Photo credit: Willmeyrick.com
Chef Will Meyrick, affectionally known as the Street Food Chef, is one of the most well-known chefs in Bali. After successful stints with two of Sydney’s top tables – Longrain and Jimmy Liks – he started his flagship restaurant Sarong in Jalan Petitenget. Besides Sarong, he also runs Mama San and E&O. We had a chat with him to find out more about his restaurants, his take on street food, as well as his opinion on Bali’s dining scene.
What is your take on street food?
The best way to get a feel for a new destination, an unexplored city, is to get out there and get amongst the street food scene. It’s a great way of discovering a place’s culture, habits, attitudes, religious history and beliefs, the kind of stories that you’ll remember for all the right reasons.
Street food is woven into the daily fabric of a culture, what the people eat, where they eat it, is who they are. It’s also a way of communicating, of connecting. People catch up on the day’s news over bowls of noodles in Asia, or with humble street-side enchiladas in Mexico, or crammed on tiny stools on the side of the road to share some samosa chaat in India.
It’s the living, breathing, eating heartbeat of every city, village and island in the world.
Tell us more about the concepts behind Mama San, Sarong and E&O.
While all three of the restaurants are about South East Asian eating, they are all very different, from the regions the dishes are from, the style of food, how it’s served, the style and décor.
Sarong, my flagship restaurant, opened its doors in 2008. It focuses more on Indian, Thai, Sri Lankan and Indonesian flavours. There are lots of curries, done with freshly-made coconut milk and fresh leaves, to keep them light and easy to polish off, rather than heavy and oily.
Mama San gives me a chance to explore the stories and recipes of other South East Asian regions, in a more informal and relaxed way. The menu gravitates towards Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese and Chinese recipes, with some dashes of Indian and Balinese. The street food are prepared using authentic recipes with traditional techniques, but polished up by using the best quality ingredients and served in a fairly chic, fun room.
E&O in Jakarta is my newest gastro gig. Here I’m focusing on regional Thai food, mostly from Northern and central Thailand, near the borders where the hilltribes live. It’s a big, buzzy dining room, and not surprisingly, much more urban than my other two island restaurants.
Bali has many good restaurants, and the dining scene is really exciting. Can you recommend us some of the places that you like?
Yes, you’re right, Bali does have a world-class dining scene that is dynamic and growing at a faster pace than I even like to think about!
New faces aside, I tend to visit my old friends. SIP is a small little French restaurant which serves up simple, well executed food. Metis is nice for a special night out, it really has all the ingredients: Chef Doudou turns out fantastic foie gras, it’s a beautiful room and the outlook is relaxing at the end of a busy Bali day.
My favourite places to eat are always warungs, though. Humble shacks in Denpasar that serve up the best plates of babi guling outside Ubud, no-frills roadside set-ups in the seaside area of Sanur, to kaki limas (street carts) that do late-night.
Photo credit: Willmeyrick.com
How is it like to be on the roads filming? What can we expect from Street Food Chef?
You’ll really get me, on the road across the archipelago hunting down the best street food, often finding it and sometimes not … it’s real, which is what makes it great.
I head into regional areas of Indonesia that most tourists never venture into – from Aceh to Padang, Garut to Makassar. Tasting, trying, experiencing, asking questions, getting a sneak peek into people’s lives, how they cook, what they eat, the ingredients, all of it. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Hopefully we’ll be able to do something for South East Asia next, so Street Food Chef will be everywhere, from Singapore to Hong Kong to India. Considering I’m cooking up food from all of these countries in my restaurants, it’s definitely where I’m looking next.
We know that you were in Singapore recently. What do you think about the local food in Singapore, and which is your favourite?
Let’s face it, street food in Singapore is always good. One new place I discovered last week was a small little gastrobar in Geylang called Immigrants. Short menu, grandmother’s Nonya-style cooking given a modern spin. Hot as hell sambals, brave offerings, done their own way. Not exactly a warung, but with street food soul.
Any plans to open a restaurant in Singapore in the near future?
Singapore is definitely somewhere I have my eye on. Why, are you offering? Ha ha ha.