I’ve said it before. And I’ll say it again. The food court in Crystal Mall is a wonderland of delicious fare. Yes, there’s the mediocre. But with some perseverance and a bit of research, one can find a great lunch. As I’m already loaded with perseverance, all it took was discovering Selina’s Vancity Noms post on Crystal Mall’s latest treasure, Bubble Waffle Cafe.
Normally, upon seeing the words “bubble” or “waffle” on a food stall sign, I’d quickly veer away to seek out one selling some form of spicy soup. “Bubble” and “waffle” don’t quite conjure up thoughts of Laksa, Szechuan, Thai or any form of chile-laden soups. It turns out, Bubble Waffle serves up some seriously spicy soups in many varieties.
Bubble Waffle has it all going on. And at great value to boot. There’s fifteen or so soup bases to choose from. All come with crunchy cabbage, cilantro and silky tofu. You load on two toppings of your choice. Pick a noodle and voila! A customized bowl of somewhat healthy soup. 🙂
I have a personal favorite that I just can’t stop ordering.
Malaysian Laksa with Fried Shrimp Ball and Fried Fish Cake. On the menu checklist it’s listed as Curry Sauce. The sign at the counter says Malaysian Laksa. Confusion, yes! Seriously freaking delicious? Yes, as well! There’s incredible flavor going on here. Rich coconut milk teeming with chile oil, dried shrimp, curry, garlic topped with snappy fish cake and bouncy shrimp balls. I’ve tried this with the rice noodle. They don’t quite hold up to the heat. The ramen, on the other hand, stay nice and chewy here. A killer bowl, through and through.
For this past week’s Sunday brunch we decided to mix it up a bit and veer away from the usual dim sum. Jefe came up with JB Malaysian in Burnaby. He hails from Malaysia, has visited JB several times and gives it a solid thumbs up. On that recommendation, Matty and I joined him for a mini-Malaysian feast.
JB Malaysian’s location is rather unfortunate. It’s just on the east side of the Royal Oak/Kingsway intersection. Traffic tends to fly past it’s tiny storefront. The lack of street parking isn’t helping neither. This particular room was the location of Penny Farthing many moons ago. Sure miss their killer fish ‘n chips…the real deal, right down to the newspaper wrap. Asian 54 and Miki Ramen then came and went in rapid succession.
The room is quite small seating maybe 25. We arrived Sunday afternoon to nearly a full, bustling house. Great sign, that.
We started with a couple orders of Roti Prata. Right about average, these were. Nice and greasy, a good chew but not near enough of the stretchiness of Bo Laksa King’s heart-cloggingly amazing version.
The accompanying curry dip was also workmanlike. A good depth with a hint of heat. It reappeared in the Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken).
A fairly solid bowl. A bit too mild for my liking. I was hoping for more flavor bursts i.e. fennel seed, ginger, lemongrass to jump out…coconut, maybe? The chicken itself was OK. A few more minutes braising time would’ve done this dish a world of good.
The only other time I’d had Gado Gado was at Kedah House. Because it was part of their buffet, all the items were separate. So, if you’re like me, and had no idea how it’s assembled, your first try would be a minor, albeit tasty, disaster. JB’s Gado Gado was truly delicious. Big hunks of chewy, fried tofu covered with bean sprouts and julienned cukes, smothered in a rich peanut sauce and sprinkled with powdered peanuts. Great fresh flavors and textures. It’s not the most authentic version but it’s got enough decent elements to make it work.
I’ve been meaning to hit up Penang Delight Cafe for some time now. A couple of weeks back, a trusty colleague went on a scouting mission and returned with two thumbs up. This past weekend I gathered three very hungry cooks together for a Saturday brunch.
Penang is located at Rupert & 23rd in East Van. Over the last couple of years the location was a Filipino restaurant then a Pakastani joint and is now a purveyor of “fine” Malaysian cuisine.
This is a small room. The best way to describe it is “cozy”. The tables are adequate, almost. We got, I think, one of the bigger booths but things were very tight knit. With our hefty appetites and me crazily wielding a DSLR, we made full use of our space. The room was pretty near full and buzzing. Being near mid-afternoon, I was surprised by the crowd. Gotta figure that’s a good thing.
Our server was a very enthusiastic young chap. After we ordered seven or ten dishes he started in with recommendations. Dude! We’re hitting maximum table capacity here! No need for the up-sell!
The Penang Satay were very solid. Four big skewers of beef with a rich, well-made peanut sauce. Tender chunks, these. The chicken version was very close (it’s just not beef!). A great start.
Hawker’s Delight is a spot I’ve been meaning to visit for quite a while. It offers a mix of South-east Asian fare at dirt-cheap, rock-bottom prices. Not even the Asian food courts would offer Laksa at $5.25, Mee Goreng at $4.75 or meat skewers and spring rolls at 75 cents a piece. How can a restaurant stay afloat with price points so low? With a string of positive blog-posts…I had to find out for myself.
When I first saw their menu (below), I was dumb-founded. Several of my favorite Asian dishes hovering around the $5 mark? This is too good to be true.
After my visit to Bo Laksa King’s, I needed to fill a craving for Roti Canai. At the same time, a noodle fix was also in order. There aren’t a lot of spots around the Hastings area to accomplish that. In fact, there’s only one that came to mind…Seri Malaysia.
Roti canai is basically a puffy flatbread made from a lot of fat (clarified butter), flour, egg and water. The roti at Seri Malaysia seemed a bit flat and not very flaky…although damn tasty. This is probably due to pre-preparation and/or a lack of proofing. The curry dipping sauce livened things up considerably!
From what I’ve been reading, there’s a Burmese fellow and his wife making some incredible food inside a Filipino grocery store on Joyce Street. Apparently, Bo Laksa King’s makes some amazing laksa and roti canai. After reading posts from the good folk at Chowtimes and 604Foodtography, I got there the first chance I could.
Bo’s occupies a small space at the front of the shop. They’ve only been open for about four months or so. Aside from the menu items shown, they roll out different specials on the weekend. This being my first visit, I had to go for the Laksa.
All-you-can-eat can oftentimes be a double-edged sword. Most of the time you may think you’re getting a good deal, but, more often than not, you wind up with several plates of crap. Every now and then, if you look hard enough, you can find value and a damn good buffet. At Kedah House you get both.
The highlight here is the Beef Rendang (lower right). Chunks of stewing beef are simmered in coconut milk and seasoned with a paste of ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, tumeric, lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise and chillies.