spicy and delectable vegetable and chicken filling.
The REAL attraction for me however is the mutton or chicken Briyani, which is only available on the weekend. Briyani (pronounced Brah-nee) is saffron rice mixed with a light curry that is delicately flavoured with star anise, lemongrass and cardamon. For $8 you get a HUGE serve of Briyani. The curry that accompanies the dish is very tasty and does not hold back on the spiciness factor. The meat has also been simmered until it is meltingly tender which, in the case of mutton, is a very important factor as this meat can be quite tough.
Also excellent is the Murtabak ($7), a flaky Roti roll filled with minced beef (chicken and vegetarian also available) and served in a curry sauce. The roll is accompanied by a mustard seed-flavoured fish curry, for dipping the Murtabak. The combination is fantastic.
As mentioned, the Roti is also out of this world. Moist and chewy, with not a hint of oiliness, it goes an absolute treat when dipped into one of Rich Maha's delicious curries.
The cafe also has some traditional hawker drinks, including teh tare, which is hot tea, slightly sweetened with condensed milk, then cooled by pouring the liquid from one mug to another from great heights, hot tea streaming precariously but never spilling! It is quite a sight to watch the tea maker cool the tea in this manner.
I highly recommend Rich Maha. The decor is nothing to write home about but the food costs a pittance and the cafe is well worth checking out the next time you are in the outer eastern suburbs and need a quick curry fix. The cafe also does a bustling takeaway trade.
Matt Preston of The Age thought very highly of Rich Maha as well.