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Desperately Seeking Authentic Malaysian Food in Bay Area

We are seeking restaurants in the Bay Area serving authentic Malaysian food. My wife is from Malaysia, and I've lived there for many years and are looking for the real deal. Rasa Sayang in Albany (now closed) served good Mamak-style food. However other purportedly SE Asian restaurants such as Mango Bay, Straits Cafe or E&O Trading Company...well, having tried these places, I don't know what kind of food they serve, but it isn't Malaysian food....the food at these restaurants bear little, if any, resemblance to any SE Asian cuisine.

Any ideas?

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  1. I don't know how authentic it is, or even if it's still open (been a while since I lived there), but Singapore-Malaysian at 8th and Clement in the Richmond used to be really good.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jumpingjack

      Singapore Malaysian is definitely still open. It's on Clement between 9th and 10th. Seems much more authentic than something like Straits Cafe or E&O, but I couldn't really say. Very tasty and a casual setting.

      1. re: jumpingjack

        I find it to be much more "authentic" than Straits Cafe, but the spicing is somewhat underwhelming.

        1. re: jumpingjack

          It kinda sucks now, they cant even get the otak otak right, it was rubbery!

          1. re: jumpingjack

            Have you tried Singaporean restaurant "Shiok Kitchen" on Menlo Park. Rather good satay, roti prata is a lil' burned, but tasted really good. It's worth a try!

            1. re: Gary Soup

              if you are looking for malaysian food, penang garden, despite its name, is not the place. it's a thai interpretation of malay food. just ask for the CHAR KEOW TEOW and you'll see what i mean.

            2. I think I know how you feel. My first query on chowhound.com was a search for real Singaporean food.

              Singapore Malaysian used to be pretty decent, though I haven't visited in a while. We now prefer Layang Layang in Cupertino. The kangkung belacan is particularly good, as is the dipping sauce for the roti. Nice tofu and seafood dishes, too. But the Hainan chicken is no big deal. Ice kacang is also excellent.

              http://www.layanglayang.us/

              Another place you might want to try is Spice Islands in Mountain View. We haven't been there recently, as we prefer Layang Layang (though the former is nearer), but I think Spice Islands is in the same league as Singapore Malaysian, and much more authentic than Straits. I do think the Hainan chicken was better than Layang Layang's.

              And I'm still looking for a "black" rather than "red" daging rendang. Please post if you find a good one!

              http://www.mountainviewca.net/restaur...

              2 Replies
              1. re: pilinut

                I ate at Spice Islands recently, and the food was better than Straits, and the restaurant a lot quieter than Banana Leaf.

                1. re: pilinut

                  I second Layang Layang. We love going there and the food is always delicious and authentic

                2. Unforunately, you will be disappointed by all the options. One of the better bets is Banana Leaf, in Milpitas - it is decent, and reasonably authentic, but there are enough ingredients that just cant be found here to keep it from tasting like home.

                  I married into a Malaysian family. The best Malaysia food I have had in the Bay Area is when one of my many Aunties comes to town and makes Poh Piah or Prawn Mee. Yum! If you like Hainanese Chicken Rice, let me know - my version is pretty good...even the aunties agree...

                  1. Who doesn't like Hainan chicken rice? (g)

                    Please save October 7 for the Chowing with the Hounds picnic in Golden Gate Park if you feel like sharing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      "Who doesn't like Hainan chicken rice?"

                      Cardiologists?

                    2. My parents are from Singapore, so I'm always on the lookout for good Singaporean food. Banyan Garden in Union City, near the Bart station, has the best Singaporean I've had in the Bay Area. The hainanese chicken rice and the Mee Goreng are both great. See my wife's review of it here:

                      http://eastbay.citysearch.com/review/...

                      There's also Red Kwali in Newark (near Newpark Mall) which is decent. Red Kwali is more Malaysian, while Banyan Garden is more Singaporean. http://www.redkwali.com/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wushujames

                        Red kwali held such promise when it opened, but on the second trip there only a few months later, it had slipped to below decent. it's a disappointment unless they have since taken steps to revive it.

                      2. The Malaysian Professional Business Association hosts a gourmet cooking club with demonstrations and lunch.

                        http://www.mpba.org/gourmetclub/index...

                        Has anyone tried these?

                        1. Banyan Garden in Union City may be an option for you. Their quality is comparable to Banana Leaf but with a smaller restaurant and without the crowds you see at Banana Leaf. (I'll have to post my review later...)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: muimi07

                            Banyan Garden is quite good indeed. Their roti and their dipping sauce are great. So is the satay and many of the dishes I tried. I tried many Malaysian and Singaporean cookings both here and the origin countries and this place is no slouch.

                            Char Kwee Tiauw is tasty too.

                            Red Kwali went downhill when I tried about a year ago and have not been back since. What a shame. It used to be quite good and we had a big chowdown there at one time-I was the organizer.

                          2. I've been to quite a few Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in the Bay Area and my favorite until recently was Banyan Garden. I tend to order the same things - char kueh teow, roti canai, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Rendang, nasi lemak. Standard Malaysian fare. The char kueh teow was always consistently good, with the requisite level of wok char. Not so the last time I went in May. Different cook maybe? Try Langkawi in San Mateo near the Marina Supermarket. Very good achar and beef rending. Not so great kangkong belachan though and Hainanese chicken rice though. Planning to return to try some of the other dishes.

                            1. Thank you all so much for your helpful suggestions. It sounds like the southeast Bay Area has a concentration of Malaysian food afficionados. It's a long way to go from San Rafael, but perhaps we'll try them if we're ever in the area.

                              Fortunately, my wife is an excellent Malaysian cook, but she often has to cook "cin cai"....due to lack of a number of key ingredients. (We'd love to find a source of fresh pandan leaves and bunga kantan). I've been gently nudging her to consider opening an authentic Malaysian restaurant, but so far no luck. (g)

                              If you're ever in KL, do yourself a favor and eat at Restoran Sri Melayu near the Golden Triangle. They have a phenomenal buffet spread with approx 200 different dishes. We both thought every single dish was absolutely top notch...fit for Malaysian royalty. From the outside it looks somewhat touristy, but the food is awesome. The manager said they were planning to open one in LA.....worth a flight down there to try it if they ever do.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: chilihead2006

                                If you ever manage to find a source for fresh pandan leaves, please please please let me know - heck, let all of SF Chowhounds know :) Considering breaking customs laws just to get the stuff in...

                                1. re: mingerspice

                                  You might post this as a separate topic - "Where to buy fresh pandan leaves in the bay area". It will get more attention than here where people might not be interested in this particular topic.

                                  NEVER SMUGGLE ... here's the best response in this post of why not from Gary Soup. However read the whole thread and bookmark it if you are ever tempted.

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I find frozen pandan leaves perfectly adequate - available in the frozen section at 99 Ranch and just about every Asian supermarket. Keeps in the freezer just about forever too.

                                  2. re: mingerspice

                                    Fresh pandan leaves can be found at New May Wah Supermarket on Clement Street in SF. Check at the back of the produce section, they should be where the fresh herbs are found. I've bought them several times for chicken rice.

                                    1. re: tofubones

                                      We made a special trip to New May Wah from San Rafael but they were sold out. Saw the sign and know where they're supposed to be, but S.O.L. ;)

                                2. Personally, I like Banyan Garden, but the branch in Foster City/San Mateo was closed recently, so we now go to the one in Union City. Red Kwali and Layang Layang are quite good too.

                                  If you're interested, you could also consider joining our Malaysian/Singaporean group. We tend to try out a different Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant about once a month or thereabouts, in a social group of 10-15 people. By so doing, you could taste more varieties of food! Our website is at: http://www.sfbams.biopharmweb.com/

                                  1. The closest and best Singaporean restaurant in the bay area on my list is Prima Taste, a branch of the local chain from singapore. It's located in San Jose, off hosetter from 680.

                                    # California, USA
                                    Prima Taste Restaurant
                                    1701 Lundy Road, Suite 100
                                    San Jose, CA 95131
                                    Tel: 1 408 392 9268

                                    http://www.primataste.com/ptconcept/

                                    Note: Waitresses may be a little rude, but food is awesome!

                                    1. My wife and I dined here mnay years ago and found it to be very good. http://www.straitsrestaurants.com/SF/... I thas been a long time since we were there.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                        The Chron reported a while back that the SF Straits would be closing in July and moving to the new mall on Market St.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Great location, it will have to compete with slanted door.

                                          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                            Not the same neighborhood, it's about a mile away.

                                      2. Penang Village, Santa Clara
                                        http://www.penangvillage.com/

                                        I ate here last Summer (2005) about 9:00PM mid-week, so it was pretty dead. I guess it was okay. Maybe someone who knows Malaysian cooking better than I do has an opinion on this place. I mention it because it is the ONLY restaurant I've heard of that bills itself specifically as Malaysian.

                                        1. We've eaten at Baba Neo in Mountain View a couple times, at Penang Village many times, and have enjoyed both of them. But I don't have any handle on authenticity. We prefer the Mee Goreng at Penang Village in Santa Clara and liked the Popiah at Baba Neo. Penang Village used to be much spicier when they opened and have dumbed things down quite a bit.

                                          Baba Neo
                                          http://www.babaneo.com/

                                          Penang Village
                                          http://www.penangvillage.com/

                                          1. OK, so we tried Langkawi. No go. Not enough flavor in anything. Oh well.

                                            1. I didn't like Langkawi at all, as I found the food mediocre at best, so I can't recommend that place, though the owner seemed quite friendly.

                                              1. I went to Banyan Tree & ordered the beef satay, it was SO good, just like in Singapore. Then we ordered the mango ribs, real good too, so was the kangkong with blachan (sp?)Even the pandan chicken was decent BUT to our surprise when we got the laksa...it had NO taste!!! It tasted like coconut cream with chilli oil!!! I asked the waiter why theres no salt, he just said sorry and that was it. No one asks how you how the food was...nothing, they didnt care. On top of that, the noodles in it were overcooked! My quest for the best laksa goes on!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: laksalover

                                                  The best lemak style laksa could be had at Supreme Chicken in Miri, Sarawak...but, alas, it is now closed. For assam laksa (northern style) you could not go wrong at the Holiday Inn on the Park in KL...but, alas, it too is now closed.

                                                  Key ingredients, bunga kantan and buah gelugor, are difficult to find in the US.

                                                  Best of luck in your noble quest. Let us know if you strike paydirt.

                                                2. Am a Malaysian myself and have tried several M'sian restaurants (too tired to cook sometimes) and found Baba Neo Restaurant in Mountain View near Alma Street and Castro to be perfectly authentic and delicious. Their rojak, nasi lemak, hokkien mee, indian mee goreng, otak otak, penang sa hor fun, cha kuey teow and sup kambing, not to mention roti canai, murtabak and just about everything else is authentic. Owner is a Baba from Melaka. Try it.

                                                  1. OMG, what the hell happened to Banyan on Decoto? I was so embarassed! I took my friends there since we've lived in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, we know these foods. We got there and it was crap! It was thrown together half heartedly! The waitress had the nerve to tell me that I havent been to their restaurant that I 've forgotten what char kway teow is like. It was the worse meal out of all! Never going back and never recommending it!

                                                    1. A few years ago, a friend from Singapore recommended Banana Island in Daly City, and I was hooked. There was a time when I would go several times a month - the roti canai is amazing, as well as watching the man behind the counter making it! Don't miss the belacan string beans, okra or watercress, the hainan chicken and rice, and the noodle dishes. The whole fish dishes are OK, but usually too sweet for me. Get there early, especially on a weekend when it can get crazy busy.
                                                      This site has the entire menu scanned - use the pulldown menus.
                                                      http://www.222.to/bananaisland/
                                                      Mmm, now I've got a craving...haven't been there in a few months.

                                                      1. I don't know if the food is authentic Malaysian, but Banana Island in the Westlake Shopping-
                                                        Daly City is good. They serve a mixture of Malaysian, Singapore and Thai cuisine. Their roti is a must every time.

                                                        1. A little late in the response, but I am in the mood to write something today after a trip back from Malaysia, and right now freminiscing on Malaysian food.

                                                          A few general thoughts about Malaysian restaurants:

                                                          - chefs move around. So comments on quality is only as good as when the review is written.
                                                          - Malaysian hawker food is very specialized. In Malaysia, the same cook would have been cooking the same food for many decades. In general, hawker food in restaurants in the Bay Area will be mediocre and not the taste you would remember from Malaysia. So, if you find an authentic dish in a restaurant, tell us!

                                                          Here I go...

                                                          Layang Layang, De Anza Blvd., San Jose - is by far the best. Kangkung belacan and Rendang Beef very nice. Char Keow Teow is worth a try. Last visited Feb 2007. They also honor coupons from www.restaurant.com

                                                          Penang Village, Coleman, San Jose - if you want pigs fat ("bak yiu pok") in your Char Keow Teow? This might be the only place you can find. Therefore, their food taste a lot like Malaysian hawker food. Owner changed hands in 2006 so I don't know. Last visited in 2006. Don't go there often because it is out of the way for us.

                                                          Banana Leaf , Hometown Buffet complex, Milpitas - Food is OK in general, but no where near authentic. There's a lot of vegetarian version of certain dishes. I have been eating there since they opened and as of my last visit, the coconut rice in the Banana Leaf Special (Nasi Lemak) was finally acceptable. This dish is worth a try (anchovies are good). Other than that, the Sarang Seafood is good. Last visited May 2006.

                                                          Banana Island, Daly City - First visited in 2002 and I recalled the Penang Hokkien Mee and Char Hor Fun was great. Last visited 2006. Tried Satay, Curry Mee this time around and totally disappointed. This place has the best Roti Canai among all restaurants.

                                                          Baba Neo, Moffett Blvd., Mountain View - It has closed since Feb 2007 and re-opened as Yellow Ginger. I rank both of them the same as Banana Leaf. Good affordable food, but not authentic. Roti Canai is decent :)

                                                          )

                                                          Penang Garden, Ranch 99 complex, Milpitas - Food too oily in general. Never impressed by anything, but more authentic than those restaurants with fancy chefs playing with Malaysian food. Last in 2003.

                                                          Spice Island Hope St., Mountain View, - Never try the Curry Mee. Indian Mee Goreng is is worth a try. Last visited Feb 2007.

                                                          Singaporean & Malaysian Clement St, SF - Went 10 years ago I remember they had the best Ikan Panggang and Char Hor Fun among the Malaysian Restaurant then. Disappointed during my visit in 2006. Too bland.

                                                          Shiok, Menlo Park - Not impressed.

                                                          Straits, SF/Palo Alto - Agreed Chilihead. Where fancy chefs flourish.

                                                          Cheers!