Inside 139 Parnell Street, the decor is that of a child’s tea party.
Mosa restaurant has pink wallpaper, white wrought-iron chairs, floral tablecloths and lampshades that look like birdcages.
Dozens of post-its are stuck on a wall opposite the counter – scribbled notes from customers. A giant beige teddy bear is slumped over one of the tables.
The menu draws from all over, too. There are dishes from across Asia, from Malaysia to Japan, and bubble tea and bubble waffles for those with sweet teeth.
“Working here is a lot of fun,” says Manager Amos Mun, sat at a booth on Thursday. “We’re really different.”
When it opened two years back, Mosa sold bubble tea, says Mun, who has worked here since last December. It’s milky, with chewy tapioca pearls (the “bubbles”) that splosh around the bottom.
Behind the counter on Thursday, Jenny Goh is mixing up a cup. She blends a few spoonfuls of taro powder with hot water and whisks them together in a shaker. Next, she squidges in a shot of sugar syrup, ice cubes and milk.
Goh shakes it hard – before spooning some tapioca pearls into a cup, and pouring the milk tea in through a filter.
Bubble tea originates in Taiwan, Mun says. Its flavours come from the tea or a powder, says Mun. “But in Taiwan, they only use tea and milk. They don’t like powders.”
“Initially, we just had the classic,” says Mun. Now the menu is longer, with matcha, taro, honey dew, chocolate and strawberry.
“In Malaysia, there are lots of flavours. Champagne, taro, watermelon, lychee. Everything,” he says.
Mosa makes the tapioca pearls themselves too, he says. “They’re hard to make.”
Building the Menu
A while after it first opened, Mosa added bubble waffles to its menu, says Mun.
Later still, it added traditional Malaysian dishes. “The business is growing. We do a lot of promotion,” he says.
Because Malaysia is so diverse, its food has broad appeal, says Mun. “We’re a multiracial country,” he says. The country has three main ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian.
Mun says that Mosa caters to those of different religions. Many Malaysians would be Muslims, and wouldn’t eat pork; but most Chinese Malaysians would.
“We sell halal food as well, but we have to separate the woks. For pork, there’s a specific wok,” Mun says.
At Mosa, the Malaysian food is traditional, Mun says. “We’re not trying to adapt to the Irish market,” he says.
Malaysian dishes on the menu include nasi lemak, a coconut rice dish served with deep-fried chicken. There are also prawn noodles and seafood curry laksa.
The key ingredient in any Malaysian dish is sambal paste, says Mun. “It has onions, anchovies, lemongrass and many, many spices,” he says.
“Sambal is very important. There are many types,” Mun says. It’s sometimes made with anchovies, and other times with prawns, he says. “It’s very stinky!”
From All Over
One reason the menu is broad is that staff who pass through leave a bit of their knowledge behind.
Some recipes are courtesy of a Taiwanese chef who used to work there, says Mun.
Floor staff come from Hong Kong and China, and the two current chefs come from the Philippines and Thailand.
“We can all speak Cantonese,” says Mun. “It’s very mixed in here.”
Chef Leo Bofete started to make bicol express, Mun says. It’s a rich dish from the Philippines of pork cubes cooked with chillies and coconut milk.
Bofete’s bicol express is subtly spicy, with fresh ginger, prawns, and onions. It’s served with sticky rice, and garnished with basil.
It’s a bestseller in Mosa, says Mun. Elsewhere, “most bicol is sweet”.
The teddy bears, meanwhile, are an homage to owner Siok Siong Goh’s daughter, says Mun. “His daughter loves teddy bears and all kinds of dolls.”
Bottle of wines sit on the top shelf in the corner, but that’s for show. “We don’t sell beer here and my boss doesn’t drink but he likes to collect wine, champagne.”
A Sociable Side
Upstairs, en route to a second seating area, Mun passes a giant heart shape covered in colourful post-its. The messages are in many different languages.
Kids get pencils and paper as they wait for food, says Mun. “We tell the customers: ‘Write down whatever you guys want.’”
There’s karaoke on the first floor for extra entertainment, too. It’s a coin-operated booth, with room and microphones for two people on stools.
“People like to drink bubble tea, sit here and have a party,” says Mun.
Mosa is meant to be inviting, says Mun. “It’s normally very chill and nice for people to talk to each other.”
There are discounts for Malaysian customers and senior citizens, he says. “For the old folks, they can have a seat here. We can prepare them Irish tea and they can sit here all day.”