Chatterbox in North Hobart is a casual dine in and a takeaway restaurant, with the option of a bain-marie style hot dishes or cook to order noodle and rice dishes. On a Saturday, Chef Victor Ang will make his “special of the day” dish – either a Nasi Lemak or Hainanese Chicken Rice or Soy Duck Rice or Chinese Roast Pork and Barbeque Pork Rice. You can “Like” Chatterbox’s Facebook Page to find out what is on a Saturday’s special.
I have only been to Chatterbox twice, counting today’s lunch. It was a lovely mid-winter day, after weeks of cold and wet weather. I walked to North Hobart from my house, which took 30 minutes so I can soaked in all the vitamin D that I have been lacking for several weeks. It is interesting what a bit of vitamin D can do to your body and mood.
I met Chef Victor for the first time on this visit and had a brief chat as the restaurant was not busy. I told him how much I really enjoyed his “Hor Farn” the first time that I had to come back again. In Penang, we called “Hor Farn” as “Sar Hor Farn”. I have to admit that his version is very close to the SHF in Penang, which is one of my favourite street food, a.k.a “hawker food”.
The Hor Farn is a flat rice noodle dish dressed in a slightly garlicky and gooey egg sauce. Most westerners will find this strange, and prefer the dry Hong Kong style version – “Chow Ngau Hor” – which is also available at Chatterbox. Victor’s Hor Farn version had beef and chicken fillets with bok choy. I like mine with added chili paste and a few dashes of ground white pepper. I will then use the chopstick and spoon to mix through the chili and white pepper so they are evenly coated before eating the noodle.
I was almost full after eating the plateful of Hor Farn. I was tempted to order something else. I know I shouldn’t. But, I did anyway. Greedy, I supposed. I asked Victor to recommend something. I browsed through the limited choice of noodle dishes in his paper mat/takeaway menu. I ended up choosing the Mee Goreng, after Victor convinced me that it is the Indian style version mee goreng. I asked him to make it spicier.
I have to say that Victor’s mee goreng was the best mee goreng I ever had in Hobart. It is the closest I can find to the real taste of Penang’s mee goreng. I could smell the beautiful “sambal” in the dish, enough to make me sweat a little. In Penang, mee goreng is typically served with one half or two halves calamansi lime, a.k.a kasturi lime. It is quite similar to kumquat. However, it is not possible to find either calamansi lime or kumquat in the supermarket here. Lemon or lime is a good substitute. There was a slice of fresh lemon on Victor’s mee goreng, which I squeezed over the noodles. I knew I could not finish the dish, so I asked to doggie bag the rest for a night time supper at home while watching TV.
After I finished my lunch, I had another chat with Victor. It is interesting to know his background and how he started the business. Victor originally came from Singapore. He took over the business eight years ago, which was formally known as Saigon Kitchen. I believed I have tried Saigon Kitchen when I first arrived in Hobart. That was an unpleasant experience, which I had the bain-marie food. Since then, I never went back until a few months ago after I have heard from a Malaysian friend that Chatterbox is her favourite Malaysian restaurant, and that I should try it.
Victor and I agree that there is a cross over between Malaysian and Singaporean street food, each trying to claim their version is the original version. The fact is that Singapore and Malaysia used to be one country until Singapore split from Malaysia as an independent country in 1965 after a major racial riots in 1964. Hence, the food in Singapore and Malaysia share lots of commonality. There are variations and one can argue the best is in Singapore or in Malaysia depending on who you ask. One good example is the Hainanese Chicken Rice, which can vary a great deal depending on where you eat.
At Chatterbox, Victor offers Hor Farn and Mee Goreng. Both dishes are a typical Malaysian and a Singaporean street food. So call it a Malaysian or call it a Singaporean. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter which country hails the supreme as the mother of the best street food as long as it tastes good. In this case, Chatterbox wins my heart for the best Hor Farn and Mee Goreng in town!