82-18 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, Queens
$20 each for 4 people, without drinks, with tip
One of my favorite eating partners was in town from Chicago, so I basically forced her to eat in Queens and drag Paul, her Malaysian friend, with her so he can order for the rest of us and show us Malay food in the city.
1. Kangkong belacan – Call these hollow vegetables whatever you want: swamp cabbage, water spinach, ong choy or phak bung, but they will always be Filipino kangkong to me. Belacan, the Malaysian variety of shrimp paste is deliciously salty–the perfect side vegetable to any Southeast Asian fare.
2. Rojak – This sweet and sour dish had the best combination of texture: cuttlefish (soft), prawn fritters (crisp), cucumber (tender), jicama (crunchy), pineapple (soft), mango (fleshy), sesame seeds (toasty). Named after the Malay term for “mix”, it not only refers to the seafood-fruit-vegetable combo, but also the multi-ethnic Malaysian-Singapore influence.
3. Singapore kari laksa – How can you go wrong with curry as good as this? This bowl of yellow-orange noodles brought back such good memories of my trip to Singapore I almost wept. It turns out the hot broth that burst from my quickly eating the soft tofu squares were too spicy for me in one go. Burning my throat was worth it though.
1. Petai beans with belacan and shrimp – Petai beans look like a larger version of fava, but they had a bitter aftertaste that was, for a lack of a better word, weird. And I rarely describe food as “weird”. After some Internet research, I found out why they would taste so weird: they’re called stink bean and resemble the smell of natural gas!
1. Sizzling pork with marmite sauce – I was warned that the restaurant is now under new management, but that shouldn’t be a reason as to why they would serve a dish other than how it’s advertised. This dish was in no way sizzling–it was just on a plate that resembled a sizzling platter. The pork chops were soft, but lacked that chargrilled flavor I was looking for and tasted more like a bottle of store-bought sauce was lazily poured in.