Tasia and Gracia Seger are the sisters behind Makan, an Indonesian restaurant they opened in 2018 after taking top honours in the 2016 season of My Kitchen Rules.

It’s a love letter to the country they were born in, and from wagyu brisket rendang to grilled octopus with lime labne, the menu is rich with food inspired by their mother’s cooking. If you’ve never had the pleasure, the sisters Seger have the lowdown on what you need to order at Makan below, and they also share where to find Melbourne’s best smashed chicken and bain-marie padang. Here’s how they Melbourne.

My local is…
Tasia: Me Dee Thai. It’s in the Paramount food court on Bourke Street. It’s not pretentious, it’s just delicious Thai food. My go-to is the beef boat noodle soup with pork crackling, glass noodles, beef balls and tender beef. Be sure to add dry Thai chilli powder. The som tum papaya salad is also excellent.

I know I’m in Melbourne when…
Gracia: I find hidden gems in unexpected alleyways – Supper Inn upstairs, or Manchuria Bar hidden at the top of a long staircase. My first reaction is always “what is this place?”, but then I leave pleasantly surprised and happy and full. A funny story about alleyways: when we first opened Makan in 2018, the only sign outside Collins Way was two leaves shaped like a lip, and the letters XX. Turns out lots of people thought it was a strip joint; the sign has been upgraded. 

In the mornings you’ll find us on the way to Makan, with a quick matcha fix at Two Conversations on Equitable Place or a latte from our neighbour, Code Black. 

Something you might not know about the Indonesian food scene in Victoria is the plethora of Indonesian home meal delivery services. There are plenty of Indonesian home catering businesses that deliver throughout the week. The service is run through an organisation called IndOzFood, and you have to be in their WhatsApp group to know what’s on offer and how to order.

Each restaurant uploads its menu to the chat each week, ranging from hot food, to snacks, sweets, drinks and meal deals. One of my favourites is Warung Ibu Siti. Their menu changes weekly and the food is the closest thing to Mum’s cooking. You can find ayam bakar alasan, which is Kalasan-style grilled chicken; ketoprak, a vermicelli noodle salad dressed with peanut sauce; and bubur ayam, a Javanese chicken congee, to name a few.

Our favourite places to eat Indonesian out and about include Ayam Penyet Ria, which is known for its “smashed” chicken (duck and beef, too). The meat is cooked in spices and coconut before being deep fried and lightly “smashed”, usually with a pestle. The sambal served with it has a lot of heat; our favourite thing to do is to mix the sambal with kecap manis so you get the sweet and spicy combination.

Tambo Ciek is another Indonesian eatery that’s been around for a while, and they just opened a new location on Lygon Street. The food is authentic, and the padang in the bain-marie is endless. Tasia’s go-to combination is dendeng balado, or spicy crisp beef jerky, kripik kentang, deep-fried matchstick potatoes, ikan bumbu kuning, or grilled marinated fish, and a splash of curry sauce over the rice. Gracia’s go-to combination is gulai ayam, which is a chicken curry, ayam balado, or chicken in chilli and tomato relish, gulai daun singkong, which is a curry made with cassava, and tempe oseng buncis – tempeh and green bean stir-fry. Ask for the sambal and an extra helping of the curry sauce over the rice. Our favourite drink with any spicy Indonesian food is teh kotak, sweetened iced jasmine tea. 

And let’s not forget Makan. If you’ve never come to see us, you have to try our gado-gado: vegetables with peanut dressing and wild rice puff served on betel leaf, which you wrap like a mini taco and enjoy in a couple of bites. 

You need to try our grilled octopus, too. It’s served with lime labne, sweet, spicy and sour rujak sauce, and herb oil. Always order the chicken sate. It’s one of Indonesia’s national dishes for a reason. Makan’s chicken sate is marinated with sweet soy and makrut limes and served with our secret sate sauce. After winning in MKR in 2016 but before we opened Makan, we hired a commercial kitchen in which we made this sauce to sell online, cooking, bottling and shipping all of the product ourselves. We hired our friends to help with packaging and mailing the orders; we did about 300 bottles a week. Now you get to try it at Makan. 

For something more substantial, order the wagyu brisket rendang. It’s our oma’s recipe, and it’s cooked for about 18 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce is rich. Be sure to also order this with nasi goreng. 

Finish with an es krim sandwich: a layer of pandan and coconut ice-cream with jackfruit pieces sandwiched between two thin wafers, served with whipped palm sugar ganache, palm sugar syrup and coconut crumble. It’s inspired by our favourite childhood drink, the cendol. If you’re a lover of spice, we’d recommend the Bitter Whisky Sour. We use dark palm sugar in it, along with cinnamon and star anise. If you are more of a sweet lover, go for a Yuzu Sour.

And if you’re a Makan frequent-flyer, you should check out the newest addition to our menu – and it’s becoming a crowd favourite – the duck martabak. Makan’s duck martabak is a thin pastry stuffed with duck and egg mixture served with plum acar and plum pieces. 

Our favourite place to stock up on supplies is Minh Phat in Richmond. It’s been our go-to Asian grocery since our catering days. We love it! You can get anything: Asian fresh ingredients, sauces, kitchen tools and equipment; it’s a one-stop shop. And it’s around the corner from our favourite banh mi shop: Lee Lee Hot Bread. 

The best new thing we’ve found is Sebastian Kakigori. After finally giving in and queuing at Sebastian Kakigori for masterful shaved ice, we’ve found our current favourite dessert bar. The signature is the crème brûlée, but we both were completely intrigued by their blonde chocolate. After a single mouthful we knew we’d made the right decision. The blonde chocolate kakigori has orange peel, café au lait sauce and is topped with rum sauce and waffle. We were even more fascinated that the ice was brought all the way from Japan to Melbourne. The only downside is the 30-minute sitting time. (We did however scarf it down in 10. ) 

When I want to show off the city to friends from out of town, we like to take them to Nomad. It’s always been the spot for us. The food is consistent and always so damn good. We love everything about it, from the service to the ambience and the open kitchen. Our go-to is the burrata with fennel jam, the za’atar flatbread, wagyu tongue, pork cutlet with golden raisins and caper salsa with a side of the baby kipfler batata harra. For something sweet: the olive oil ice-cream. Nomad never disappoints; everyone we bring here is always impressed. 

There’s no better value in Melbourne than eating yum cha. More specifically, the all-you-can-eat yum cha at Red Emperor: $70 dollars! Prawn and ginger dumplings, prawn har gow, chicken feet, siu mai, prawn toast… the menu is endless. Leave room for dessert – mango pudding and the tau foo fah, a custard-like silken tofu served with a sweet syrup.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be more late-night dining. Growing up in Indonesia and India, late-night dining is always available and widely popular. We don’t mean the 8pm seating; what we love is the 11pm-onwards dining. And being in the hospo industry ourselves, by the time we close up here at Makan most restaurants’ last order was half an hour prior. While there are some such as Supper Inn, Dodee Paidang, and Dragon Hot Pot, the choices are still limited. Late-night eats in Southeast Asia are a big part of the culture; not so much in Melbourne.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the multicultural restaurants our city has to offer, from Chinatown and Koreatown, to Little Italy in Carlton and the Middle Eastern delights of Sydney Road. We’re so lucky to have such diversity here. 

Makan, 360 Collins St (enter via Collins Way), open noon-2pm Mon, noon-2pm and 5.30pm-9pm Tue-Thu, noon-2pm and 5.30pm-10pm Fri-Sat, makaninmelbourne.com.au, @makaninmelbourne @tasiagracia.seger