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Category: South East Asian

Manis Restaurant

We were in Surrey this evening and seeing as we made the trip out, we decided to take advantage of our locale by visiting “Manis”, a Pan Asian restaurant in Whalley. My guest learned about it from another trusted blogger’s review: Sherman of @shermansfoodadventures. And I am always down to try any restaurant that celebrates food and the cuisine that I grew up with, hailing from South East Asia.

Tucked away amongst high rises, on a slower street, it isn’t easy to spot; you need to know of it to know where to go. The inside of this two storey property is set up fairly cozy, like a local cafe. Artificial vines wrapped around the room and vinyls of leaves adhered, helped to round out the woodsy theme. Empty walls were filled with framed photos of their menu items; this I found to be an easier way to order, than simply reading off their written menu with a few scattered photos. With only a few diners and no music overhead, you eat to the sounds of a humming fan and whizzing machinery. Not the type of place you want to linger and enjoy at. More eat and go, or take out.

Seeing as ”Manis” was Sherman’s recommendation, we also ordered what he suggested, like the “Singapore laksa”. This was a little too bland for my tastes, I grew up with laksa having plenty of fermented shrimp paste. Shrimp paste not only gives the broth spice, tang, and kick; but it also uplifts its accompanying ingredients as well. I didn’t get it here with the rice vermicelli, chicken, shrimp, tofu puffs, boiled egg, bean sprouts, and shrimp based coconut cream soup. The soup was creamy and the flavour nice, but this was not my favourite rendition of the popular noodle soup.

I liked the “Beef nasi lemak” more and found it more authentic. Malaysian rendang beef curry, coconut rice, egg, pickled vegetables, peanuts, and anchovy samabl. A choose your own adventure in a meal. You pick and curate your perfect bite, balancing the tough beef with fragrant coconut milk infused rice; or the spicy pickles and fresh cucumber, with tangy anchovy.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t drive all the way to Surrey for this. Nor would I necessarily go out of my way to try more of it when the area. It was home style cooking, good but I can’t help comparing to my mother’s cooking that I grew up with and prefer. Don’t deny your cravings.

MANIS
10768 Whalley Blvd #116, Surrey, BC V3T 0B7
604) 497-1778
manisrestaurant.com

Shiok Singaporean Cuisine

Today was my grandmother’s birthday, so I took her and my parents out for lunch to celebrate. I have been wanting to visit the new Singaporean restaurant “Shiok” after learning about it from @pickydiner. Their small list of offerings was my childhood. Names of dishes and lists of ingredients I remembered so long ago. So what better company to see if measured up to memory than with the ones that introduced me to the cuisine.

At this point “Shiok” has only been open for 6 weeks. They are still going through their soft launch period, where they are taking in suggestions and tweaking their recipes. Speaking with the owner, he explained that this is his wife’s hobby and passion project. Their goal is to figure out how to make their customers happy, while still keeping their food authentic to Singaporean flavours. Flavours that aren’t as salty or spicy as Chinese or Indian cuisine, but have similar dishes and similar execution. The restaurant’s name means “satisfying” in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect that my family is well versed in. And we certainly left with that sentiment in mind.

It was busy right when they opened, with a steady flow of traffic.They are a partial service restaurant. You order at the counter where you pay right away. Dishes are brought out to you, and you are kindly asked to bus your own table after you are done. Clearing the used trays, and plastic cups of help yourself water. And discarding food waste, garbage, and cans and bottles in the right receptacle.

You seat yourself at any of the barstools by the window, or around the corner in their dimly lit seating area. Like their exterior the interior is pretty simple, a wood bean ceiling; wooden tables, benches, and chairs; and a few photos of Singaporean scenery clustered together on their all white walls. The most ornate part of the restaurant is the tiling under foot. A pattern of two tonal grey flowers repeating.

Excited over everything on their shorter menu, I pretty much ordered it all and all their daily specials. In fact, it is actually easier to list what we didn’t have. Which was the tofu appetizer in a sweet and spicy rojak sauce, their hot chicken porridge only available from Wednesday to Saturday, and the chilli squid and prawn. We ordered so much for four people that we had plenty of leftovers, and we filled up 8 out of the 10 spots on their introductory stamp card. You get a stamp for every $10 spent here, and after you collect 10 you get one menu item for free. It is pretty easy to accumulate points considering the portions are on the smaller side and majority of the appetizers are $5, and the entrees, $10.

The “Chicken Wings” came out piping hot. Deep fried crispy in a prawn-spiced seasoning. Although I didn’t taste any of the mentioned seafood flavour on them. They just tasted like regular, salty, deep fried wings with a juicy centre. Good, but not something that I can’t get else where.

We all liked the “Roti Prata”. Flaky Indian flatbread served with a chicken curry gravy for dipping. The roti was light and chewy, not overly oily, its sweetness paired well with the tone of the curry.

It is best to eat the “Satay” sooner then later. The more they were allowed to cool, the tougher they got. Each order comes with four skewers, and four smaller chunks of meat per skewer; in your choice of either beef or chicken. Served with their paste-like peanut sauce. This wasn’t my favourite rendition of this. The beef and chicken were equally dried and things didn’t improve when dipped into the minced peanut mix. I would skip this one next time around.

We had to try their “Laksa”, as Singapore’s famous curry noodles with slices of fish cake, shrimp halves, tofu puffs, and hard boiled egg. You have your choice of either white or yellow noodles. I was given a choice of both mixed, which I opted for, however we needed up only receiving the yellow noodles. Whereas traditionally, vermicelli is the noodle of choice here. The laksa has some heat to it, but only enough to heighten the flavour, and not enough to burn your tongue or take away from the layered broth. Overall a good take, not one that necessarily stood out, but one to satisfy if you are craving laksa in the area.

Now the “Boneless Chicken Rice” is one worth blogging about. This is their traditional Singaporean take on Hainanese chicken rice and I have never had a more delicious version here in Vancouver. The chicken was extremely tender, even the white breast meat slices were succulent. And when paired with a dab in their sweet soy sauce, and coupled with their flavoured rice, this was perfection. My favourite dish of the day, and the one I would come back for.

It came with a side of chicken soup that was just as fragrant. Made with stock from the bones of the chicken we were enjoying boneless.

The “Mee Siam” isn’t one that I grew up on, but one I enjoyed being able to try today. A sweet, sour, and mildly spicy rice vermicelli topped with shrimp, tofu puffs, and egg; all served in a tamarind-base gravy. It had a unique flavour, unexpectedly tangy, and reminiscent of pad Thai thanks to its use of tamarind.

My father’s favourite dish was the “Nyonya Chicken Curry”, a fragrant Peranakan coconut chicken curry. He liked how sweet it was with the generous use of coconut milk. The chicken was so tender that the meat flaked off the bone, and the chunks of potato just melted under the pressure of your spoon. We confirmed that this was the same curry as what we had to dip our roti into above, although I found this one more savoury, and the other sweet.

My mother’s favourite dish was the “Beef Rendang”, slow-cooked spicy curried coconut beef served with rice. The pulled and mashed meat had a dull heat and specific tang to it. I found it a little too salty and sharp for my tastes, and that the pieces were inconsistent, from super soft to over cooked and hard. The latter only worsened when paired with the hard side of rice.

Not on their regular laminated menu were the following “specials”, a few offerings written in chalk by the counter. The “Mee rebus” is a boiled noodle dish. Yellow noodles in a thick potato-based gravy, sprinkled with tiny dried shrimp and chilli. It was saucy. You could takes the shrimp, but I didn’t like the flavour of the cooked lettuce coming through with it. (This is more a person thing.)

The “Seaweed chips” where a nice snack to start on. Seaweed and wonton shards fried for a nice crispy crunch. I would rather a bowl of these than potato chips any day.

And for dessert we had their pandan cassava cake for $3. I found the price point fair for the taster. I got the flavour of pandan from this soft and chewy slice and not much texture from the shards of coconut, which I don’t like. A nice gentle end to a more flavourful meal. Seeing as their desserts seem to rotate, I would love to try more of their pandan creations.

And to drink they had Singaporean style coffee and tea called “Kopi” and “Teh”. It is typically served with condense milk, but you can also order it black (kopi/teh-O) or with evaporated milk (kopi/teh-C). I had my teh with condense milk for a sweeter beverage and my grandma enjoyed her kopi-o with evaporated milk for a more healthier option. She found it authentic and not too bitter.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It is worth nothing that I am definitely bias here, these were my childhood meals, and a walk through memory lane for my family. We enjoyed being able to taste and try so many nostalgic dishes together. My grandmother loved everything and both her and my parents told the owners they would be recommending them to their friends and families. And once again we all left with the sentiment, “Shiok”. We were satisfied. Don’t deny your cravings.

SHIOK
1716 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5N 2S4
604-423-3838
shiok.ca

Penang Delight Express Cafe

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Coming as a recommendation from a Malaysian coworker, I went in with high hopes. I had asked for her vote on the best bowl of laksa in the city and this what she came up with. She raved how their Hainanese chicken was the best and their laksa the most authentic. Unfortunately my experience did differed greatly, though this may have bed because she had suggested their first location in West Vancouver; And I had visited what they called their “express cafe” on Renfrew. I did clarify that the recipes were the same and the quality was on par from location to location.

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The express was a small hole in the wall, near an elementary school, surrounded by residential living. Here they were thriving where the other restaurants before it have come and gone. This is the neighbourhood I grew up in and am reminded of the rotation of small cafés, from chicken to Chinese. Malaysian cuisine is a little more unique and with the love of laksa on the rise, I hope to see them as a more permanent fixture in the neighbourhood.

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The place was rustic and authentic. Rustic with an almost village-like quality in their heavy use of wood. Wood planks lining the bottom of the walls, wood boards making up the floor, and wooden beams keeping the whole place up. Darken with the brown walls and black tables and chairs, it gave the place a feeling of seclusion A leave from the bright lights and loud noises of the world outside, it almost mimicked the simplicity of rural life. The space was authentic by way of all the souvenirs native to Malaysia and South East Asia, I recognized a lot of the items framed and suspended from the wall. Familiar by sight, but unknown by name. Rope hung gourds, Chinese charms in red and gold, and sheets of traditional embroidered fabric sandwiched on display.

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Mounted desk fans on walls, kept the place cool, pointed at a 45 degree angle. A little primary, but it got the job done. The rest or the wall space was kept busy with rows and columns of photos. Pictures of dishes made and food severed on display; no only as decoration, but as a visual menu in place of where the paper version lacked.

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Very unique was the wall mounted double row of shelves by every table. A safe holding for your belongs off the table and out of your way. They made for a very solid home for your cellphones, keys, wallets and other handhelds.

 

I came in knowing exactly want I wanted, the dishes I grew up eating, the ones I am always ordering, and the very can never find replicated just so.

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Malaysian milk tea.

 

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“Cendol”, a sweet iced dessert like beverage found common in Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia. In the Philippines a similar version is called, “halo halo”. This rendition was made with coconut milk, red bean, creamed corn, and pandan leaf jelly noodles. Corn is a popular South East Asian dessert ingredient because of its sweetness. Though even with it present here I found the drink could have used more condensed milk and the texture was off putting. It tasted chalky with mushed beans and the soggy corn. The neon green tapioca worms were frozen, and therefore also gritty. I did not enjoy this interpretation of my favourite drink and left majority of it untouched.

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“Roti Canai”, an order of two pieces of crispy Indian style pancake served with a curry dipping sauce. The roti was light and fluffy, layers easily pulled from one another. It was the perfect texture with hardly any oil remaining from the frying process. These were soft pieces that easily soaked up the curry. A good thing as the curry was on the watery side. I enjoy a thick curry, solid chunks that get scooped up like paste. This version was worse still, bland, despite its florescent colouring.

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“Rojak Fruit Salad”. A unique salad with an acquired taste and smell, something so different that it may not be for everyone. Served cold this salad is sweet and spicy, but best had with a generous sprinkling of crushed peanuts. This is the first time I have seen it on any menu and been able to order it outside of my native birthplace, Brunei; or from my parent’s kitchen. Its original flavour comes from the thick dark syrup like coating marinating each piece, a taste I have grown accustom to and often crave. This version came with tofu puffs, green apple, cucumber, pineapples, and light crisps at the bottom. The version I expected and am use to includes squid and a lot more peanuts. With a taste so prominent I questioned if it overpowered all that we had with it, causing other dishes that should be well season to appear more bland. A possibility that may need further investigation. Either way if you order this, I suggest ending your meal with it.

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“Hainanese Chicken Rice”. By look alone this didn’t seem tasty, the chicken was bland like its colouring. It could have used more soy and additional salt to perk up its flavour. The chicken however was steamed thoroughly and remained tender. We got the lunch hour special, only available between 11:00am to 2:00pm. It gave us a smaller portion for less, that included a bowl of rice cooked in chicken broth. Typically the chicken is so flavourful that there is a need for rice to balance out the taste. Here the chicken did not have enough kick and the rice with it was a little dry.

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“Curry Laksa”. When I asked for the “traditional” laksa this was what was referred to me, a choice over the seafood laksa or the Assam laksa. With a choice of beef, chicken, fish balls or mixed vegetables; we went with chicken. Only to be disappointed by the type of chicken. I expected shredded chicken or a chicken cooked in a curry sauce, a chicken as spicy as the soup promised to be. Instead we were given three pieces Haiwanese chicken, the same chicken we ordered a full serving of and found too bland to finish. We were thoroughly disappointed. Why wouldn’t the server make mention of this? In hind sight we should have gotten the fish balls to add some much needed flavour to another bland dish. At least the few slices of fish cake and the few chunks of tofu puffs also in the mix, added a much needed partner to the two kinds of noodles swimming in the tasteless broth. The traditional vermicelli noodles with a few stray strands of a wider egg noodle. Purposeful or not, I considered this a bonus. When our main server, (a young man who did not take our order) asked if we liked everything I was brutally honest. He revealed that the laksa is made every other day and everything is made the same consistently. He apologized for my unsatisfactory experienced
and suggested that maybe there was not enough coconut milk? At least I could be sure he knew what he was talking about, he reassured me that he was from Kuala Lumpur.

I really wanted to try their pandan desserts but was already disappointed by so much that I didn’t want to push my luck.

I believe it should be the server’s job to gage their customers. To assess plates and ask questions, to see if everything was satisfactory, that the food was to their liking. The easiest way is to gauge is by what is left on plates and if there is a willingness to pack any of it up. We checked off both criteria. Given that he had asked the questions, and knew I wasn’t a fan of the food, I was disappointed that he made no effort to make amends on the bill. No coupon to come back and try again, no discount to smooth over the experience, no complimentary dessert to have me leave on a high note. Yet I still tipped generously, wanting to support a small shop serving the cuisine I love.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Believe me I really wanted to like this place, I was really looking forward to it, and I almost feel bad for not. Everything looked good on paper, and even better in person; it’s just a shame that the taste did not follow through. I can’t be sure if it was the food or me. We started with rojak and its flavour was so strong and so unique that maybe it could have clouded my judgment on the others that came after it? Like I said, I want to love this place, it has all the dishes and all the flavours I enjoy, and is so close to my home that it makes for the perfect craving stop. But with food this disappointing I won’t be back for redemption anytime soon. Perhaps I will investigate their original location. Don’t deny your cravings.

PENANG DELIGHT
3885 Rupert Street, Vancouver BC, V5R2G7
604-566-9898
penangdelight.com/rupert
Penang Delight Cafe 馬來檳城美食 on Urbanspoon

Indochine Kitchen + Bar

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In in my original and first post, I mentioned coming back. So here I was today, back to take advantage of their wing Wednesday deal. My first visit was well over two years ago, when the restaurant first opened. Today it looked a lot different as they grew to accommodate their business. Therefore this needs a new post.

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The location is easily identified as the dark building on the corner of Ontario and Broadway. The one with its window ledges lined with fake bamboos rods in a variety of lengths and width. Quite eye catching really. A sign at the door instructs you to “wait to be seated”, though this may be a while as the front of house was ran by three young women who were responsible not only for bar-tending, serving, but also the hostess-ing. We made the mistake of not calling in a reservation, as tonight was busier with not only the hockey game playing, but the popularity of wings. Thankfully I was here early enough to avoid the crowd and a potential wait.

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The place was bumping at 7pm on a Wednesday. Loud music with lots of base played as guests shouted. The dim lights and loud chatter made things feel like a dance club. Considering the hockey game was on and all six flat screens mounted around the room was broadcasting the game I knew to expect the eventual audio of “score” and “goal”. This would soon replace the now popular lyrics of “dance” and “baby”.

The bar was fully seated by men and women of all ages. They sat in groupings directed towards the two televisions behind the bar. These seats offer one of the only unobstructed views of the game. The entire bar was intimately lit. An amber and orange glow came from the actual counter, and continued as back lighting for the rows of premium liquors on display above. Bottles of Grey Goose and Crown 15-30 bottles deep were highlighted. They were definitely emitting the party atmosphere from all angles. These same lights then changed to green and blue when the game came on, in support of our Canucks. Above each high top seat were hanging lamps a little above head level. They came in a variety of shapes, sizes, heights, and widths; offering just enough light to squint out the food before you. Round ones, pointed ones, those coned shaped, and ones bulb like tulips.

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The rest of the seating was black tables and matching chairs. Their light weight enable constant shifting to accommodate large gatherings. A couch sat in the corner, by the side door of currently the unused patio, it allowed for a more casual dining experience. It certainly matched the lounge appropriate dance music. This is not the place for a catch up and talk, especially with the loud volume of the game and the chatter of voices around. If only we knew, but we were here for the food.

We were thankful for our seat in the corner. Even though it was by the entrance, it gave us a more peaceful setting in which to watch the room. The dark made it hard to see, amplified by black painted walls and a black tiled room separator to our right. Coming when we did, we were give the last booth. Not being able to hear one another we were forced to sit side by side to talk. And as other groups trickled in and were forced to wait, I felt bad that two small girls were holding up a table meant for 6-8. Though honestly we ended up ordering enough food for six people and therefore were certainly deserving of the space.

The menu was a tri-fold of limited selection. Definitely more a bar menu, than one of a sit down dining establishment. “Indochine” has become well known for offering food that is similar to that of the popular restaurant, “Phnom Penh”. The owners are related and know what the people want: chicken wings and butter beef. The menu here is divided by: salads, tapas, sides, mains, and desserts. Sides where extra bread and rice, or eggs, pea, and shrimp crackers.

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$4.99 import beers were on special so I took advantage. To compliment the genre of cuisine they offered a large selection of Asian brews. I enjoyed the “Tiger” from Singapore and “Singha” from Thailand.

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We came specifically for the half off wings so took advantage by ordering one of each flavour. Delicious and impressively cheap at $5 a plate. “Indochine garlic butter chicken wings”. These are their house wing, the one that bring all the kids to their yard with garlic chips and a lemon pepper dipping sauce.” As good as these are, they are not quite the same as the ones from “Phnom Penh”. Though very similar in saltiness and citrus flavour. With its great crispy skin, I found it better without the use of sauce.

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“Honey Garlic”. Sticky wings glazed with a honey garlic sauce. Crispy and gooey, a never fail favourite.

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“Sriracha Buffalo”. Traditional buffalo wings marinated with sriracha hot sauce”. I don’t like spicy foods, but these had a nice lingering burn after the initial sweeter bite. The ranch sauce that came with the plate also helped to balance flavours.

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Ordering this many wings we expected to doggy bag what we couldn’t finish. Though when the time came were denied the possibility, given that they are on special. I guess the policy makes sense seeing as the prices are to encourage you to eat in. Though considering that we ordered six plates two share between two girls, they ought to know we wouldn’t finish it all. A warning from our server that wings were dine in only would have been appreciated. There was no star by on the menu and we missed the sharpied in mention of it on the table list of specials. Had we known we would have eaten them and packed the rest that we could. We weren’t able to finish the full portion we had left and were sad that the restaurant rather waste them then let us leave with them.

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“Butter beef carpaccio”. Buttery smooth slices of raw beef in a citrus Vietnamese vinaigrette. Topped with garlic chips and cilantro. These tender cuts of beef were thoroughly coated in sauce. A sauce that highlighted the dish and masked the fact that you were eating raw beef. If you can get past the chewy texture it is certainly a taste worth trying.

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“Beef Luc Lac”. Vietnamese and French style stir fired steak cubes in a rich garlic butter soy sauce. Served with your choice of white rice, tomato rice, or French baguette. We went for the tomato rice, wanting to try something different, but wanting to eat our meaty stew with rice, the Asian way. The rice was red like a tomato with only just a hint of its flavour. The beef was melt in your mouth soft, a texture only seen from long hours of cooking over low heat. It had a rich meaty taste that paired will with the sweet rice. Together with the side salad of raw veggies this plate had the right about of crunch and chew and hearty and fresh.

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“Singaporean laksa”. Rice vermicelli noodles in a spicy seafood coconut curry broth with prawns, tofu puffs, fish balls, fish slices, a hardboiled egg, and beans sprouts. The noodles were a thicker strand than the thin vermicelli I am familiar with and was expecting. They were hard to grab, with a stingy portion compared to the amount of broth and side ingredients also in the bowl. The awkward ladle meant as a spoon certainly didn’t help. A scoop that large and that wide offered no ease in eating. I was forced to sip and slurp noisily as noodles continue to fall. This is the worst bowl of laksa I have ever had. If it weren’t for the overwhelming spiciness of the noodles, the dish would be boringly bland. It had more chilli than flavour. Enough that I broke out into panted coughs on several occasions. This was as I was making an honest attempt at not wasting food.

Despite the ethnicity of the appetizers and entrees, there was a disappointing collection of desserts. Either ice cream in three flavours or cheesecakes with one of three condiments. We passed on this very common selection. Though you shouldn’t expect to see lots of sweets at a bar. Beer doesn’t really marry well with dessert.

The service interaction was minimal. Like a bar you can’t expect much. There were too many bodies and the place was too loud and dark. This made it had to attract any server attention, after the initial ordering and drop off. I struggled to ask for another beer and if someone checked in on us more regularly or at all, I would have had at least two more. And as I mentioned early I was pretty upset that no one clued in to mention that today unfinished wings could not be packed to go. When was the last time two girls ate enough food for six people?

As is common with many Asian bars and tapas places, the single stalled washrooms were equipped with toiletries that allowed guests too freshen up after eating. Something important as majority of the food came heavily seasoned and garlic-full. A collection of cups for communal mouth wash and cotton swabs to touch up makeup.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I would come back for and recommend the wings. But would be willing to pay full price to be able to take them to go. I didn’t like the atmosphere. It was too loud to talk or to enjoy my meal, and it was too dark to even see what I was eating. I had to be ever so cautious to avoid staining my white top with yellow laksa broth, which was difficult to do without proper table lighting. The space is set up as a sports bar with qualities of a club. This does not partner well with food meant to be eaten with a full array of tools. Bar fare is typically finger foods and one bite treats. When was the last time you have rice or soupy noodles at a bar? Though with a healthy list of Thai and south East Asian dishes and drinks, this is a bar for the Asian food lover. Someone who is craving the food while being able to enjoy a beer and watch the game alone. Don’t deny your cravings.

INDOCHINE
1 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1V4
604-568-0828
indochinekitchen.ca
Indochine Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Banana Leaf, Malaysian Restaurant


It has been a while since I last visited “Banana Leaf”. I remembered not being impressed over dinner, however today’s lunch turned that all around. 
You can’t miss the place driving down West Broadway, a bold green building with bright yellow text. Inside, the restaurant is jammed packed with authenticity. From wooden statutes that faintly resemble humans and giant fanned out fans, to neatly stacked spice racks and etched on voluptuous urns. I liked the Thai paper puppets and the symbols of prosperity that hung off walls. Mix all this with framed art work, tropical music, and servers wearing traditional patterned aprons; you got yourselves quite the theme here. 
It was busy on a Thursday for lunch. We came at a little past 12pm, and avoided waiting with the other hungry guests. Those who had to stand in the foyer without reservations, that came after us. 


Already enjoying the atmosphere I was now ready to enjoy the food. I was overwhelmed with options that I knew I would like. If you have read any of my former Malay cuisine posts you know that this is the food I was raised on in Brunei, and that I will have to order the laksa. 
There were lunch time sizes of the classics. Smaller plates at a couple of dollars less than that of dinner. A flip album containing coloured pictures of customer’s favourite sat on each table. They allowed you to see the top 10 menu items before you order it. There were also seasonal entrees like a wild halibut and lychee curry or pineapple duck. I fought my urge to try these and decided to instead focus on a sure thing.

I appreciated that the menu not only detailed what was in each dish, but also divulged facts pertaining to its origin or popularity. I was informed that the appetizer platter was perfect for two, the red curry was made authentic with Malaysian curry spice, and that what I wanted to order was a great choice. One dish was one of the greatest culinary contributions that India has provided to Malaysia, the other a signature Malaysian dish, and another a Malaysian classic. Looks like I only like the “grilled cheese” of the Malaysian cuisine world. I only like what is the most common, and have never taken the time to discover any other. I wish they had share platters so I could try more without the commitment of having to finish a full portion. 



“Roti Canai”, you can never go wrong with this delicious appetizer. It is a flakey layered bread served with a coconut curry sauce. Anyone who likes curry is sure to like this sweeter version, served with with bread for easy dipping. They are the perfect pairing. Unseen before is the generous ness of the portion of roti. I actually had enough bread for the amount of sauce provided. This is one if the greatest culinary contributions that India has provided to Malaysia. 

“Satay skewers” are another popular appetizer, and an Malaysian signature dish. Available in marinated lamb, chicken, beef, or pork. We had the chicken, with a minimum order of four for $7. The price is a little high for meat on a stick. However it is $1.75 per stick and $2.50 is the standard night market price. I mostly wanted this for their spicy homemade peanut dip. The chicken was tender and the sauce silky sans the crushed peanuts. The sauce is sweet and spicy, creamy and crunchy, and everything I want in a meat dipping condiment. It was another successful taste pairing since roti and curry. 

“Mee Goreng”, fried egg noodles with beef, shrimp, tomato, egg, bean sprouts, choy sum, and tofu. It was most spicy on first bite, and had a warming after burn down your throat. A lot spicer that pad Thai, but with double the flavour. I liked the tomato based sauce that provided some sweetness to an otherwise spicy plate. This is an Malaysian classic. 

It was hot outside, but boy howdy I was going to have my “Singapore Laksa”. Coconut soup with rice noodles, seasoned with dried shrimp, chili, garlic, lemon grass, and turmeric. And served with bean sprouts, cilantro, egg, chicken, shrimp, fish cake, and squid. With a burning hot soup and spicy hot seasonings, I was thankful for the chilling power of their air conditioner. As I knew it would be, it was delicious, I never had a laksa I didn’t like. This version was a lot more creamer with an increased use of coconut milk. You could tell by the pale orange broth the rice noodles were absorbing. It tasted a bit like the sauce for cream lobster you get a Chinese restaurant, but with more of a spicy kick. I am use to just getting chicken with my Laska. So with the addition of all the other seafood I was ecstatic. But was missing the raw tomato slices and cucumber chunks that I am use to getting, they provided the only crunch in an otherwise soft dish. Even though I was full I was attempting to not let any of it go to waste. Laksa doesn’t fare well as leftovers, as the noodles and vegetables become soggy from soup and you don’t get that great broth to slurp. 

“Kuih Talam”, a traditional two layered Malay coconut tray cake. Made with coconut milk, rice flour, green bean flour, and pandan leaf. I have not often seen his not so sweet dessert available on a menu. So ordered it for nostalgia. In our family we refer to it as “guai” (I don’t actually know how to spell it). It is chewy and jiggly, like a more structured jello. Other varieties have rainbow layers that you can peel off by colour. This version came with sweetened sticky rice that was further soften from sitting in a pool of coconut milk. Each bite was exactly as how I had remembered. Pandan is an acquired taste that I cannot describe. I suggest trying this dessert at least once to quell any curiosity. Most trying it for the first time find it neither good nor bad, just there. 

Our server was attentive but had difficulty offering suggestions and giving me her take on the food. She spoke with hesitation and seemed to want validation in her responses. 


Would I go back? – Yes. After my last visit over 7 months ago, my answer would have been a no. But today my mind has come around. The food was delicious and served by attentive staff in a well lit and well received setting. I would love to come back to try their cocktails, like their lychee mojito. North American drinks with south East Asian ingredients. Yum. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes, but I am a little biased, I love all Malaysian food. But as far as Malaysian restaurants goes this is the best that I have been to for selection. With a 5 page menu they cover all meats, seafoods, noodles, rices, drinks and desserts. Dishes I have not seen anywhere out of Malaysia are on this menu, so I can safely conclude that they have authenticity on their side too. Don’t deny your cravings. 



BANANA LEAF
bananaleaf-vancouver.com


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Hawker’s Delight, Malaysian cuisine

Originating from Brunei, some where in Malaysia, around South East Asia, (for those unfamiliar with the country); I am always trying to find a restaurant with food that best represents what I remembered and crave for from my home land. From a visual perspective “Hawker’s Delight” meets all the criteria. For those of us who have been to south East Asia and have dine at an out door noodle shop, “Hawker’s” is a blast from the past. This is exactly how an out door noodle house looks like. A run down building, with open walls or large windows; to allow a descent amount of air flow through. Heavily used ceramic utensils, in wooden jars on rickety tables; giving you that help yourself ease. And all the large house flies you need, you swat at them every 5 minutes as they set about buzzing around your food. And I swear, sitting in this non air conditioned room on a hot day, feels like you are in an as humid and as sticky of a country as Brunei. “Hawker’s” is an apt name for this place as it is a term that refers to one who aggressively sells their goods by calling out to passer byers. This is a common sight during slower eating times; as vendors call out to customers and pressure them to dine at their establishment . All in all a definite reflection of home I once knew. 


Their service model is as casual as their set up. You approach the counter, fronting their open kitchen. You place your order from a menu of over 30 options. The three pages of it is taped to the wall, and you can see that nothing on it is more than $6. And if you are like me and need visuals, you can look up to a listing of their 18 most popular dishes with coloured pictures, above. You pick your seat from a choice of 8 and wait for your order to be up. Once called you grab your plates and begin to enjoy. Water is also self serve, from a pitcher and glasses to the side. And if you need more napkins or dropped your eating implements, getting additional is as easy as looking to your table top, as it is all there for easy access. No fuss no muss. 
Today I came with a girlfriend who is as passionate as me over Malaysian style cuisine. We ordered three items at $5.75 per plate, and shared each. It was more than enough to feed 2 hungry women. 



“Laksa”. This is my absolute favourite dish in the world. I love all its varieties anywhere, but here at “Hawker’s” I find it the most authentic. “Laksa” is thick rice noodles served in mild curry, made from rich coconut milk and dried shrimp. The noodles are topped with tofu puffs, fish cakes, shredded chicken, prawns, bean sprouts, and a hard boiled egg. The taste is indescribable, a great melding of hot, spicy, fishy, and curry. A must try for those who have never. 

“Mee gorang”. This is the non spicy version. It is fried noodles with egg, bean sprouts, onions, tomatoes, tofu, diced potatoes, and yu choy. “Mee” means noodles in Malay. 

“Mee Rebus”. Yellow noodle served in a spicy sweet potato sauce. Topped with egg, tofu, bean sprouts, fried shallots, celery, and jalapeño. 

It is hard to describe the flavours of each above dish, as it is something I am very familiar with; having grown up eating this type cuisine. This was what breakfast, lunch, and dinner looked liked; minus rice. And it came as normal every day food, until I was enrolled in school in Canada. Where hotdogs and hamburgers became more of a commonality. But I can successfully summarize that I liked the taste of everything we ordered, it satisfied my cravings, and I will be back for more. 

Would I come back? – Yes, as concluded in my paragraph above. Great food at a truly better price. You can’t even get a fast food combo for under $6. The area on Main Street is nice, with easy to find meter and side road parking. The food comes fast and you are left feeling full. 
Would I recommend it? – For those not familiar with the cuisine this may be an adventure for you. With heavy spices and exotic flavours, your tongue and stomach may get over whelmed. But for those who are already fans of it, this is a must try as I have already mentioned, this is the real deal in authenticity. The cooking staff even speak “Hokkien”, a specific dialect in Malaysia. As an expert in Malaysian cuisine this gets my “don’t deny your cravings” seal of approval.


HAWKER’S DELIGHT
4127 Main St, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-709-8188

Bo Laksa King’s Bubble and Bits

Originating from South East Asia, I have an innate love for Malaysian cuisine. I enjoy the spiciness of chili flakes, the creaminess of coconut milk, and the complexity of bring over 10 ingredients together in a boil. But in Vancouver finding good South East Asian cuisine as a stand alone restaurant is a challenge. You usually settle for dishes native to on menus featuring Chinese cuisine. This was all to change went I went flipping through Vancouver Magazine’s annual restaurant awards issue. I stumbled upon “Bo Laksa King”, it was listed as second in the “best other Asian” category. Sold, I had to go. I urbanspoon-ed it and was on my way to Hastings.


The restaurant is pretty unspectacular. Melting into the background, along with a sting of other old and run down small shops. Walking in with out reservations, I was surprised at the need to wait for a table for four. The restaurant hosted 10 tables and each one was seated with folks enjoying hot soup dishes; despite the lack of air conditioning, and the heat brought on by the day. We were told there was no bubble tea on the premises despite the hint of it in their restaurant’s title, the capping machine behind the counter, and a container of thick colourful straws sitting on the counter top. I did not push this, but was disappointed to not be able to enjoy a cooling bubble tea with my hot and spicy dishes to come. 




Laksa is one of my all time favourite dishes. Whenever there is the prospect of ordering it, I have no choice but to oblige. Here, it is rice noodles in a spicy soup with bean sprouts, dried tofu, beef, and a boiled egg. The is one of the best versions of it I have had. The best being in Malaysia. It was so good that I drank all the soup, once the rest of the ingredients were long gone. 

Roti Canai, another classic Malaysian dish. Deep fried pulled bread made from stoneground whole meal flour, served with curry for dipping. The roti was a little on the oily side, but the perfection in the curry made up for it. 

Pad Thai, a classic Thai noodle dish made with egg noddles, shrimp, egg, tofu, and bean sprouts; and coated in a peanut sauce. As good as we expected. Done very traditionally. 

Thom Yum noodles, the classic Thailand sour soup paired with vermicelli, button mushrooms, and basil. I am not a big fan of this kind of soup. But my guest acknowledge it was good, and she did finished her bowl.

Beef curry and rice, a very Taiwanese style dinner, consisting of meat, rice and chili pickled vegetables. The meat was tender and the sauce a savory gravy that we found too salty with out the aid of the plain rice. 

Would I go back? – Yes the food was spot on, it brought back memories from my trips back to Brunei (where I was born). Everything satisfied and tasted as how I had expected it to. I was not the least bit unhappy over the food. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes and No. Yes if you plan on a causal, easy dinner. This is not the place to host an celebratory event, or even a place to sit and catch up at. The decor desperately needs improvement. The staff look like they were handed their jobs after walking in off the streets. And you almost question how clean the place is; judging on the age and wear of the table and chairs, and the pile of old newspapers left for lone customers to leaf through. But if you are here just for a great meal, you won’t be disappointed. With descent prices I would suggesting taking an order out. and enjoying great South East Asian classics done right, right in the comfort of your own home. 
Don’t deny your cravings. 


BO LAKSA
2546 East Hastings St, Vancouver BC
604-568-4593

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