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Category: Malaysian Page 1 of 2

Green & Oak Malaysian Restaurant

My guest and I were looking for Malaysian food for dinner. And after a quick Google search, we were happy to find one by our homes, in Burnaby. Based on the building’s roof detail, we surmised that this use to be a Greek restaurant. But the rainbow spotted wall paper and light weight, bleach wood furniture had the interior looking more like a bubble tea cafe. Similarly, the name didn’t really speak to what was on the menu.

We were originally seated by the back exit, on a convertible table. However, as soon as a table by the window opened up, the host that originally showed us in (who I think is also the owner), kindly re-sat us without us having to ask for the better table. All the while she had her young 3 year old son in tow, helping to drop off menus and deliver diner’s their bills. It gave you an “Awww” sensation and spoke to this being a family run business.

The two sided laminated menu listed a bunch of familiar plates, and I fully indulged in this edible walk down memory lane. The following are a must order when I see them on any menu. However I had a preconceived idea of how each dish tasted, and therefore I was left unsatisfied. The food was good, and I would have enjoyed everything more had I not compared it to my mother’s cooking or that which I had growing up. It was simply a different rendition of Malaysian cuisine. My guest on the other hand enjoyed everything in full, taking a take out menu to go, along with our leftovers.

“Roti-canai”, fresh made Malaysian flatbread, grilled and served with their own curry dipping sauce. The dough was chewy and flaky, the perfect vehicle to sop up chunks of their curry. The curry here was the exact same one served in their “Malaysian curry rice”. A coconut curry made with lemon grass, shallot, and onion. I wanted a richer curry, finding it a little flat for a dip. I also wanted some more peanut and sweetness to it, to better play off the salty roti.

The “Hainanese chicken” was my favourite of the night. Steamed chicken cooked in rich chicken stock, served with a red chilli and ginger dipping sauce. This is the set meal with both white or dark meat, but for $1 extra we could have had our choice of all dark or all white meat. It was just as I remembered it. Tender chicken, served slightly chilled, with a flavour that is clean on palette, ending in a faint soy flavour that lingers. As a set menu it comes with a neutral soup (compared to everything else we ordered), a tasty chicken stock flavoured steamed rice, and a mild chilli and ginger oil sauce for additional seasoning.

My guest’s favourite dish was the “Penang tofu”. Deep fried tofu topped with onion, cucumber, and a sweet chilli sauce. This version was good, the sauce was on point, but we wished the tofu was crisper and that the deep fry had more of a freshness to it.

The “Laksa soup” was disappointing. A runny curry based soup with tofu, bean sprouts, egg, lemon grass, lime juice, and hints of coconut milk. It wasn’t as flavourful or as rich as I know laksa to be. We had our choice of vermicelli, egg noodle, rice noodle, mixed or no noodle. We went for the egg noodle, but had we selected for the finer gauge, traditional, rice noodle we might have liked the bowl more. See a whole reminded more more of a sour tom yum soup, than the rich curry based soup I was hoping for.

I was excited for the “Belachan fried rice” with dried shrimp, chilli pepper, pork, shrimp, egg, and soya sauce. This was a flavour that isn’t known to many, a unique fishiness with good umami. I just wished it wasn’t so greasy, leaving a sheen on our utensils and lips.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Once again, the food was good enough, but it just didn’t satisfy because of the expectation I had going in. Not traditional Malaysian fare, but a unique interpretation when in Burnaby, to discover. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN OAK
3760 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2H5
(778) 589-2668
greenandoak.com

Banana Leaf, Dine Out Menu 2019

Tired of over priced and overly busy Chinese restaurants for Chinese New Year, my mother sought Malaysian cuisine for this year’s celebratory dinner. So we found ourselves at the long standing chain, “Banana Leaf”; and just in time to take advantage of their $35 Dine Out menu, on its last day.

It has been a while since my last visit. I am a fan of Malaysian cuisine, but don’t find their rendition of it the most authentic. So was surprised to see how they have updated their space walking in. The once green and yellow exterior was now hiding a chic new dining area. White walls, sea foam booths, and a collection of dark wood artifacts around the room. The decorative greenery gave the space some life. I didn’t visit the washroom, but was able to spot the eye catching, green banana leaf print that papered it from my seat. It was quite the pun. As a whole, the space was updated and the brand breathed anew because of it.

As for our meal, their Dine Out menu wasn’t the typical pick and choose 3 course menu like at all the other restaurants participating, (that I have encountered). This was a set meal with no substitutions, and a minimum required spend of 2 servings. Although both the appetizer and entree course came with 3 different dishes, served together. Which gives the diner a total of 9 courses for $35.

We came as a family of 7, each ordering the $35 menu, and for the most part we shared two full servings of each course, family style. I did the math, and ordering this special menu versus the regular plates off the regular menu, is a better deal. Majority of what is offered on this menu is also available on their regular menu; thus making it a good way to dip your toe into Malaysian cuisine, or to try a new restaurant at a fair price.

We started with our own individual serving of “Indonesian gado salad”. Cooked bean sprouts, tofu, cucumber, potato, green bean, and egg; coated in a sweeter satay peanut sauce. It was tasty, but I could have used more texture in my salad. I found it too juicy with all the bean sprouts. I wanted some chew from dried tofu or some crunch from crushed peanuts. It was a good start, but it felt incomplete.

The rest was served shared style in their full serving plates, like the “Nyonya Calamari” served our 7 across two full plates. Crispy fried calamari with a sweet chilli sauce dip. It was your standard breaded and deep fried squid offered in modern chains and at Greek restaurants. Out side of the sweet and tangy dipping sauce I didn’t see how this was “Nyonya” style, the term coming from a group of nomadic Malaysian tribes.

The “Gulai clams” is not on their regular menu. Steamed clams sitting in a pool of their sweet, yellow, coconut curry. It was good, juicy clams in a slightly spicy broth. I enjoyed the roti we ordered below best when dipped into this, using it to wipe the bowl clean.

I completely disliked the “Curry spiced oysters”, to the point that I couldn’t swallow and had to spit it out. I am not a fan of the fishy flavour of cooked oysters. I can eat them raw, but find them rancid tasting when cooked and fried in oil that exemplifies this. Breaded and deep fried oysters, seasoned in curry spices, served with a green leaf salad on the side. Everyone else found them just fine.

I liked the “Lemongrass grilled giant prawns”. Giant grilled tiger prawns seasoned with lemongrass, garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce, and scallions. Minus the hassle of peeling the shell, I would gladly eat a plate of this again.

I liked the presentation of the “Sambal sockeye” grilled in banana leaf. You unfolded the green leaf to discover a cut up sockeye fillet, seasoned in sambal chilli sauce, lemon grass, dried paste, curry spices, and okra. It had a good flavour to them, but I am not a big fan of cooked salmon. Though did enjoy it with a serving of the rice below.

The “Turmeric rice” was fragrant, great on its own and better as a base. I want to learn how to make this for myself.

The “10 veggie and 10 spices” was also a nice accompaniment to the rice. A collection of diced vegetables in a creamy curry-like sauce. I was able to make out chunks of squash, peas, green beans, carrots, red and yellow peppers, taro, tomato, and okra. So tasty that I didn’t miss meat in this, but got my fix below anyhow.

“Thai sweet chilli chicken”, simple and delicious, juicy dark meat nuggets. The red and yellow peppers played off its sweet sauce.

For dessert our $35 set came with “Kuih dadar”, pandan crepes with grated coconut. But luckily I asked if we could get a split order, wanting half of our desserts to be the “Pandan coconut panna cotta” from off their $25 menu. The “Kuih dadar” was not as expected. I liked their neon green colour and how soft and chewy the crepe was, but the filling was off putting. It looked like minced meat or as my partner put it, “the bottom of a container of bacon bits”. It tasted as gritty as it looked, coating the mouth like sand, with a burnt after taste.

By comparison the “Pandan coconut panna cotta” was much better. It looked pretty with its layers of white and green jello-pudding, topped with a mango compote, gula melaka syrup, and a single tart cranberry. It tasted like mango and coconut pudding mostly. Whereas I didn’t get enough pandan flavouring. I also didn’t need the sweet syrup, it almost took away from the lighter fruit flavours.

Having seen our dislike of their crepe, our server was kind enough to offer us more servings of the panna cotta, so that everyone could have one glass jar in full. We fully appreciated the gesture and service.

As additional sides to share we also got three servings of the “Roti canai”, a favourite of those familiar with the chain. It was served split between two plates, so my photos shows a one and a half serving. Flaky layered bread prepared with evaporated milk, egg, flour, and butter; served with a sweet and lumpy peanut dip. It was like a layered pancake, tasty on its own, but dipping it into sauces is what makes it.

“Baba’s chicken wing”, Peranakan’s marinated chicken wings, lightly breaded, deep fried in curry spices. It was a clean and dry wing. Didn’t get any of the listed curry spices, it was more a simple pepper and salt seasoning.

The “Vegetable spring rolls” were filled with jicama roots, carrot, cabbage, celery, green bean, turmeric, white pepper, sesame oil, sweet chilli sauce, and pickled red cabbage. It had a curry flavour to it, which was over powered by the sweet dipping sauce that it came with. Not my favourite flavour from a spring roll, but it at least had a nice crispy texture.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Approachable Malaysia food made easier with a set menu that gives you a little bit of everything and takes the guess work out of the equation for you. Having Malaysian food in Malaysia I cannot say this measures up, I was missing punchier ingredients and more pronounced seasoning. Good, but didn’t hit the spot the same. Recommend for those new to the cuisine and for those who prefer milder flavours. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BANANA LEAF
820 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 1J8
604-731-6333
bananaleaf-vancouver.com
Banana Leaf Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaya, summer tasting menu

I have been to “Kaya, Malay Bistro” a handful of times now, since their opening in 2012. Hailing from Brunei, I find Malaysian cuisine homey, so have admittedly visited most of the Malaysian restaurants in the lower mainland. This one is not only the most convenient for me, but I find each time I visit they seem to have introduced something new to their menu or to the way they host.

Today it was the addition of happy hour with a $4 menu. This is now available Monday to Fridays from 5-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm. $4 tapas and beers including calamari, roti, curry somosas, vegetarian spring rolls, satay, and more. This means that they offer more than most places also hosting happy hour, although they might not be your traditional choice.

They also have the option of all you can eat on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30-2:30pm at $18.95 a person. With over 29 savoury items, including desserts to choose from; this is definitely a good deal. Vegetarian items, noodles and rice, tapas, and meat dishes.

But today, we as media were invited to try an exclusive and new tasting menu. But first, the disclaimer: When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

We were given the full experience of their new tasting menu, in celebration of their 5th anniversary. This is a set list of eight dishes brought together at a set price of $38 per person. A couple of them new menu items, but majority familiar favourites, that you would have ordered anyways. This menu (pictured) would not be regularly advertised in house or offered as an add on when you are seated. The only way to have the following for yourself is to come in knowing about it, due to its extensive coverage on social media; by us food bloggers and social media influencers. A very clever way to bring new bodies in through a new channel and to monitor our combined social influencer and blogger reach.

But not only that, “Kaya” is willing to double down and offer their new social media friends an additional 50% off on this tasting menu. All you have to do is follow them on their social media channels at @kayamalay on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and like one of their photos to be able to reference the deal. This would make the already affordable menu, $38 for 2 people, for an 8 course meal. My photos below are reflective of this deal of two can dine for $38. Although in order to maintain the quality of such an elaborate set, only 10 servings will be prepared daily, so to get yours, come early and make your reservations quick to capitalize. This will be running from today (June 24) to August 31, 2017. So if you love it, you can come back and enjoy it over and over again until the summer’s end. And if you didn’t, it would have cost you $20 to try something new, well worth the experience points.

The business major in me loved the idea, of them having a way to track our reach. Restaurants and PR teams invite us in to eat and cover their restaurants and events and we in turn have footage for our various media channels, making it a symbiotic relationship. And now there would be a way to track the success of this partnership. So let’s see how well this works. If you are reading this, go!

And since you are already saving so much, I strongly suggest ordering a share size bowl of rice; as I reference wanting a base a couple of times below.

Once again all the the dishes to follow are presented for two to share, catalogued as we received them. We started with the “Acar Awak”, which is pickled vegetables in a spicy and sour dressing. I often describe it as being like salsa and kimchi combined, however this is a variation that I am not use to. This version wasn’t spicy, it was less saucy and more water-logged, and the pineapple was a interesting add on. Its tangy-ness is ideal as a side dish, instead of a meal starter. I suggest leaving this one the side to nibble on in conjunction with all the dishes below. Especially with the deep fried and heavier spiced dishes.

The “coconut and cumin king prawn soup” was a great dish to warm up with. It is easy to sip with plenty of strong flavours. Each spoonful left you with a deep tickle at the back of your throat, one that continued to warm and linger. It was warming where as its chunks of the tomato. button mushroom, and half prawn offered some cooling elements. They were also nice to nibble on for a change in texture.

The “Satay chicken” did not disappoint. Charcoal grilled, marinated skewers served with a chunky peanut dip. This is a classic that I have ordered from them before, that is exactly as I expect it to be. Tender and tasty chicken with a great smoke char, only exemplified by the nutty peanut buttery sauce.

The “Roti canai” was a little bland by comparison, but only because all that came before it were such stand outs. Hand rolled, layered flat bread with a curry sauce for dipping. The roti was nice and chewy with light folded layers.

For entrees we had a dish of deep fried “mini soft shell crab”. They were easy to eat with a quick pop in your mouth. They were sautéed with fresh onion, garlic, shallots, mild chilli and fresh Indian black peppercorn. Each bundle was fairly flavourful, but I would have still liked a sauce to help balance the oils of the thorough deep fry, and to change its taste mid way. It is here the pickled vegetable from above was most helpful. The idea of a sweet chilli sauce, a dressing with wine, or even a wedge of lemon were thrown out by the group.

The “seafood bouillabaisse in Assam curry sauce” had prawn, fish, mussel, and cuttlefish; all swimming in a spicy turmeric and coconut sauce. Seasoned with tamarind, galangal, lemongrass and ginger. It wasn’t the Assam flavour I had and remembered from my trip to Malaysia a few months back, but I still found it a great retelling. As a bouillabaisse, I wanted some crispy bread to have it with, but some rice here would have done wonders. I ended up drinking down all the sauce, as I enjoyed it that much.

The “Sambal chilli trio” was another that would have been improved having it over a bowl of steamed white rice. It is a mix of stir fried okra, eggplant, and green beans with shrimp, tomato, and shrimp; all in a belacan paste. The vegetables were kept crisp with a nice texture to chew on. No complaints.

And for dessert we ended the meal with their “Pandan cheese panna cotta”. It was a great idea and something I was very excited for, as I don’t see much pandan offered in the city. However, there is such as thing as too much pandan flavouring. It gave the dessert a great colour, but I found it combated too much against the cheesy and already rich flavour of the panna cotta. I wanted light and creamy from this, whereas this was more dense like a mousse. The fresh strawberry slice helped to lighten up the dish, but there was not enough of it to ration with each and every bite. However, I like pandan so much that I would have and order it again.

Not included in the menu, but is on their list of fruity, non-alcoholic drinks is their refreshing “Ginger citrus soda”. I had one to help cool off with. Hand pressed lemon, lime and orange; shaken with fresh juices and soda with your choice of mint or basil. I went mint for a more mojito-esque feel.

And thus ends our social media menu tasting. Once again a great deal, one that I recommend taking advantage of and trying for yourself.

To get a better feel of the decor and setting of place (as it really hasn’t changed) and/or to get a glimpse of how “Kalay” was four years ago, check on my first visit review by clicking on the link below.

Kaya Malay Bistro

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Not many Malaysian restaurants in the city, and their fusion approach keeps things modern and creative. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KAYA
1063 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-229-5872
kayamalay.com
Kaya Malay Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaya

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Another one of my specialty posts. This one is written with the insights of a specialist in Malaysian cuisine. Having been birthed there, and having lived there a greater part of his earlier life, my guest tonight would teach me a thing or two on authentic Malaysian cooking. He was preparing for a trip back to Malaysia, and we called this meal acclimation.

We had wanted to stop here for dessert earlier in the week, but it’s 10pm closures impeded us. So here we were back to try again for a full meal.

On this Wednesday it wasn’t busy. We were the only other table sitting down for dinner just after 8pm. Our neighbour was just clearing up. They had live music playing today, in hopes of drawing in a crowd. But sadly the musicians became just another patron, sitting and eating in between sets. The music was lovely it matched the exotic notes of the cuisine and we were surprise to learn a lot of it was unrehearsed, and done on the fly by the talented artist. So impressive that my guest approached them for a CD Sadly their talent and the restaurant’s quality of cooking was not being fully taken advantage of tonight. I sincerely wished it was busier when we came. It could have also made being the only ones to clap with the staff after each song less awkward. Given the business towers nearby, I imagine them fairly popular during the weekdays for lunch. They did have a set menu with meat and vegetable on rice for the noon hour.

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The setting was simple. The entry was a narrow path lined with lit boxes on the left. From them stood a row of plastic grass and wheat bound to add interest to the isle way. The room was painted with a plum-maroon tone that transitioned into a citrus yellow sunshine. On the opposite wall was a canvas of hibiscus flowers that ran down the entire dining area. In the middle was all dark brown furniture.

We were delighted to learn that today their tapas was 50% off. We took advantage by trying a few appies.

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There were no regrets with the “Mini soft shell crab”. The crabs were sautéed in fresh onion, garlic, and shallot; with mild chilli and fresh Indian black peppercorn. It was delicious. The breading was thick enough to easily hide the fact that you were literally eating a crab whole. The shell was crispy, the legs extra crunchy, and the insides just melted. It had a distinct pungent taste that meshed with the curry like paste coating it. And the crisp lettuce and onion salad under it gave the seafood the freshness it needed for balance. My description doesn’t make it sound all that good, but this is one that I will come back for and recommend fully. Plus at 50% off you don’t like it, you don’t feel as bad.

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We had a mix of satay, two each of their three varieties: chicken, beef, and lamb. These were charcoal grilled, marinated skewers with a spicy peanut dip. When they arrived, we could smell the smokey char of the meat. The beef was a little dry, and by comparison the chicken was perfectly tender. And each was a great price at 88 cent per skewer because of their 50% off deal.

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The “Lamb murtabak” was something my guest order for nostalgia, but didn’t come as he had anticipated. Instead as they were described: “a roti wrap stuffed with lamb and vegetable”. The greens inside was the same salad that it was sitting on”. It came with curry for dipping, that didn’t add much to the dish. I found it odd that the dish was served with the blade jutting out, but it was what was probably used to cut the wrap in half and just left their for aesthetics.

Traditional “murtabak” was more like two fluffy square pancakes sandwiching a meat-cake like square. This was not what he ordered. This was more like a Taiwanese beef wrap or spring roll. Compared to the other two appetizers, this fell short with not enough flavour. You could see the lamb, but there was not enough of it to taste it. Even soaking each the wrap in the curry didn’t help. Though it would have if we had taken a sip or shot of curry with every bite. The roti was good, I wished we just ordered a regular plate of it instead.

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For the entrees we got more of his childhood classics. The “Rendang beef” was what he would have for breakfast. A much heavier meal of tender beef stewed in coconut, gravy, and spices. For breakfast my guest would have had the meat prepared in the rice. I imagined it as an easy to grab and go rice burrito. This was also not as spicy and flavourful as he remembered.

In reality the stew was a hearty curry. A savoury mash of meat and potatoes. I would have liked some more vegetable with it like carrot or even more potato. Something to give it some freshness, a break from the chewy shreds of beef.

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The rice wasn’t part of the entree, we had to order a side of coconut rice for extra. Although the presentation soften that blow for me. Wrapped in a leaf to keep warm, the rice had a milky finish to it. Wished there was more of it per serving, especially to have with the fish below.

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The “Otak sole fillet” is a classic Nyonya dish made with fish fillet, spices, and herbs. “Nyonya” is a term used to describe the nomadic people of Malaysia. This too was not as expected, but tasted just as good. He thought it would be wrapped in pandan leaves, but came in tin foil instead. It looked like Chinese style sweet and sour style fish, where as “Otak sole fillet” is typically coated in a thick curry paste. Either way the fish was flaky tender and full of flavour. The breaded coating gave it some needed texture, so I was sad that it was mushy with the sauce it absorbed.

We saved room for dessert, but I was crushed that they were out of their new “pandan cheesecake with pineapple filling in the middle”. It sounded amazing. There aren’t many pandan dishes out there, let alone one that was a stuffed cheesecake. Instead we had two of their other unique desserts, but they fell short to the imagery I had for the cheesecake.

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The “Deep fried durian ice cream” was made with real durian, but not enough of it. It was like a corn dog of ice cream, but too much breading and not enough filling. It was a ball of ice cream that did not reach end to end of the corn dog. Though the mango drizzle did help to give all the extra breading some taste. But I wished I had just ordered a serving of durian ice cream instead. For those who have never had it, the taste and smell of durian is not for everyone. I find that you tend to have to be raised on it, to love, to crave it, and to want to pay for it. It reminded me of Brunei and childhood.

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The name “Kuih dadar” was misleading, where the description was more accurate. I expected a thick slab of glutinous cake. These were “hand rolled crepes flavoured with pandan juice, filled with grated coconut, steeped in Malaysian Palm sugar”. The colour was there, but there was no pandan flavouring. It and the coconut shreds were very dry together, with not enough sauce pooled at the bottom of the plate to help moisten it. Some condense milk on the side would have been nice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food was so good that I was sad that they weren’t more busy or more popular. Though in general, if well cooked, I have never had a bad Malaysian meal. It is one of those cuisines I like to recommend, and this is one of those places I like to bring people to for a unique cuisine profile. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KAYA
1063 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-229-5872
kayamalay.com
Kaya Malay Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hawkers Delight

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Street food done indoors, rediscovering my love of laksa.
My guest has never tried laksa before. This would be her first taste and her first time. I was flattered to be the one who would take her for one of my favourite dishes. A dish I grew up on and have had authentically at my place of birth in Southeast Asia.

When choosing the right destination for such a landmark, “Hawker’s” came to mind for authenticity in food and setting. She would get a similar experience as I have had. The restaurant has long lived on Main Street, and from its time garnered a large following of folks. Not just those wanting to reminisce over their childhood meals, but diners who have tried the exotic and have come back wanting more and more.

The space isn’t very large, tightly position tables and a counter that looks out the window. Most decide to take out. It is the type of food that isn’t platted and travels well in styrofoam. We however decided to eat in and do our christmas gift exchange here, after our meal. Which turned out to be weird at such a causal and compact setting. We ended up quickly peaking into each other’s bag and thanking each other’s generosity in quick breaths. All before clearing our table in a rush for those that stood in hovering wait of it.

You are not here for the comfort or the setting you are here for the quick and easy authentic food. You eat fast and leave full. Being serenaded by the exotic sounds of 80’s Chinese melodies, as told through the abundant use of electric piano and flute. A tune accompanied by the work from a bustling kitchen. The scrape of a heavy metal spatula on a cast iron wok and the steam hissing from a hot stove top. You could see the three wordless individuals preparing all meals to come. We got a view straight into the kitchen from our seats. Just a look past the archway in which we ordered from.

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The process begins by claiming your table. Handbags and oversized jackets come off to mark our territory. A table right in front of the counter, where throughout our meal, our view was the backsides of those looking up at the pictorial menu to order. However, we were just happy to have a seat. The entire menu is spelled out in pictures above the counter, and continue to expand along either ends of the wall. A look up at a bevy of noodle and rice dishes. Yellow noodles, orange broth, brown meats, and sprigs of green seem to be the reoccurring colours. No explanation, just photos and names that mean nothing to those who don’t understand the language. For those who needed the clarifying, their written menu was posted up on the left. This version did list ingredients.

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I allowed my guest to order and she ended up choosing two very similar dishes in terms of appearance and taste to try. You pay and are given a numbered card to symbolize your purchase. When time, you hand it back to the one who brings it out, in exchange for our entire order. There aren’t servers working the floor or checking on your meal. This is street style eating. The interaction ends when the exchange of food for money is completed. You help yourself to utensils and tea at a station by the cash register. Plastic cups for hot tea, and chopsticks in a caddy with bowls for those planning to share. Once done, you leave all used plastic dishwater behind for them to be bussed as you exit. If you don’t manage to finish your portions, taking the leftovers home costs the price of the box. 25 cents for the container to scoop what you want into it yourself.

“Laksa” is a noodle soup dish. It typically consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish; served in spicy soup. It either has a base of spicy curry and coconut milk, or sour asam (tamarind). It is most popular in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand.

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This version was made with thick wheat based noodles and watery coconut milk curry. Along with dried shrimp, tofu puff, fish cake, shredded chicken, bean sprouts, prawns, and a whole boiled egg sliced in half. It was a good first try for my guest, but lacked cream and spice for a seasoned veteran like myself. I also didn’t approve of their choice of noodles. I prefer the stringy lines of rice vermicelli that I am use to. It’s grainy texture would have better contrasted the chewy elements that bobbled around it. My guest liked it alright, but didn’t know what to expect facing the steam bowl. She almost expected it to be sour like Thai tom yum, given its neon hue. She found the broth thick and creamier than what she is use to and the flavours most floral and tropical with the use of coconut. She enjoyed the good mix of ingredients, adding salty bites and changing the flavour between mouthfuls. Overall this was good, but not the best place for laksa, I vowed to take her to others, in a progression of better.

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“Lontong”. I would have never ordered this one, so I too got to try something new. Although it was made with the same mild curry base as the laksa above, and therefore tasted alike. It was just more watered down with the liquid from all the boiled down vegetables. This was banana leaf flavoured pressed rice served in a mild vegetable curry made with coconut milk. Served with dried shrimp, tofu, egg, and shredded coconut. This was a mountain of texture to sift through, also not the most visually appealing plate with the wilted cabbage and mashed up rice and vegetables. I also missed a crunchy element to it, not enough coconut shreds to add some balance to an otherwise soggy bowl of boil. I ate quite a bit of it with the laksa above, but this would not be something I would like to have again. I eat for texture as much as taste, and this one hit missed it for me.

We were also considered the satay, but it is something they no longer offered. And passed on the roti because we could see that it came from a pre-packed bag. In fact, the walk towards the washroom at the back gave a very revealing look at their back of house operations. It would turn away those more fearful of an unkept kitchen. I was irked by the sight of preassembled noodle ingredients sitting in styrofoam cups. Rows or them out in the open, not covered, feet from the wafting fumes of the toilet and nearby refuse bins. Though it did not stop me/us from ordering the laksa it would later go into.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
All the walks of people that entered during our stay spoke to their good food and better prices. Although not the most luxurious of settings, it is a very telling one of the stalls serving such cuisine on the streets of Southeast Asia. I was just missing the blistering heat and the palm trees. Though a Vancouver summer at this restaurant would come close. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HAWKER’S
4127 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-709-8188
Hawker's Delight Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mamalee Malaysian Delight

I have been here a few times, but today would be the first visit with a guest of Malaysian descent. Someone more familiar to the cuisine than myself, and trying plates I otherwise wouldn’t have ordered. We also brought with us two others who were complete new to the cuisine.

 

I allowed the expert to order for the group. It made me happy to see his excitement, as evident on his face. He went through all the pages like a familiar book. Reading names in the perfect pitch and tone. Admittedly I only knew a handful of items and would only order a handful of items. So decided to write this post to commemorate dishes that I would not think to order myself. Dishes I only got to try because he ordered them. Dishes I liked but may not order again. Dishes that were good, but they just don’t hold the same childhood nostalgia as some of the other ones did for me.

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I describe Malaysian food as being on the sweeter side. The full contrast to other Asian styles of cooking. Where Vietnamese dishes balance sour tones, Japanese cuisine toggles salt, and Schezwan cooking highlights spicy peppers. The best example of this sweetness in savoury was with their “Roti Canai”. “Roti” is an Indian influenced flat bread. The Malaysian equivalent of naan, served similarly with curry. But here the curry is more watery, and sweetened with coconut milk. The first timers liked it, but I was disappointed by it. The flatbread was not as fluffy as I have had it and not as buttery as I would have liked it. But having nothing to comparing it to, our guests were happily satisfied. They devoured three servings worth, leaving only flaky crumbs on the plate.

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The restaurant is known for their “Hainanese chicken” so I continuously find myself ordering it upon every visit. This chicken requires very special preparation. It is described as a “delightful marriage of Chinese tradition and Malaysian complexity”. Hainanese Chicken uses the art of boneless-chicken cooking. The process involves the selection of quality meats, a delicate boiling process, and complex sauce-making. We ordered a regular “Hainanese Chicken Rice + Soup”. The bowl of soup is boiled from chicken bones, it’s clear broth was served first. As I have already learned, this chicken isn’t for everyone, as its colouring and temperate can be off putting. Especially to those unfamiliar and those who are use to only eating their meat warm. This was the case with our guest who liked the fact that the chicken was so juicy and so tender that almost melts in your mouth. Though she would have liked it served as warm as the rice it came with. The yellow garlic oil rice, the green onion spread, and red chilli sauce were flavours everyone enjoyed.

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I keep forgetting that their “laksa noodle soup” isn’t worth getting. The menu describes it as a “rich and attractively spiced affair with tasty Tropical ingredients”. Their glossy description over sold this as did their factoid that this is “the crown jewel of Malaysian Cuisine adored by food-lovers around the globe. In 2011, it was honored by CNN as one of the world’s 50 most delicious foods”. Reading the entire description only got you more disappointed. The soup’s texture was rich from the curry and coconut, but other than that, this version lacked anything that identified it as being any more than neon yellow-orange soup. It was bland, the chicken in the bowl was as flavourful as it looked. It was disappointing to me, as I knew what to compare it to. I didn’t have the heart to make the others aware of this.

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“Oyster Sauce Gai-Lan Vegetable”. “Gai-lan” is also referred to as “Chinese broccoli”. It’s stalk is crisp like that of regular broccoli, but instead of florets it has leaves and unsprouted buds. “Malaysian vegetarian cooking emulates the Chinese tradition of not over-cooking the vegetables so their freshness and original texture can be captured”. As a result the vegetable remains crunchy with an enjoyable and easy to chew through texture. The garlic topping was the best part.

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“Bak Kut Teh”. I don’t usually order soup, and even more so anything that would look like this. (I am a very visual diner) However this one got my Malaysian guest so excited that it quickly became a must try. It is an herbal soup with pork and mushroom slices. It is boiled and served in a clay pot. The several chips and dings on the containers rim spoke to its age and frequency of use and reuse. My guest highly recommended enjoying the soup over rice, so ordered a bowl of yellow rice for each of us. It was good, but I preferred the soup as is, watery; and the rice as is, dry I remembered eating many half soup half rice plates growing up, he must have done the same. I never liked Chinese broth soups, but there was something warming about this one that I did like. A unique pungent taste, but in a good way. A taste like no other, one that I was grateful for trying, but one so specific that I cannot see myself craving for. Though at the same time I might order it again just because I forgot what it tasted like. The meat was tender, but bland. I would have liked a small dish of garlic and brown sauce to dip it in to and have with the yellow rice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes
There aren’t many places offering Malaysian cuisine and this is the only one in this area, therefore I do foresee returning in the future. Though I probably won’t write about it, as I have already done so many times in the past. And always done so documenting the same things I always get. I need to come by more often to be able to grow tired of my favourite dishes and to instead long to try something new. To be willing to gamble on an unknown dish, that very well could be not as good as what I would have usually gotten. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MAMALEE
3144 W Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-733-8882
mamalee.ca
Mamalee Malaysian Delight Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe D’lite Express

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Aberdeen centre’s food court snakes around and allows over 20 different stands to have their own dedicated space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap. I will be covering all 20 of the foodcourt dining options across several posts.

The “Cafe D’lite Express” booth was familiar to me. I have previously visited their stand alone restaurant on west Broadway. Before and after they changed their name to “Mamalee”. So I knew we had to try their specialty, the “Hainanese chicken on rice”. This was the only stall serving Malaysian cuisine in the mall. They served a lot of the same things their main restaurant did. The more popular items were broadcasted on television screens. The before mentioned chicken, Singaporean style laksa, beef curry with rice, and their various sweet dessert drinks made with coconut milk. The rest of the menu was a coloured take out card plastered onto the sneeze glass.

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“Hainanese chicken on rice” has also been referred to as the “lazy chicken”. It comes without bones and practically melts in your mouth. It is an easy to eat chicken, and the most tender chicken I have ever had. And both are good reasons to order it time and time again. Hands down this is my favourite preparation of chicken and they do it well here. Though as a chicken dish severed moderately cool, my guest couldn’t get into it, having only enjoyed his proteins warmed up. Though he did like the oil infused rice it came with and found the chilli sauce helped to heat things up.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
When in Aberdeen and the need for Hainanese chicken arise, this is your place to go. And as the only vendor serving Malaysian cuisine in the food court, they have definitely set themselves apart from the pack. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CAFE D’LITE EXPRESS
Aberdeen Centre foodcourt
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com
Cafe D'Lite Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mamalee Malaysian Delight

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When I have a craving for Malaysian food, “Mamalee” is one of my solid go to’s. I have been a few times and have had varying experiences. So coming in 30 minutes to closing, I was highly curious to see if their cooking standards would be maintained. Would the food be just as good now, when they have a shorten time frame and the desire to leave work on time? I don’t know if it was just that we were extremely hungry, but today’s visit was enough to change my mine on the place.

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The restaurant was full. We weren’t the only ones trying to make it in before closing. We ordered and were given the warning that if we wanted more we had to ask for it now. The kitchen’s cut off was in ten minutes. We made it count, three dishes and two drinks for two girls.

The restaurant was recently renovated. It looked like a new space in its matte wood finish. A light coloured wooded wall and matching tables. Most eye catching were the blown up photos on the right side of the room. They showcased techniques mastered and ingredients used for their restaurant’s speciality: “Hainanese chicken”. “Boil, Slice, Blend, Grind. Their imagery made the room and the food to order more appealing.

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The menu was easy to navigate and enjoyable read. Each dish had is own pictures with details listed. It made things easy for those unfamiliar with the cuisine. Though tonight it was a room full of mandarin speakers. I guess because we ordered in English, unlike the rest of the tables we were only offered the very western fork and spoon. We rolled with it. I prefer metal to wood and enjoy the ease using such utensils bring.

As mentioned their signature dish is the “Hainanese chicken”, so we had to get a portion. Knowing it was good we ordered it in a large. This is their most popular dish, earning it its own two pages on the menu. Each variation had its own photo. The only dish available in various sizes and prepared in many ways. It was even offered as a side or topping in other dishes. For example, the “Hainanese chicken” laksa.

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This is boneless chicken steamed until tender, drizzled in a homemade soy sauce, and paired with a side of homemade chilli and ginger dipping sauce. It is served with a side of fragrant ginger flavoured yellow rice. Points for the presentation. They took the time to put the rice in a mould, and took the time to arrange each piece of chicken in a circle around it. As for taste, there was no better description than what the menu gave. As expected this was a well seasoned, extremely tender serving of chicken. When taken with chilli, it made for the prefect spicy and salty bite. My only gripe was with the pieces of chicken. The plate and meat were displayed like a large, but with such small cuts of meat, it was more a small. I felt cheated, and probably was. It was the end of service in ten minutes and we were the last table to order.

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Ordering the large earned us a extra bowl of lotus root soup for one to share between two. This was a murky broth with meat shavings and chalky lotus chunks. Unimpressive, though it too could due to the in fact that they were closing soon and facing their end of day. It is highly probably that this gritty slurry was from the bottom of the pot. Either way we left it pretty much untouched. Compared to what we ordered and what was to come, this did not interest us, nor did we wish to have it spoil our appetites.

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“Seafood laksa noodle soup”. A yellow egg noodle and rice noodle mix, served in an aromatic spicy coconut curry soup with prawns, imitation crab meat, tofu puffs, and bean sprouts. I have never had it offered with two types of noodles else where. Together they served as an enjoyable combination of textures, two gauges of chewy. Though they were often overwhelmed with the sheets of imitation crab that rolled out. I could have used more of everything, but that. Especially the noodles and the bean sprouts, as they served as a great foundation in which to enjoy the seafood and soup with. The broth was mostly a chicken base. It was not the slightest over powered by coconut milk. like at other place. As a result it was light and full of spice.

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“Spicy yin zhen fen”. Thick round rice noodles prepared with a variety of fish cakes in a house spicy sauce. The menu listed that there would be a sprinkling of green onion and sesame seeds over this mound. We got neither. Chalk another thing up to us arriving late and them wanting to close quick. Without the fresh green colour that the herb would have provided, the plate looked lack lustre. A watered down and unappealing pale neon orange. And because the noodles were shaped similar to the fish cake, they too added nothing to an already boring looking plate. Taste wise it was much better. The texture was similar to Korean style rice cakes, but the sauce didn’t pack the same punch. Fun to eat, with squishy bits; but things did become boring quick with its one note flavour. Once again the green onions and sesame seeds could have helped.

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“Iced Chendol” and “Iced Tapioca” drinks. These were both drinks that ate like a dessert. Both were served at room temperature by adding warm ingredients to cold liquid. These frozen drinks are an acquired taste, not for everything. Not as sweet as your usual North American desserts. And they require a lot more chewing that your usual chilled beverage or cold dessert. It was like au king paste through a straw, but have to chew before swallowing.

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I enjoyed the green pandan coloured and flavoured jelly in the “Chendol” the most, but found we were given only a few strands of it. It was the sweeter of the two, but they didn’t taste too different from one another. Though they did have many of the same ingredients: yam, sweet potato, and red bean.

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The “iced tapioca” got its name from the white to clear tapioca pearls, and its colour from the purple taro.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food is good and it comes quick. Most are flavours and things that are hard to find in the city. So a mistake in a plate, or the lack of care from a server will not be a big enough of a deterrent from bringing me back. And tonight, things were better than expected, given the rush job of a cooking crew wanting to end their shift work. Don’t deny your cravings.

MAMALEE
3144 W Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-733-8882
mamalee.ca
Mamalee Malaysian Delight on Urbanspoon

Malaysian Hut Restaurant

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Hailing from South East Asian and having been back on several occasions I find myself craving the cuisine I grew up on and the foods my parents indulged me in. So as a family we drove out to Surrey to try “Malaysian Hut”. This is our second go at the place, the first was on a Monday, only to find out they were closed. The website and the menu listed is really what had us wanting to go in the first place. The food looked authentic and the descriptions sounded delicious, triggering fond memories.

It is a small family run business open since 1998, specializing in East Malaysian style cooking. They go so far as to import most of their ingredients straight from their hometown of Miri, Sarawak. Their claim of offering traditional Malaysian dishes that you cannot find anywhere else in the city is accurate. Believe me, I have been on the constant search. No other places I have been to offer Pulut Pangang (sweet glutinous rice with shrimp paste wrapped in banana leaf), Rojak (traditional Malaysian salad), Loh Mee (egg noodles with a minced meat sauce), Kuching Curry Laksa (noodle in soup) and Kuih Dadar (crepe infused with pandan leaves and wrapped with finely shredded coconut and palm sugar).

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The restaurant was hard to see from the road. We missed it several times rounding the block in our car. The dark of the night and their unlit awning made the restaurant’s name impossible to read. And the small neon “open” sign wasn’t even visible. It also didn’t help that a row of thin pines fenced them and their parking lot away from the street. Because of this we suspect they do most of their business during lunch, when its bright out their restaurant is visible and the surrounding establishments are also open for business.

Looking in we were intimated by the empty restaurant before us. Though found it oddly comforting to have a couple come in as we were about to leave. We had called ahead so one table was prepared with cutlery. We walked in and were greeted warmly. Family members came and went during our stay. We assumed the mother was the one to welcomed us, and had just finished her shift. It was her daughter that was taking over, she would be the one to serve us. As is the case with many small family run restaurants it is cash only, a fact we were observant enough to read on the sign taped by the cash desk.

The restaurant was dressed like a home. A well themed living room with orange walls, wicker chairs, and curtains of beige and white. It was more quaint and cozy then other small restaurants offering similar cuisine. Decorations consisted of artwork and artifacts, a lot of which we couldn’t place. Framed medallions, panel carvings, straw hats, stone statues, and a wooden paddle. It was the country music that threw me off the most, it is not what I imagine hearing at a hole in the wall Malaysian restaurant. It really didn’t match the cuisine.

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We appreciated the design of the menu. A lengthly laminated sheet with pictures and descriptions for every item offered. Though it only looked longer than it actually was. There were a few items that were only slight variations on the same thing. For example both the flat rice noodles and the egg noodles started off with their intended noodles, bean sprouts, and eggs. What had them differing and earning their own title was the secondary ingredients used: barbecue pork, shredded chicken, or grilled shrimp, to name a few.

As the only ones dining our food was made to order and came in a speedy fashion. There is comfort in being able to hear your food being made in the kitchen. The scrape of the wok with metal spatula, and the sizzle of fresh ingredients hitting oil.

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“Roti Canai”, this one is a must order for my mother. Crispy pancakes with curry sauce. Despite what the menu suggested this wasn’t a traditional curry. The sauce had a flavour we couldn’t put our finger on. It was warm and spicy enough, but so heavy that it didn’t pair as well with the light and sweet roti. Each piece of pancake was light with an enjoyable elastic-like texture. Not at all greasy, it was best enjoyed with bare hands dipping dough into sauce.

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“Pulut Panggang”, sweet glutinous rice filled with spicy sun dried shrimp & shredded coconut. We choose this based on the photo advertised. In the menu it was shown as sticky rice packaged in a wrap of banana leaves. So we were undoubtedly disappointed to see the brick of yellow rice presented before us. The original intent was to have the rice grilled in the leaf, giving it a nice char. A smokey smell and a toasted taste. The rice was fragrant and neon yellow from the turmeric used. The pairing of the sweet rice and the spicy filling were a nice play. The side of shredded purple cabbage and carrot was a needed element to fresh up the plate.

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“Nonya Mee Hoon Goreng”. Vermicelli stir fried with sambal sauce, bean sprouts, sun dried shrimps, and prawns. According to my mother “Nonya” referred to an ethnicity of Chinese people mixed with the locals of Malaysia. Apparently they are known for their quality of food. If that is indeed the case, given the great flavours of this noodle dish, the name was aptly chosen. The pan fried noodles were some of the most tastiest I have ever had, flavoured with a strong shrimp paste. Layers of spices created evolving flavours that kept the whole dish interesting from start to finish. I was however disappointed that we were only given two grilled prawns for all the noodles. Carefully laid on top, the shrimp served as more of a decoration than a main ingredient.

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“Nasi Lemak”, coconut steam rice served with curry chicken, fried eggs, chilli seasoned anchovies, fresh cucumber, and salted peanuts. This was a complete meal with plenty of sides. Lots of elements kept the plate interesting, but it isn’t necessarily a combination for everyone. When was the last time you had a breaded and deep fried hard boiled egg, that was then covered in tiny salted fish? Not for everyone. The chicken curry was dominating in heat and spice. It easily overpowered everything, which the cucumber aided by offering a descent palette cleanser. The peanuts in this dish are usually fried, these were not. The frying process would have had them more fragrant, but as is they still added a nice crunchy texture.

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“Char Kway Teow”, the “regular” version of rice noodles with bean sprouts and BBQ pork. The taste was a little different than what I am familiar with, possibly some black bean sauce in the mix? I found it a little salty with not enough noodles to BBQ pork ratio. Overall average and a little disappointing.

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“Fish Ball Soup”. Hand rolled fish balls with vermicelli or glass noodles. We choose the latter, as it’s the noodle more commonly used. It tasted like something my aunt would and could make, feel good home cooking. The soup was seasoned with sesame oil and onion from the flakes of fried onion sprinkled on top. Served last, the soup was unfortunately bland when compared to everything else before. Though it is meant to be a lighter clear broth. The fish balls tasted fresh, you could tell they were mostly made from real fish paste. Each round was spongy and firm in texture, bursting with fishy goodness.

Only after we asked for the bill did we see the sign advertising their daily special of “low sue fen”. This is a special type of noodle named after it “mouse” like appearance. A noodle I love and a noodle I have yet to see offered at any restaurant. I wish we knew about this before we ordered. Had I known this would have been ordered instead of the “Char Kway Teow”. I was disappointed to have missed it. It would have been nice to be told of specials as we went through our menu.

The washroom showed the age of the building which the main dining room was able to hide with its yellow lights and distracting decorations. The one room unisex stall hummed from a blinking florescent light. Erie, it was a scene I could imagine from a horror movie gas station. The washroom itself was grungy. Decorated with dried and fake flowers and odd nick knacks. It looked like a collection of items that the family no longer wanted, but didn’t want to waste my throwing out, so put them on display here. A bouquet of rainbow dyed and now dried flowers? and decorative soaps festively shaped and protected in cellophane.

The bill came with some fruit candies, it was a nice touch and much needed given the about of spice we left with in our mouths. The tea helped but was not enough of a palette cleanser. Even the candy wasn’t enough. I looked forward to going home and brushing my teeth.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I only say no to returning because of the distance we had to travel. I cannot justify driving three cities over and spending almost an hour in the car just for Malaysian food, despite how good it is. We enjoyed what we had though found the cuisine to be more Chinese style Malaysian, than true authentic Malaysian. An therefore a few flavours we expected were lacking. I was also somewhat sadden that our meal wasn’t served on plastic plates like you would get from outdoor hawker stands in Southeast Asia, something I oddly miss. My mother found the food good, but the flavours over the top. Being familiar with the recipes and having made a handful of them herself she feel restaurant style cooking is exaggerated. She declared it was like they over compensate to ensure flavour. Smart, given food and opinion is subjective. Hedge your bets by jam packing dishes with spices and herbs, and wish for the best. Once again I enjoyed what we had, but cannot declare it the best or even the most authentic. Good, but I will not be back for more because of distance. Though if you are in the area or live in proximity I suggest stopping by for some rice and noodles. Where it’s cash only, the prices are decent, and the serving sizes are average. Don’t deny your cravings.

MALAYSIAN HUT RESTAURANT
14727 108 Ave Suite 108, Surrey BC, V3R1V8
604-588-1718
malaysianhutrestaurant.com
Malaysian Hut Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Spoon Kitchen

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My mother’s birthday, a family dinner and we wanted Malaysian. Stakes were high for me to choose a decent place, my parents are particular with their food and they know what authentic Malaysian should taste like. I spent a great deal of time searching for the right place. And unfortunately this wasn’t our first choice. Our intended destination was closed on a Sunday, but we were determined to have Malaysian so came here. A place I have yet to blog about, and one within our adjacent area. On this dining adventure I was most enthused by the idea of a more in depth blog post. One written with insights from those most closest to me and most familiar with the cuisine.

Located in the heart of Kitsilano, parking is a battle of luck and chance. There was a need to circle to find an empty pay for parking meter, road side. After such a loop we lucked out and found a free spot in the surrounding residential area. Between Cypress and Maple street the restaurant is not easy to find. They are not immediately located along the side walk. In fact the awning and restaurant’s sign was barely visible from the side walk. Not to mention its name was spelled out in a white font against an off white backdrop. It required a set of stairs and a descent to discover the front door. Therefore it was no surprise to enter an almost empty establishment at 5:30pm. The sandwich board outside did its best to draw in spontaneous guests, from its knee height. Though like us, majority of their patrons to come had made reservations ahead of time. And as soon as 6pm hit they all came and the place was full.

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Past the glass entrance decorated with informative stickers and their full menu, was a nice setting. One not typical of other and most Malaysian restaurants. Dark with accents of purple the place popped. A narrow interior, two rows of tables partnered with black cushy booths created an isle in the middle. The walls on opposing sides were decorated differently. One with a fake stone veneer, the other painted in a butter yellow. On one hung chalkboards celebrating “Daily Specials” in coloured chalk. On the other, mirrors in wooden frames, meant to give the room an illusion of space and depth. Overhead a very serious sounding, wordless melody played, it married well with the more sophisticated theme they were going for. The type of music you would think to hear at a spa. My parents found the above unauthentic, believing the restaurant has taken on a more upscale appearance only to cater to the area, just like their menus did. It didn’t bother me much as I thought it a clever way to bring in more clients. To introduce many to this niche cuisine by easing them in with a familiar setting. They had their logo etched in glass by the entrance. Tables were pre set with squared drinking glasses, black side plates and metal forks and spoons. The latter was most surprising as you usually partner south East Asian cuisine with plastic dish wear and chopsticks.

Judging by the diverse crowd in today what they were doing to bridge the cultural gap was effective. The menu spoke of North American influences through “crispy fried calamari”, “peppercorn and garlic tiger prawns”, “braised lamb shank”, and “caramelized ginger black cod”. And even aside from the above, not everything was kept strictly in the realm of Malaysian: “Pad Thai”, Kung Pao chicken” and “hot and sour soup”. Some of the most popular dishes originating out of Asia. And for those who wanted to take on Malaysian cuisine, but didn’t know where to start; there are pre-set menus that took the guest work out of ordering.

An aching point for me was their dish ware. Matte black plates that highlighted greasy fingerprints. Not only did it dampen my photos, but it had me considering how many hands have touched my plates, and how many of them were actually clean. And with each motion of utensil against plate, you were greeted with a heavy and irritating scrapping sound. This seems very neurotic, it probably only bothered me.

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“Roti Canai”. Described as an all time favourite, we agreed. This was a flakey layered naan bread served with a coconut curry dipping sauce. I never find an order of this to have enough curry for the stack of roti provided. The naan was delicious, not greasy, it easily pulled apart. All layers were light and flaky, with just a bit of sweetness embedded within. We believed the dough had to have been prepared ahead of time, then deep fried as needed. It greedily soaked up the savoury curry. A curry that was a too runny, and needed more spices to aid in its character. It barely flavoured the already fragrant and buttery roti.

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“Satay Skewer” in lamb or chicken. We got both, two of each. Doubling the minimum of two required per order. Each were marinated in exotic herbs with coconut milk and spices, then served alongside their homemade peanut sauce. The chicken was salty and the lamb even more so. Though my father reminded us that too much salt is better than bland meat. A taste well tempered by the nutty peanut sauce, which is the best part of having satay in my opinion. These sticks of meat had my parents reminiscing about the satay they used to enjoy. Back in Brunei from a vendor on a bike, he used charcoal.

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“Char kueh teow”. Flat rice noodles with shrimp, fish cake, beef, squid, sweet chili, soy sauce, egg, and bean sprouts. I was impressed by the ingredient line up, having both beef and seafood is rare. This was done right, fried with plenty of heat, you could tell by its fragrant-ness. Each strand of flat noodle was fully coated in the brown of the light soy sauce. Where at other places you would have chunks of noodles stacked together, and pulling them apart would reveal they were still their natural white. We just wished there was more of it. For there were more ingredients on the dish than the actual noodle, not common; other places would have a 3:1 noodle to ingredient ratio. The beef was cooked well, a nice chewy softness. My father declared this as one of the better “Char kueh teow” he has had in Vancouver.

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“Sambal fried rice with seafood”.
Chilli shrimp paste flavoured fried rice with shrimp, scallop, squid, shallots, green beans and scrambled egg. This was as delicious as it was fragrant. A smell distinctive and telling of the flavour that stood before you: a tangy fishiness, a taste that long lingered in your mouth. The seafood that accompanied it was tender and fresh.

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“Rendang beef curry”. A boneless, tender beef cooked with a paste of ground onion, lemongrass, and chilli. And served in a spicy aromatic curry. My mother had the foresight of saving some of our roti appetizer for this more spicy and very flavourful curry. There were numerous chunks of tender beef. Each morsel easily pulled apart, though needed some rice as base. Bland rice to tone down the amped up beef.

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Without an option for plain rice we choose turmeric over coconut or jasmine. Each flavour came with its own varying price. In retrospect we could have asked whether or not they could prepare regular steamed rice instead of assuming they only offered what the menu read. Though I did enjoy the bold yellow hue of the rice bowled up before us. The curry came before the rice, and a reminder to one of the servers was needed to have it while our curry was still warm.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I like a more casual setting for this more casual cuisine. Such reminds me of my youth and trips back to Brunei. Where this type of food was had daily, eaten as a meal, and not an occasion. Hearty dishes, bold in flavours and meant for sharing. Here I will be returning for the cuisine not the decor. Although the portions were smaller than what I am use to, for the food and the price; what we enjoyed was authentic. The most authentic I have found so far. Other than the satay everything was delicious and differed from one another in both texture and taste, yet they all complimented and allowed for mixed bites, an alternation of rice and noodles. As a whole the meal was heavy and on the oiler side. It left you feeling like you ate more than you actually did. Dishes were missing a pallet cleanser, like the freshness of some sliced raw cucumber, the tang from a side papaya salad, or some tea to help break down the oil. But like I said this is the most authentic Malaysian in Vancouver that I have discovered to date, so I will be back and need to try their laksa when I do. Don’t deny your cravings.

SPOON KITCHEN
1909 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J1M7
604-428-6369
spoonkitchen.ca
Spoon Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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