It’s only February, but walking away from lunch at Good Life Food, I already know that this will go down as one of my top 10 eats of the year.
I should have guessed from the very first scent of the food. An exotic waft full of galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime with backnotes of chilli that hit me as soon as I walked through the door.
The heart and soul of this café is the delightful duo serving up comfort food and signature dishes from their homelands. Meet owner Daniar and head chef Azurah.
“Good Life Food began in Braidwood,” Daniar tells me.
“It was a little red food van and I was working by myself. Then I moved into the Pink Pub for a year, serving up a mix of Western and Indonesian food. When we opened here in Phillip six months ago. We offered Australian breakfasts: smashed avo and the like. It did not go over well, so I introduced Indonesian dishes from my childhood. After Azurah joined me, we added her specialty, Malaysian food, and business went boom!”
Daniar and Azurah’s joy in what they do and in finding chef soul mates in each other is contagious. They are proud of their menu. Their Saturday special is a highlight for regular customers.
Each Saturday, the chefs highlight a signature dish from Indonesia or Malaysia. Which dish is a closely guarded secret, only revealed on social media on Saturday mornings.
If you cannot make it over for a Saturday special, don’t stress. Good Life Food’s menu has all the classic Indo and Malay staples. Think fish balado, batkso meatballs and ayam goreng (twice-fried chicken).
“I serve the Ayam Goreng with some basil lalapan (a salad) and a side of soup,” Daniar says.
The cafe’s range of Malaysian dishes is wide and varied, Azurah says, because they have tried to highlight cuisine from each of Malaysia’s diverse states.
Nasi Kerabu. I have been trying to replicate this dish since I visited Good Life Food. My home-cooked results have not come close to the complexity and magic of what I tasted at the café. Nasi Kerabu is a distinctive blue rice dish served with grilled marinated chicken in coconut cream, an epic red sauce called Kuah Tumis and a salted egg on the side. Atop the rice is a crumbly mix of toasted coconut, fish, onion, lemongrass that I can’t stop picking at.
You have to try this chicken. And it has to be smothered in that incredible red sauce. They just go together like peas and carrots!
I also enjoyed every mouthful of the Gado gado Surabaya. Gado gado means ‘mix mix’, and it is exactly what this dish is. Layers of blanched vegetables, steamed potato chunks, boiled eggs, and fried cubes of tempeh and tofu. Comfort on a plate. The veggies and soybean protein have all absorbed the joyous mixture of kecap manis and a luscious Surabaya-style peanut sauce. A mix of nuts, crackers and prawn crackers bring an extra crunch.
The chilli hits at Good Life Food come with an extra layer of intricacy. A while back, a French chef friend challenged Daniar to roast the chillies before incorporating them into a sauce. As a result, her sauces have a deep, smoky quality to them.
Ask about the take-home meals in the freezer. You will find murtabak, which Azurah describes as being “like a Malaysian gozleme”. Curry puffs and other meals are available from the freezer.
Good Life Food is located at 1/16 Wilbow St in Phillip. Open from 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday, exotic lunch fare is available from 10 am. Breakfast fare, the likes of roti chenai with rendang or roti chenai with dahl is available from 9 am.