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Overseas Asian – Authentic Malaysian food in Chinatown

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for full post and pics: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/09/overs...

I’ve been to Overseas several years ago, but I don’t really remember it being anything special. However, I walk by there all the time and noticed it’s consistently crowded with a local crowd (i.e. Chinese from Chinatown). I decided that I should give it another try as I’ve been looking for a decent Malaysian restaurant in the city for a while after Happy Joy closed down. I went there last weekend with my gf and another friend. It turned out to be a surprisingly good meal, far better than other Malaysian restaurants I’ve been to in Chinatown lately.

The restaurant is in the far eastern part of Chinatown on Canal almost in the Lower Eastside. It’s nicer than most Chinatown restaurants, its clean and looks new with a wooden interior and wooden tables. In the back of the restaurant, they have a small area where they sell various Malaysian / Chinese goods such as instant noodles, white coffee (a famous type of coffee from Ipoh), mooncakes, some Malaysian pastries, chili sauces etc.

The service is fine and the servers are pretty nice. They do speak English if you don’t have anyone who speaks Chinese (they are Cantonese from Malaysia).

On to the food:
- Roti Canai: Roti canai is a layered pancake that you dip into a spicy curry sauce. It’s very popular in Singapore and Malaysia (used to eat this all the time when I lived there). This was quite good, nice and crispy and tasted freshly cooked, a bit thicker than it should be, but still good. The curry sauce was much better than most of the restaurants I’ve had in the city as it was spicier, had good flavor and the chicken and potatoes in it were quite good. Everyone liked this dish a lot.
Kari Mee (curry mee): Kari mee is a simple spicy coconut curry noodle soup with egg noodles, shrimp, pork, fish cakes, fried tofu, crispy fried tofu skins, bean sprouts and green onions. This version was quite good, much better than the version I had at Taste Good in Elmhurst which was way too coconutty. The broth was very good, spicy, a little bit coconutty, not overly salty and just generally good. All of the ingredients tasted fresh, I particularly liked the crispy fried tofu skins (recommend eating them quickly as they get really mushy quickly). The only real downfall to this dish was the noodles, which were clearly packaged and a bit too mushy. If they had better noodles, this would be a really good dish. Everyone like it.
- Beef Rendang: Beef rendang is a coconut curry dish where you slowly cook beef in a coconut curry broth until it’s very tender. It’s hard to get right and most places tend to mess it up royally. The version here is pretty decent although not amazing, but better than most places I’ve had in NY though. The curry sauce is good, spicy, good flavor and not too salty. The beef while tender was a bit drier than it should be. My friend really liked it though. Overall, it was a pretty decent dish.
Ipoh Bean Sprouts: Ipoh bean sprouts is a dish that I like quite a lot, its blanched bean sprouts with soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions and these really small golden fried onions (you fry them for 45 mins). Sounds very mundane, but when you have it done correctly it’s really good. The version here is just okay though. The bean sprouts were fine as were the other ingredients, but I felt the sauce was lacking and seemed to be a bit bland. It needed a bit more salt and a lot more sesame oil (it barely had any sesame oil).
- Kang Kan Belachan: this dish was the winner of the night. Kang kan is kong xin cai in Chinese or water spinach in English. The dish is cooked in a sauce using belachan, which is a fermented shrimp paste that I really like a lot. I absolutely love kang kan belchan and this version was outstanding. The vegetable were cooked perfectly, so they retained a good texture and their flavor. The sauce was excellent, not being overly salty or using too much belachan. This tastes pretty close to what you would get in Singapore or Malaysia. We were all wow’d by this dish. Highly recommend.
- Bak Kut Teh: Bak kut teh is a soup dish that simmers pork ribs in broth of a whole bunch of herbs and spices like black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, garlic etc for a very long time. In Chinese it translates to meat bone tea (rou gu cha). The result is a broth with a deep meaty peppery flavor that isn’t too heavy, most people usually eat it for breakfast with a you tiao (fried crueller). It’s really good when done right although fairly difficult to find outside of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Besides the pork ribs it usually contains mushrooms, fried tofu puffs and sometimes vegetables. The version here is okay, nowhere nearly as good as the real version. It was too sweet (shouldn’t really be sweet) and while it had a decent meaty flavor, it wasn’t as flavorful as it should’ve been. I meant it tasted good, but if you’ve had the real deal this pales in comparison. We weren’t expecting much and it was actually probably better than what I was expecting as my expectations were really low.
- Hainan Chicken: Hainan chicken is a whole chicken boiled in water flavored with garlic and ginger and then dipped in ice water, so the skin separates from the meat. It’s served either room temperature or slightly chilled. This is one of the most famous dishes in Singapore and one of my favorite dishes, I used to eat it everyday for lunch literally (Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan is my favorite place). It’s normally served with a light chili sauce, a very dark thick and sweet soy sauce and this ginger garlic oil. In the US, the places never seem to give you the soy sauce, which is unfortunate b/c it’s really good. They give you the chili sauce here, which tasted reasonably authentic. The chicken however wasn’t that great, the skin was a bit too gelatinous and the meat was sort of difficult to get off the bone. It was also served too cold. I didn’t like it that much, so it was a bit disappointing.
- Hainan Chicken Rice: this is rice cooked in a chicken stock, looks just like light yellow rice and while it sounds bland, its very flavorful and really good when you put the chili sauce and dark soy sauce on it. It’s unfortunately a difficult dish to get correct, in Singapore it’s usually only specialists who make it. The version here is okay, although far better than most versions in Chinatown which usually range from bad to awful. It’s got a decent flavor although it doesn’t has the great deep flavor you’d get at a good place and isn’t as fluffy as it should be. Decent and will do if you really want Hainan chicken rice.
- Sambal Sting Ray: The waitress recommended this dish. In Singapore, I used to get this dish at this one hawker center all the time and it was another one of my favorite dishes. If you’ve never had sting ray it is similar to skate. The meat is very light tasting white meat that isn’t fishy, it should be very tender if done correctly. The sting rays they use in the US are quite a bit bigger than the ones they use in Singapore, which I think have a better tasting meat, but they are still pretty decent. This was another surprise dish that turned out to be quite good. The meat was very tender and cooked nicely, much better than the version I had at Nyonya and better than the version I had at Taste Good in Elmhurst. The sambal sauce was pretty good, a bit sweet, spicy and had a good flavor from the belachan that was in it. Sambal is a chili paste used in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Overall, I’d definitely recommend this dish.
- White Coffee: this type of coffee is from Ipoh in Malaysia, I’ve had it before in Singapore, but I wasn’t actually sure what the difference was aside from flavor until I looked it up on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipoh_whi...). It’s got a much lighter flavor than regular coffee, its smoother and much less bitter. It’s mixed with condensed milk. This is the instant version, you simply pour boiling water over the ground mixture of coffee and dried condensed milk. It’s not quite as good as the real version, but tasty nonetheless and I was pretty excited to find them selling it in the back part of the store. I’d recommend buying a pack.
- Foh San Mooncakes: It happens to be mid-autumn festival right now when you eat mooncakes. Foh San is a famous dim sum / mooncake bakery in Ipoh, Malaysia. Ipoh is a mainly Chinese city in Malaysia that is known for having very good food. Several Malaysian places in NY are selling the Foh San brand. They have several different flavors, I tried the Imperial Jade and Durian flavored versions. They are quite good, the lotus paste is also mixed with some coconut milk and pandan leave that I really liked and I liked the flavor better than the traditional version. They both have one egg yolk, which I prefer. The durian version tastes like durian, but you obviously have to like Durian, which a lot of people do not. I’d recommend this brand and this is where I’ve been getting my mooncakes this year.

Overall, an authentic and surprisingly good meal here, much better than other Malaysian restaurants I’ve been to in the Chinatown including my former go to Skyway, which I’ve been pretty disappointed in the last few times I went there. I’ve read some pretty bad reviews on yelp.com about this place, but from what the reviewers said I have a feeling people ordered the wrong dishes b/c they don’t know much about Malaysian food (one person talked about ordering Mapo Tofu). Definitely recommend trying.

Overseas Taste
49 Canal St, New York, NY 10002

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  1. great review going to try for dinner soon. what a clown ordering mapo tofu

    1 Reply
    1. re: AubWah

      thanks, definitely try it out...its surprisingly good if you get the right dishes

    2. Thanks a lot for this report. I, too, was kind of underwhelmed with this place a few years ago. I will make it my business to go fairly soon and try it again.

      1. A truly authentic Malay Beef Rendang is actually very dry with a very thick sauce paste. From your picture on your website, that's not a real Beef Rendang. It's more a Beef Brisket Curry. There's a difference. The closest I've ever seen is the version at Taste Good (which has just changed ownership in the last month) but even they haven't got it 100% right. If you've ever been to a Malay restaurant or hawker stall in Singapore or Malaysia that serves this, you'll know what I mean.

        And Hainan Chicken Rice is trivial to make. Just two parts chicken broth and one part rice with ginger thrown in and that's it. It's the Hainan Chicken itself that's difficult because it's all about timing and temperature: Take it out of the boiling water too soon and it's undercooked. Too late and it tastes like rolled up sandpaper.

        Bak Kut Teh *NEVER* has any vegetables (outside of Tofu) in it besides the jujube beads for flavor and maybe cilantro as a garnish if they want to have something green for colour. Anybody serving you a Bak Kut Teh with vegetables boiled into it doesn't know what they're doing.

        BTW, it's "Kang Kong/Kung Belachan" and *NOT* "Kang Kan Belachan". And your picture of the dish shows that it has insufficient Belachan in it for authenticity and the kang kong is undercooked. You may like it that way but it's not what it should be.

        FYI. (I'm an expatriate Singaporean living in New York and was born and bred in the Malaysia/Singapore region. I lived there for over 20 years before coming to the United States.)

        5 Replies
        1. re: Gastronomicon

          I just looked at the photos. I agree that the "Rendang" is clearly too watery and the Kangkung Belacan clearly doesn't have enough belacan.

          In my experience, the best rendang is cooked by Indonesians, not Malaysians. The Indonesian rendang tends to be cooked longer. But regardless, any version of rendang needs to be cooked a long time. Here are Google image results for "rendang":


          Not all these dishes will be equally good renditions, but they do give the viewer a sense of just how dry, concentrated, and rich the sauce is.

          Edit: And for good measure, here are Google image searches for kangkung belacan:


          I like the looks of the last one on the first line.

          1. re: Pan

            Actually, there's a couple of different Indonesian rendangs based on region within Indonesia. As such, I count the Malaysian version as just another regional variation. But what they have in common is the dry nature of the dish. I've tried versions that have been almost as dry as beef jerky (which I didn't particularly go for) and a sauce to match. In general, if you stick a spoon in the "sauce" and remove it and the sauce sticks to the spoon like paste, that's a typical rendang. If the sauce slides off, it's too watery. That said, there *ARE* authentic Malay curries (e.g., Opor Daging, Curry Kapitan, etc.) that are supposed to have sauces which are watery--they're just not called "rendang" ("rendang" being the term for a very specific dry style of curry--it's not a generic term for curry, just like the Eskimos have different words for different grades of snow).

            Yeah, I agree with you: That shot that's the last on the first line looks very authentic.

            1. re: Gastronomicon

              Another regional variation. That makes sense. Thanks for the discussion. :-)

          2. re: Gastronomicon

            Hi Gastronomicon - i lived in Singapore for 6 months and have visited quite a bit, but you obviously have alot more experience than i do.
            - beef rendang: I'm actually not that big a fan of beef rendang, so while i ate it a decent amount of times there, it's not something i've ever gone out of my way to eat alot; i actually ordered it b/c my friend really likes it... ive had it in singapore where it was drier and moister, i prefer moister, i'm usually not a huge fan of dry meat
            - hainan chicken rice: disagree with you, i personally think the dish is more about the rice than the chicken (although that is my opinion) and if you go around to different top vendors in singapore then you will find noticeable difference between vendors (my personal favorite is tian tian as their rice is so fluffy and light)
            - Bak Kut Teh: i have seen it with vegetable a couple of times, but as you said it is not the norm. I like Ng Ah Sio in singapore
            - Kang kong belachan: i rarely say it in malay, i always say it in chinese in which case it would be kong xin cai. You are correct in that they do not have nearly as much belachan as they would put in singapore / malaysia, but that in an of itself does not kill the dish. As far as it being undercooked, i would disagree although that although it is a matter of opinion. I have been eating kong xin cai since i was born and their version is cooked well.

            1. re: Lau

              While there are minor variations of Hainan Chicken Rice, Tian Tian is a johnny-come-lately. The original master of it was/is the "Original" Swee Kee, now at 25 Seah Street in Singapore after moving from Middle Road (not the "New" one at 36 Seah Street; both just across the street from the Raffles Hotel underground garage entrance). I ate there last in 2007 and they were still good. The rice in the dish is crucial, I agree, but it is still trivial to make compared to the chicken itself. Just because it's easy to make doesn't make it any less important (and I never said it was less important in my post above).

              I'm sorry but authentic "Kang Kong Belachan" has to be cooked down until everything wilts and have sufficient belachan in it to give it taste. You may have had kang kong cooked in a different style but that's not "Kang Kong Belachan." After all, there are many ways to cook the same ingredient (e.g., one can cook chicken with cream sauce; with breading; by roasting it; by baking it; by grilling it; etc.; but one can't present, say, Chicken Kiev and say it's "another" way to make Opor Ayam; maybe another way to make chicken but not "Opor Ayam") . I've had people try to "brighten" up the dish by adding trips of red bell peppers so as not to blow away wimpy tastebuds but this is ludicrous as it takes away from basically what is the heart of the dish.

          3. From just one brief trip to Singapore, but trying the different places in Chinatown, Overseas is probably the best, but minimally among the best Malaysian available in NYC (boroughs included). Including the recommended above, try the various noodles dishes (and individual rice dishes). I think that's where they especially excel vs the family style arrangement. There much more of a hawker style/pride in their approach.

            Lots of go to dishes, but aforementioned mixed curry noodle soup (you can actually choose the various toppings - I think there's an eggplant thing, a dough puff thing, and more), the roast pork noodle (no soup), and even the common curry chicken rice. There's usually little surprises or touches that aren't found in other places, like the pickled hot peppers that go with the roast pork noodle.

            I used to remember Brooklyn Chinatown having good Malaysian places, but that was over 5 years ago, and I think most of those places have been pushed out, different immigrant mix now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: villainx

              Interesting comment about the immigrant mix in Brooklyn Chinatown - I noticed the same changes in San Francisco and even London Chinatowns. In the 1970s, you walk into a NY, SF or London Chinatown restaurant or shop, and people are speaking Taishanese as most early Chinese immigrants to US (and elsewhere) are from the Toishan county in Guandong. However, in recent years, there seems to be this wave of new migrants from other parts of Mainland China - these days, you'll hear Mandarin, mostly spoken with a Northern lilt as many come from North and North-East China, spoken in Chinatowns. More Northern Chinese food available in the Chinatowns now.

            2. Wait wait wait. They were still selling mooncakes?!! No one told me when I went to buy some 100 plus and kuihs on Saturday. Looks like I'm heading down there again this weekend. Might try that curry mee too.

              Just in case. Where else can I find Foh San mooncakes this late?

              1 Reply
              1. re: tiptup

                give them a call, they might still be selling mooncakes...i saw them there and at the two malay places on 40th rd in flushing

                even though i posted this in october, i actually ate there in sept, so i dont know if they are still selling them

              2. Thanks Lau, for the review. and thanks Gastro, Pan, and all. After reading everything on this post I went to Overseas with a friend of mine who is lives in Malaysia 6 months a year for the last 15 years. My friend was excited because he thought they may be a relation to restaurant in Malaysia with same name "overseas".. I dont think they are related though.We had the roti kanai, hainan chicken, curry mutton, malaysian version of kung xin tsi (sp),
                a beef dish, spare rib soup. Everything was excellent, and very authentic. My friend said it was the best Malaysian he has had in NYC and it was certainly the best I have had. i am so stuffed at the moment, Of course I still made room for dessert and went for ice cream at L'arte del Gelato.

                8 Replies
                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  glad you enjoyed! btw that is a ton of food for two people haha!

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Restoran Oversea in the Kuala Lumpur area was (and presumably still exists, and is) a small chain of Chinese restaurants with a specialization in fish and seafood, and damn good! I had my last dinner in Malaysia on my last trip there (2003) at their location in a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya. Definitely no relationship.

                    FYI, it's not roti kanai. It's roti canai (old spelling: roti chanai). Canai, with a ch sound, comes from the word Chennai, meaning "The City," which is the traditional name for the city the British called Madras. Roti canai, though developed in Malaysia, is based on a type of savory bread from Chennai.

                    What's kung xin tsi? A kangkung (water spinach) preparation, perhaps? I speak Malay but know only a bit of Mandarin. :-)

                    1. re: Pan

                      Yes, kangkong is kong xin cai. Interestingly, there was a very detailed discussion on this vegetable on the Chowhound San Francisco Bay Area board 2-3 years back, I can't find the thread now. The term "kangkong" is used all over South-East Asia but, interestingly, I read somewhere that it's Sri Lankan in origin!

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Actually, in Cantonese ("Malaysian"-Cantonese?) I would know it as "oong choy".

                        (on the internet/Google search the term that provides more answers would be "ong choy")

                    2. re: foodwhisperer

                      You're right, foodwhisperer, the Overseas Asian in NYC would not be related to Overseas in KL as the latter serves only Cantonese dishes, whilst the former appears to offer truly Malaysian (Chinese/Malay/Indian) hawker fare.

                      Kudos to Lau for pointing out this place though.

                      Overseas Taste
                      49 Canal St, New York, NY 10002

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Well, I got kangkung belacan as part of my last meal at Restoran Oversea in Petaling Jaya in 2003, so they didn't serve ONLY Cantonese dishes in those days, but anyway... :-)

                        You asked about Laut in another post. It's a good restaurant, Manhattan's best Malaysian place, and yes, it can be authentic (except that you are unlikely to get food so hot your mouth is buzzing afterwards - they serve me reasonably spicy food but that's because they know me and my taste and I speak Malay with them) but the Michelin star is an absurdity and demonstrates how little they understand Malaysian food. I had much tastier food at a hole-in-the-wall in London's Chinatown this past August, for much less money.

                        1. re: Pan

                          They serve sambal kangkung in Oversea?!! I'd probably been to the same outlet in PJ last year as the one you've been - in Plaza Armada, off the Federal Highway, but I only remembered the char-siu; which came covered with ultra-sweet seasoning approaching that of treacle.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            I forget the name of the shopping centre - it was right by a Putra LRT stop and across the street from the A&W. But I think we should stop the off-topic chat here, probably. :-)

                    3. A bit off-topic here, but have you tried Laut, the first Malaysian (although they also offer some Thai dishes) restaurant in the world with a one-Michelin star as per the 2011 Michelin NYC Guide, and how the authenticity of their dishes compare with Overseas' ?


                      15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                      48 Replies
                      1. re: klyeoh

                        i have tried it although i need to go back b/c it was a while ago and i honestly wasn't all that hungry when i went, so i let others order and i also wasn't a fan of some of the stuff they ordered. I remember thinking it was pretty decent, but i also didn't think it lived up to some of the hype i heard. I plan on going back soon.

                        1. re: Lau

                          If you're out searching for more authentic Malaysian tastes, you may wish to try these 2 other places in the future:

                          1) Nyonya (affiliated to Penang USA restaurant group)
                          2) Fatty Crab (2 outlets - in West Village and Upper West Side)

                          Both have been oft-quoted by Malaysians/Singaporeans visiting New York as having the most authentic cooking in the city.

                          Also, do look out for food events organized by Datin Amy Hamidon (wife of the Malaysian ambassador to the UN, Datuk Hamidon Ali), she's quite a foodie. Her previous food events, usually part of Tourism Malaysia's publicity campaign in New York, have included top Malaysian chefs like Ismail Ahmad & Florence Tan.

                          199 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                          Fatty Crab
                          643 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                          Fatty Crab
                          2170 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            I have to disagree with any recommendation of Nyonya. Perhaps they serve YOU authentic food, but they don't serve ME authentic food, though I speak Malay fluently. Laut is WAY, WAY better and more authentic. I haven't been to Fatty Crab so I can't comment.

                            1. re: Pan

                              I have to agree, most Malaysian eateries in NY, or any other cities in the US for that matter, tend to Americanize their food, so what you get are "fusion Malaysian". But I guess if you are a regular at Nyonya, and also notify them beforehand, I'm sure they'll be able to prepare authentic dishes to suit your taste. Both restaurants have also been included in the Michelin NYC 2011's Bib Gourmand list.
                              BTW, out of curiousity, do we have to speak Malay to the staff at Nyonya or Laut? I thought most of them are actually Chinese-Malaysians, not ethnic Malays.

                              1. re: klyeoh

                                My waitress at Nyonya was from China, so not only did she not speak Malay; she also didn't understand how to explain my request to tell the kitchen we were Malaysians (we're not but I have Malaysian tastes), and to cook everything spicy, with plenty of belacan in the kangkung belacan. The results were pathetic.

                                The staff at Laut are Malaysians and Indonesians. Their English is fine, but speaking Malay to them definitely helped me get more authentic food. At first, they brought birdseye chilis for me to add, which was unsatisfactory. But by the third time I came, they were making things right.

                                Nyonya is neither that cheap nor very good and doesn't belong in a Michelin guide at all, in my opinion.

                                1. re: Pan

                                  Malaysian restaurateurs definitely need to up their game in NY (and US in general). If we can get good Thai & Vietnamese in NY, why not Malaysian? All the necessary ingredients are available.

                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                    not to be a downer here, but you can't get good viet in NY and thai is just ok....in fact viet food in NY is awful, the best places aren't even mediocre just different levels of bad

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      It's possible to get excellent Vietnamese within the 5 Boroughs, but the place I know is in Elmhurst. The best Thai places I know are also in Queens.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        which place in elmhurst is good?

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Pho Bac. This is based on one meal, but I thought the stuff the 5 of us had was really tasty.

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            hmm never heard of it, i'll have to go try

                                            what specific dishes did u like?

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              That'll be hard for me to remember. As I recall, we liked the Cha Gio and I believe the Com Thit Nuong and Com Bo Lui or Com Suon Bo Nuong, but we had several other things. Here's a menu:


                                              And you can see a report on the restaurant in my friend's blog if you scroll down a bit here:


                                  2. re: Pan

                                    I agree with Pan wholeheartedly about Nyonya. They are a joke. Every time I've been there, it has been a disappointment and I'm a Singaporean expatriate living in New York City.

                                    And while Fatty Crab serves rather tasty "Fusion Malaysian" tastes (e.g., "Fried Watermelon with Pork Belly"; "Sambal Mayo Tea Sandwiches"; etc), it's totally inauthentic. Even the Nasi Lemak is Zak Pelaccio's idea of what a Nasi Lemak should be, not what it truly is.

                              2. re: klyeoh

                                i'm actually not a fan of either of those restaurants. I've been to nyonya many many times and i just don't like it, i find the execution lacking. It's ok, just nothing special

                                I get what zac pelaccio is trying to do with fatty crab and it's commendable, but i think his crab is mediocre and tastes nothing like real chili crab (although to be fair i'm not sure if he is or isn't going for "authentic"), the only dish i really liked there were the black pepper mussels he made

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Disappointing to hear that. Looks like it's impossible to find really good, authentic Malaysian/Singaporean food in NYC as the eateries there, despite being owned by Malaysians (Kathy Wong & Michael Bong for Laut, and Terence Low for the Penang Group of restaurants, which included Nyonya), have altered the tastes to suit local palates (my experiences in San Francisco and Los Angeles had been pretty disappointing as well). But they do seem to be able to cook up authentic versions in events organized by the Malaysian embassy or trade office in New York.

                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                    Don't give up on Laut before trying it. And definitely don't give up on Taste Good in Elmhurst without trying it. Their food isn't that spicy, but it did taste real and good to me. So while it's sad that London has much better Malaysian food than New York does, all is not lost.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      Re: London - Malaysia Student Hall in Queensborough Terrace served 100% authentic Malay food, whilst Sedap in Old Street (near the Barbican) served very good (perhaps 80% authentic) Penang Nyonya-style food:

                                      But then, the UK & Malaysia have a long history together going back > 200 years.

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        Of course. But I also think that Londoners have gotten used to very spicy curries, and that that taste for hot peppery, bracingly tasty food is transferable to other cuisines. New York food, by contrast, has wimpy levels of spiciness.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          I know your post is an old one but for someone newly reading this thread it is worth mentioning that Malaysian food is not synonymous with Malay food, and Malaysian does not equal Malay. :-) Not all Malaysian food is spicy, and a lot of Chinese-Malaysian food is not chili-spicy at all as prepared, even if you would usually be offered sambal or chilies or hot sauces to eat with it if desired.

                                          1. re: huiray

                                            Of course that's true, but most of the non-spicy Chinese Malaysian food would be served at a Cantonese or some other variety of Chinese restaurant in Malaysia, don't you agree (with one exception I can think of right away: breakfast foods like bubur)? The Malaysian restaurant I went to in London does serve some Cantonese food, though even the Cantonese soup my girlfriend ordered had a lot of white pepper in it, and the staff are undoubtedly Chinese Malaysians, who served us food that was very spicy, and that's what you expect when you get curries, laksa, roti canai, satay (not the meat itself so much but the sauce), etc., in Malaysia.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              Do you classify a restaurant serving vaguely "Chinese" food or staffed by folks of Chinese ethnicity to be "Chinese" restaurants, then, as distinct from "Malaysian" restaurants? If so, yes, that would tend towards treating "Malaysian" and "Malay" as synonyms from your viewpoint. :-) Is the corollary of that, then, the idea that someone cannot be "Malaysian" unless he/she was "Malay"? ;-)

                                              [The normal usage is that "Malaysian" refers to nationality; whereas "Malay" refers to a specific ethnicity]

                                              Bak kut teh and Hainanese chicken rice as done in M'sia/S'pore are just two kinds of food straight off the top of my head that would be Malaysian/Singaporean and even have their own dedicated restaurants or stalls all over the place. Yong tow foo is another. Popiah is another.

                                              "Bubur", which you cite, is the Indonesian/Malay term. The "Chinese" term is "chook/jook" [Cantonese dialect], which is what would be used at those stalls and restaurants that serve their different varieties of this dish (not just for breakfast), and are found in many places especially in Chinatowns, owned by Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity and run by the same. It's interesting, your thinking of *these* shops as "Malaysian" while using the Malay/Indonesian term to refer to the food they serve. :-)

                                              (Bubur cha cha is a Nyonya dessert, and is also "Malaysian", not "Malay")

                                              1. re: huiray

                                                i do agree with huiray in that think that the terms "singaporean" or "malaysian" no longer refer to a single ethnicity but rather about a nationality which broadly includes chinese, malay and indian since all three ethnic groups are heavily represented in both countries. They have somewhat incorporated aspects of each others foods into their own foods. For example the use of chilis is much more prevalent in chinese food (teochew, hokkien, cantonese etc) in singapore / malaysia than it is in the original cuisine (none of these cuisines are spicy whatsoever in their original form)

                                                re: satay - btw Pan i don't think the satay sauce is spicy in malaysia either? i remember the absolute best satay i've ever had was in a tiny village in northeast malaysia (i was on my way to the perhentian islands) and there was some sort of street market thing going on and i got the best satays ive ever had and the sauce wasn't spicy at all. The reason i bring this up b/c the area was 100% malay, they had basically zero chinese influence, which is quite different than most of malaysia, so i figure they'd probably represent a more pure malay version of the dish.

                                                re: bubur cha cha - yah i always wondered the origins of bubur cha cha b/c you can find almost the exact same dish in hong kong easily, but it's called xi mi lu, i get it all the time (i love it as a dessert)

                                                re: spiciness in NY - back the original question, i do think they dumb down spicy level at across almost all cuisines in NY (and the US generally), but that's not my issue with most of these places. I just find the execution to be lacking. I mean in theory in singapore, where chinese are the majority, they certainly dumb down the spice level in certain dishes b/c originally almost all of the chinese people represented (hokkien, teochew, cantonese etc) eat almost no spicy food (my relatives hate spicy food) also alot of the dishes aren't even malay as huiray stated

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  Thanks for the response, Lau.

                                                  Regarding spiciness in non-Western cuisines in NY/USA - I agree; and chiliheads here apparently definitely agree! (I'm not one) Perhaps klyeoh might also have something to say about spiciness levels from his perspective in Singapore...

                                                  Bubur cha cha in HK? That's interesting. Could it be a "back-adaptation"?

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    yah i always wondered if it was a back-adaptation or if there was something similar in cantonese cuisine that got brought over there or just how both places have the same dish? (i suspect it has it's origins over in malaysia / singapore b/c of the coconut milk, but I don't have any factual idea where it was originally from), i mean you can even get it in NY cantonese restaurants which have zero ties to singapore or malaysia

                                                    it's called 西米露 (xi mi lu / sai mai lo) not bubur cha cha though in cantonese restaurants

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      huiray - I think we Singaporeans preferred a higher level of spiciness than Malaysians!! But Malaysian food has so much more flavor - the balance of other spices (besides chillis/peppers) were complex but perfectly balanced. In contrast, our Singaporean curries were usually tongue-numbing affairs :-D

                                                      1. re: klyeoh


                                                        That intense savory aspect of non-chili-hot Malaysian food is what I indeed think of. The chili-hot spiciness of various dishes is certainly also there and found throughout all extant cuisines in Malaysia but does not define what Malaysian food is. :-) Curries and chili-hot Malay food are wonderful but I myself would also appreciate other kinds of Malaysian stuff. Good KL Hokkien Mee with loads of lardons and copious "wok hei" - ohhhh, now *that* is one non-chili-spicy dish that I would kill for. ;-)

                                                        Y'know, even Penang Har Mee does not need to have chili-hotness for it to be scrumptious - and I have both sampled and made my own which have zero chili paste/oils added to it. :-)

                                                    2. re: Lau

                                                      Surprising you'd have had the best satay on the East Coast. I've always considered it more a West Coast thing, and have had much better satay on the West Coast of Malaysia, but Kelantan has ayam percik, which is a related taste. In my experience, satay sauce is quite spicy; I'll take your word for it that it doesn't have to be.

                                                      But you know, in Malay, there's an expression: "Tak ada cili, tak ada rasa." That means "If there's no chili, there's no taste." There are many exceptions, but it's enough of a rule for there to be a proverb for it.

                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        Pan - Kelantan actually does have some very good satays. I also used to think it was a West Coast Malaysian thang - think Haji Samuri of Kajang. But I came across some fantastic versions at the night-stalls outside Pasar Pusat Siti Khatijah in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, some time back. They even have satays made from chicken intestines and livers - absolutely delicious.

                                                        But Lau is correct, you do get satays which were totally non-chilli-spicy. I'd had these, not only back home in Singapore, but also in Malaysia and Indonesia. What interested me was that, in Indonesia, you come across various kinds of satay dips: in Java, the dips were a blend of smooth peanut sauce topped with sweet dark soysauce, whilst in Sumatra, it's a viscous sauce, with a blend of spices, thickened with rice flour.

                                                        I prefer the sort of peanut sauce we get in Singapore (http://www.chow.com/photos/518382) and Malaysia (http://www.chow.com/photos/678509) - the crunchy peanut sauce version, with coarsely-ground peanuts in a sweet-savory sauce scented with galangal, turmeric, coriander and other spices. The stuff of dreams.

                                                        Then, there are Chinese satays in places like Ipoh, Malaysia, where you get pork, pig's liver and pig's innards satays (http://www.chow.com/photos/340079) - unbelievably delicious.

                                                        Recently, I had a wonderful Thai satay in Yaowarat (Bangkok Chinatown) which measured up to the best which Malaysian, Singapore or Indonesia has to offer :-D

                                                        1. re: klyeoh

                                                          hey klyeoh - you ever tried either of these places?

                                                          this one at old airport road, besides the fact that it looks amazing, has a pretty interesting sauce (apparently traditional hainanese satay puts a pineapple slush in it)

                                                          or this one:

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            Yes, I had, but it's been years since I've been back to Chuan Kee. The last time I ate there, Jim Leff had not created Chowhound yet ;-)

                                                            1. re: klyeoh

                                                              ahhhh long time ago

                                                              man i need to get back there, i keep watching all these tv shows and seeing blogs etc....killing me, HK, singapore and taiwan are like food heaven for me

                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                Try Old Punggol Satay in Alexandra Village Food Centre in Bukit Merah the next time you're in Singapore. Pork satays with peanut sauce/pineapple dip. My old office was 10 minutes' drive down the street, so that's a fave lunch spot.

                                                                1. re: klyeoh

                                                                  ah yah ive heard of that place, ill make it a mission to get good satay next time im in singapore...now that i think about it i never have gone out of my way for satay, im always on the hunt for like chicken rice, bak chor mee, laksa etc

                                                    3. re: huiray

                                                      I speak Malay, not Chinese, so that's why I use Malay terms for everything. No, I don't think Malays are the only Malaysians; that would be ridiculous and offensive. Sorry if my viewpoint is skewed by my greater amount of time in Malaysia in the 70s and lesser amount of time in 2003. I realize many things have changed.

                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        yah its possible, ive eaten satay many times in singapore and malaysia, but i def don't consider myself any type of satay expert. i just figured that since it was a pretty pure malay type of town maybe it's indicative of what the original sauce is like? i could be wrong though

                                                        it was also like the cheapest thing ever, it was like $0.25 for a big pile of them with lontong, amazingly fresh and tender meat, great slight char flavor, i ended up getting two orders while i was reading a book and waiting for my bus...oh man it makes me want to go find some good satay

                                                        Pan - I think ure in NY, i need to try more dishes, but if you want to go speak malay with some people, they definitely speak it at sanur. there were a bunch of them speaking to some malay guys when i was there a few weeks ago

                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                          There are very few peanut-based satay sauces that I have tasted that have been spicy.

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            Satay is by no means a purely Malay thing.

                                                            Not sure what I think about going back to Sanur. I've had quite mixed experiences with them in the past.

                                                            18 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013

                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                              yah thats why i need to go back and try some more dishes, i found some decent ones, but others had been sorta weak. on the other hand they have a bunch of hard to find stuff like kuehs and kaya etc

                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                where is the best satay in nyc?

                                                                1. re: AubWah

                                                                  the best satay ive had in NY was at taste good, which were surprisingly quite good. However, after they changed ownership i heard the quality of the food went downhill pretty bad (i haven't been in a while) and someone recently told me they're actually shutdown now, but i haven't confirmed that either and according to yelp they are still open and there is a review from early feb 2012, so you'd have to call them

                                                                  the ones i've had recently at overseas and sanur were nothing to write home about

                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                    I saw a picture of the satays at Asian Taste 86, the new Indonesian place in Elmhurst. Looked good

                                                                    1. re: AubWah

                                                                      I haven't been yet, but my Indonesian eating buddies stopped by and thought everything they had was terrible. Seems about as relevant as judging by a picture :)

                                                                      I've had pretty good satay at Upi Jaya, which is my overall favorite Indonesian in NYC.

                                                                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                                        which of the indonesian places do u think is the best in elmhurst?

                                                                        ive meant to go out there to try one of them, but hadn't gotten around to it yet although the thai places are probably first on my list in elmhurst

                                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                                          Java Restaurant in Park Slope is real good for Indonesian. Very homey feel, sometimes the waitress is the chef. It has been in Park slope ( windsor terrace) for many years, on 7th Ave around 12th St . They get a big Asian clientele. The place is small, i think there are 8 small tables.

                                                                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                            Not a fan and I don't know any Indonesians who like it either. It's right by my apartment and I never go.

                                                                        2. re: Peter Cuce

                                                                          Me too, Peter. Very good satay at Upi Jaya. Beautiful smokey taste, from what I remember.

                                                            2. re: Pan

                                                              :-) Yes, I'm aware that your worldview is colored by your experience in heavily-Malay NE Malaysia.

                                                              FWIW the concept of Malaysians encompassing folks of Chinese, Indian, Malay and various other ethnicities and mixes thereof is not a recent phenomenon. It has been so for quite a while, including from the promulgation of "Malaya" as a political entity (1957; independence from Britain; Federation of Malaya before that; British Malay & etc before that; etc etc) to the establishment of "Malaysia" as a country (1963).

                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                I'm well aware of the history of Malaysia: I learned it both in Sekolah Kebangsaan and through my own reading.

                                                                I really am sorry if I come across as somehow Malay chauvinist. That's certainly not the case.

                                      2. lau as always thank you for your wonderful and inspirational review! not to mention the discussion it inspired. we are all, all meaning us old skool chowhounds that is, always on the lookout for malay cuisine and so this thread is very helpful.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Just curious - why is this restaurant referred to as "Overseas Asian" when the sign (in English) at least says "Overseas Taste"?

                                          Went there this past weekend and realized I had actually been here a few times, just never knew what it was called.

                                          24 Replies
                                          1. re: asiansupper

                                            they have changed their english name a few times, but the name in chinese is the same

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              What is the name in Chinese? I recognize the character for "horse," which the "Ma" part of the transliteration for Malaysia, but I don't know what the rest is. (I don't speak any Chinese dialects/languages.) It looks like the name Oversea Taste has stuck -- it's now on the signage and the various review sites on the web.

                                              I went years ago a few times and posted about it here on Chowhound when I was first discovering Chinese-Malaysian food. I really enjoyed the Hainanese Chicken Rice and the Kang Kung Belachan. I found the Mee Goreng to be a bit (or rather, a lot) greasy, though. I hope to go again soon and post an update.

                                              1. re: foodmonk

                                                so if you look at this pic: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/JznrsB...

                                                from left to right: shi wei tian ya zhou can guan
                                                shi = food
                                                wei tian = some sort of name
                                                ya zhou = asia
                                                can guan = restaurant

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  By the way, I wanted to try the ipoh-style/white coffee, but on two occasions they said they don't have it. Do you ask for it using any other name? Or did you just have it the one time?

                                                  1. re: Polecat

                                                    ill double check the brand when i get home, actually ill just take a picture of it and post it on here

                                                    they always have it, so it'd be weird if they didnt. i know some other stores that have it too, but let me post later on when im home

                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                      I'll just bump this up so that you remember to keep your white coffee promise. We did seal that in blood as I recall.

                                                        1. re: Polecat

                                                          so the other two places i could think of to get the coffee in manhattan are:
                                                          shi eurasia: small shop in the LES that has singaporean, malaysian, british and australian snacks

                                                          unnamed malaysian store: i forgot the name of this place, but on eldridge just above canal street on the east side of the street there is a very small store selling malaysian goods

                                                          Shi Eurasia
                                                          143 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                                                          Wei Wei Trading
                                                          54 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            Thanks much. Will pick some up next weekend when I'm in for Chinese New Year. I'll also look for this in Elmhurst and Flushing - many markets.

                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                              Lau, could you tell us a little more about Ipoh-style white coffee? Is it sweet? Roasted in margarine (according to Wikipedia) ?! I saw a few bags of white coffee at Hong Kong Supermarket recently -- not sure if it was this brand or even Malaysian -- and now I'm very curious. Thanks.

                                                              1. re: D...DF

                                                                well by itself it is not sweet b/c its simply coffee beans that roasted differently, but you do drink it sweet b/c they normally mix it with condensed milk. you can buy the sweetened or unsweetened version. the one i put up in the picture is sweetened already. I find it different tasting that regular coffee, its a little less bitter and has a different flavor than the coffee you find here.

                                                                I usually get a chinese pastry like a pineapple bun or something like that and drink it with that

                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                  Thanks, Lau. I'll give it a whirl.

                                                              2. re: Lau

                                                                You'll be interested to know that I found this brand - along with two or three others - in the first Chinese market I looked in, that being the one in Jackson Hts on Bway hard by the 74th/Roosevelt stop.

                                                                Bought the hazelnut version.It's the first instant coffee I've had in ages but I could easily get addicted to this stuff. It's nice and thick with a good, mild sweetness. Based on this, I'm pretty sure I'd dig the whole bean, fresh brewed stuff in Ipoh. Can't wait until the F train stops out there.

                                                                Anyhow, thanks again. Mission accomplished...for now.

                                                        2. re: foodmonk

                                                          By the way, of course, Hainanese Chicken Rice is Chinese-Malaysian, but I think of Kangkung Belacan as a Malay dish. Or at any rate, dishes with Belacan were very typically made by home cooks in the very Malay states of Terengganu and Kelantan where the percentage of Chinese people is very low. No-one ever made Hainanese Chicken Rice in any house I lived in or visited in Terengganu or Kelantan.

                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                            hainan chicken rice is hainanese in origin, but its been changed quiet a bit in singapore / malaysia

                                                            its actually called wenchang chicken in hainan b/c its wenchang is the city in hainan where it is from. there is a decent amount of hainanese in singapore / malaysia who brought the dish over and then adapted it, it is supposedly quiet a bit different than the original (which i have never had)

                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                              I was only in Singapore and Malaysia a few times, but this is practically my favorite cuisine, so I want to put in my two cents. The best place used to No 1 Delicious on Doyers. I still like the place in the Bowery Arcade and the place on Doyers that is downstairs---but only for certain dishes. The ong choy (kang kung) with belacan almost never has enough belacan, but it does in the Arcade, also with Okra ("Ladies Fingers"). The downstairs place (it has often changed names) does fish head assam well. One dish that has become hard to find is Chou Dou with belacan, stinking beans, something one either loves or hates, called Sator in Thai (they actually do pretty well at Sripaphai). Another great dish not mentioned by Lau or the others is rojak. I haven't been happy I have had in a long while.
                                                              By the way, I find New taste Good to be overrated, and prefer a couple of Flushing spots on 40th road.
                                                              I think that hainanese chicken rice was originally about the rice and ginger/chicken fat sauce---but people have gotten richer and eat more protein.
                                                              Has anyone ever found luo bo gao (turnip cake) the way they do it in Singapore? It's easy to find in any dimsum place, but that's the Hong Kong version.

                                                              18 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013

                                                              New Malaysia
                                                              48 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

                                                              1. re: swannee

                                                                rojak - good rojak is hard to find and i've never had a good version of it (chinese or indian style) outside of singapore / malaysia. so unfortunately i don't really have a rec for you. I tried the indian rojak at overseas and i didn't like it that much, the ingredients were freshly fried, which was good but their sauce was too sweet and the ingredients were quiet a bit different than what you normally find at an indian rojak stall (had jellyfish in it although i sorta liked that). i have not tried the chinese version yet

                                                                chicken rice - i dont know about that, i think chicken rice very much is still about the rice and I dont think that has changed drastically if anything alot of people think that the chicken has gotten worse in singapore over time b/c you don't get the free range chicken that they used to and the newer chickens are too lean (although chicken rice is definitely something you can find alot of good places in singapore and is not getting harder to find good versions over time unlike other hawker dishes)

                                                                luo bo gao: i believe you're talking about "carrot cake" as it is called in singapore (cai tou gao in mandarin), which is luo bo gao, but its been cut up into smaller pieces and stir fried with fish sauce, egg and comes either white or black (black due to the use of a thick soy sauce). you can find it, but its not exactly the same, but roughly similar:

                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                  Re: Chicken Rice - I think you are right, my sense had always been that a major part of "Hainanese Chicken Rice" (or just "Chicken Rice") was always about the rice, and aficionados would rate places on their rice as much as on their chicken. A second important component of the whole were the sauces – the chili sauce in particular, and famous shops would have their own formulations and again customers would argue over the merits of the sauce(s) from this or that shop. :-) The chicken itself as done in "Hainanese Chicken Rice" is basically the same as "pak chit kai" or "pak cham kai", which often stands alone or in combination with other ingredients in other dishes.

                                                                  Singaporean "Hainanese Chicken Rice" generally uses non-"free range" a.k.a. NON-"kampong (village) chicken" and usually has a mushier texture with whiter skin – in contrast to that found in many places in Malaysia which often use "kampong chickens" with more chewy meat and yellower skin. Some CHers from S'pore have said they actually prefer the softer/mushier texture of the chicken they get in Singapore, whereas (not unexpectedly) some CHers from M'sia have said they much prefer the more springy chicken in M'sia and can't stand the ones in S'pore.

                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                    yah i've heard the debate about kampong vs non-kampong a few times, personally while i like the chicken, i really love the rice so i'm looking for a really good rice and as you brought up really good condiments (chili, dark thick soy sauce and ginger sauce) are hugely important to me. i mean the rice is so good at some places that i'd be fine with a plate of rice, condiments and some sliced cucumbers (i literally ate chicken rice or nasi lemak for lunch everyday when i lived there)

                                                                    also i think the original wenchang chicken, which is what the actual dish is called in hainan, is more about the chicken than the rice. i think rice is much more an adaption of the original dish by the hainanese who moved to singapore and malaysia

                                                                2. re: swannee

                                                                  Stink beans are called petai in Malay, so the dish is petai belacan.

                                                              2. re: Pan

                                                                Kangkung belacan can also be considered more as a Nyonya dish than malay per se. Belacan is also used in various "adaptive' dishes, including Malaysian-Chinese besides Nyonya/Peranakan cuisine.

                                                                Could you not get *any* hainanese Chicken in a restaurant (Chinese, of course) anywhere in Kelantan or Terengganu?

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  Good point about Peranakan cuisine. I think there's a lot of overlap between Peranakan and both Malay and non-Peranakan Chinese-Malaysian cuisine.

                                                                  When I went back to Terengganu in 2003, there were plenty of signs on the coastal highway advertising Hainanese Chicken Rice for sale at coffee shops, but I think it may not have been too common even in restaurants in the 1970s. Perhaps in KT's Chinatown or Kuala Dungun. But just as satay wasn't that common on the East Coast then, I think Hainanese Chicken Rice was also more a West Coast thing.

                                                        3. I finally went yesterday. It was very good, especially the okra with belachan (my wife doesn't like ong choy), but I wonder if it is as good as Lau's original post. For one thing, I ended up having to write the order in Chinese--the waitress simply could not understand English or my bad Mandarin. And shouldn't yong dau fu include stuffed bitter melon? I missed it. The Rojak was OK, the nasi lemak good except for watery ikan bilis. So Lau, any comments?

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: swannee

                                                            I don't know about the "norm" at Overseas Asian, but I personally would not expect Yong Tau Foo items to *obligatorily* include fish-paste-stuffed bitter melon pieces. It is commonly offered or is commonly used, yes, especially in SE Asia. I would think that in the West, bitter melon might be offered more sparingly as it is not that favored by many diners and is a bit of an acquired taste?

                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                              I love bitter melon and always got it in yong dau fu at Number One Delicious (the old place on Doyers) and in Singapore.

                                                              1. re: swannee

                                                                They include it at Skyway, across the street and around the corner from Overseas.

                                                                1. re: swannee

                                                                  I don't doubt that you are used to getting it and "always got it" but the point is that it doesn't HAVE to be offered for the general food group offering to be called Yong Tau Foo. Certainly in SE Asia one would choose from a range of offerings at a YTF stall, which may or may not include bitter melon, and/or which may have sold out of the bitter melon pieces, etc. I myself would not frequently choose the bitter melon pieces when there is a range of choices.

                                                              2. re: swannee

                                                                hey swanee -
                                                                - language: i always speak to them in mandarin (they speak cantonese as lingua franca there), so i've never had a problem with language and ive seen people speak to them in english, so i think that mustve been your specific waiter
                                                                - yong dau fu: this literally translated to stuffed tofu (niang dou fu in mandarin); there are many different versions of this, i've had cantonese versions (easily available in chinatown), the versions in singapore malaysia which are some combo of hakka, cantonese etc and then actual hakka version, there are probably more but im just not thinking of them off the top of my head. while i think its reasonably common to have bitter melon, i dont think its a must have and ive had it many many times without it, so i wouldnt it consider it quientessential to the dish, here's several blog posts by what is probably singapore's most famous food blog on yong tofu:

                                                                rojak: haven't tried their regular one only their indian rojak which was mediocre

                                                                nasi lemak: their nasi lemak is decent, but i agree with u re: ikan bilis, for some reason no one can make a proper sambal or good ikan bilis in NY

                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                  My Mandarin is pretty lousy, but I also didn't really try since I heard only Cantonese from both wait staff and customers. They didn't seem to know the Malaysian names, so I think most are from Hong Kong, not Malaysia, although the kitchen people may well be. I read and write Chinese fairly well, but my accent is awful since I never took lessons.
                                                                  Amazingly enough, the best ikan bilis in NY I have had is at Nonya. It's worth going there for it, the Chou Dou, and the duck with lotus seeds, and pretty much nothing else.. The stuff they sell at Taiwanese markets can be good, too, though different (no belachan and no tamarind).
                                                                  My wife loves Rojak, so we always get it. It is usually pretty terrible.
                                                                  BTW, I have always found it strange that "Niang Dou Fu" so often contains things that aren't stuffed tofu. But then again "Xiang yu" dishes don't have fish, etc. etc.

                                                                  1. re: swannee

                                                                    they speak mandarin

                                                                    i think most of them are from malaysia, ive spoken to a few of them, i think they were from KL if i remember right. although totally possible they hired non-malaysian chinese.

                                                                    In malaysia, the major chinese are cantonese, hokkien, teochew and hakka to a lesser extent, so i almost view "malaysian" food like singaporean food where it's become this mix of chinese, malay and indian to a lesser degree.

                                                                    anyhow back on topic, rojak is impossible to get good outside singapore / malaysia, ive never had a good version, you need a guy with good ingredients who toasts his own you tiao etc and most people aren't willing to go to those lengths

                                                                    yong tofu, you can get ok versions outside singapore / malaysia.

                                                                    you should get it at some straight cantonese restaurants, its prepared differently usually in a black bean sauce, but its delicious, ill find somewhere that makes it decent and post back on it

                                                                    also if u want to deal with all malaysian chinese, im pretty sure almost everyone at sanur is malaysian-chinese, ive heard them speaking malaysian several times

                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                      Why not make your own YTF? It's not difficult - it just needs some work/prep time. (If you look at my atavar you will see a batch of YTF I made not long ago - before poaching/cooking. Yes, I used fu qua that time)

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        hmm never tried it, i guess i could find a recipe and try it

                                                                        ive been trying to make bo zai fan b/c i gave up on trying to find a decent version, havent got it totally right yet, but its better than whats in ctown right now

                                                                      2. re: Lau

                                                                        Major Hainanese community in Malaysia, too. Remember Hainanese chicken rice.

                                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                                          sorry left them out, but yes hainanese too

                                                                    2. re: Lau

                                                                      Both the waitress I couldn't communicate with and the waiter I could we're from H.K. But I don't doubt that any are from KL.
                                                                      Lau, when are you going to do a reportage on Yuen Yuen? Ever had the rattlesnake soup there? Or the deer penis for tha matter? I think it's a very special place.

                                                                      1. re: swannee

                                                                        i need to go back one or two more times to do a full report, i need a few more pics

                                                                        ive only tried one of the herbal soups so far, i want to try some of the more exotic ones and report back

                                                                  2. Sure, I understand. The name just means stuffed tofu. BTW, I wasn't generally too overwhelmed with Skyway.
                                                                    Speaking of bitter melon, does anyone know anyplace that does it with sliced fish other than Yuen Yen on Bayard (it is sublime there)?

                                                                    36 Replies
                                                                    1. re: swannee

                                                                      Skyway is OK. No Malaysian restaurant is the least bit overwhelming in New York.

                                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                                        Just topping this thread - to get an indication of which of these Chinatown-LES Malaysian places is most recommended right now. Back in the early CHowhound days we used to spend a significant amount of time searching out the best malaysian eating around the city but that activity has tailed off due to a string of disappointingly mediocre meals and the closing of places we liked, esp the No !/Taste Good place on Doyers.

                                                                        So, we've never been to Skyway or Overseas Asian - which of those would be preferred and what dishes are they doing well currently ? should we be heading elsewhere?

                                                                        We will be in that LES area on Sat night and want to take the opportunity.

                                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                                          i dont really like skyway, i find it inconsistent and sometimes outright bad

                                                                          i prefer overseas, but u have to know which dishes are decent as the dishes can be very hit or miss

                                                                          Things to order:
                                                                          - roti canai
                                                                          - char kway teow
                                                                          - kari mee
                                                                          - kang kan belachan
                                                                          - sting ray
                                                                          - famous shredded chicken noodle
                                                                          - prawn mee

                                                                          so so:
                                                                          - beef rendang
                                                                          - satay

                                                                          - hainan chicken + chicken rice
                                                                          - hokkien mee
                                                                          - bak kut teh
                                                                          - ipoh bean sprouts
                                                                          - indian rojak

                                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                                              generally their soup noodle dishes seem to be their stronger points as they usually have decent broth and their char kway teow is probably the best version ive had in NY among a sea of really bad versions b/c it has some wok hai and isn't just some oily mess

                                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                                have you had it at taste good in elmhurst?

                                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                                  I went to Overseas Taste tonight (Saturday) at 7 and the gate was down - no sign of life..A little concerning since that neighborhood is changing fast.

                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                    oh wow...i just walked by very recently and it was open

                                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                                      it could easily have been a one night thing bu7 seems pretty uncommon on a Sat in chinatown. That strip is pretty dead -and perhaps gentrifying, several storefronts for rent.

                                                                              2. re: Lau

                                                                                "famous shredded chicken noodle"

                                                                                Please explain. Is this in soup?

                                                                                1. re: Polecat

                                                                                  Polecat - its basically a chicken broth noodle soup

                                                                                  Auwah - ive eaten at taste good, but i haven't had it there. however, i heard since it changed ownership its actually pretty bad now, but i havent been since it changed ownership

                                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                                    I went recently for singapore kari laksa and spoke with the guy "gary" who was the boss. the soup was great, but more expensive. still worth it to me.

                                                                                    1. re: AubWah

                                                                                      maybe ill go check it out, i reviewed it a long time ago and i guess i did have the char kway teow and i liked it alot, it was a long time ago


                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                        One of my favorites at Taste Good over the years is a dish I can't find anywhere else here - that is Hainanese Chicken Noodle Soup. The Hainanese chicken is, on it's own, not as good, but it pairs really well with some egg noodles in a chicken broth. I haven't had it for a few years now - will probably go for it again in colder weather.

                                                                                        My favorite Malaysian in Queens is Curry Leaves in Flushing. They actually put cockles in their char kwey teow, and they serve curry laksa in the early hours - you can get it for breakfast (starting at 4am).

                                                                                        Nothing there is likely to blow you away, but I've found it to be a hair or two above the others (disclaimer: haven't been to Sentosa in years).


                                                                                        1. re: Polecat

                                                                                          whoa really? even in singapore alot of places don't put cockles in their char kway teow anymore although it's partially b/c of health concerns around getting hepatitis A from bad cockles that aren't cooked enough

                                                                                          sentosa got pretty bad from what i remember although i think they had good roti canai

                                                                                          i buy kaya from curry leaves, its quite good, pretty similar to what you get in singapore, but i've never eaten there

                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                              ah interesting

                                                                                              ill actually be in singapore in the next few weeks, i cant wait to get some laksa

                                                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                                                I flit between Kuala Lumpur (work) and Singapore (home/family) these days - let me know when you're in Singapore and if you'd like to catch up for a really local meal.

                                                                                                1. re: klyeoh

                                                                                                  well ill actually be in both singapore and KL although ill only be in KL for like 2.5 days to see a friend who's working there although I'm interested in eating b/c I haven't been to Malaysia in a very long time

                                                                                                  i'd absolutely be interested, what email can I get you at? or you can email my blog email lauhound@gmail.com

                                                                                          1. re: Polecat

                                                                                            I also like Curry Leaves on 40th. Good petai belacan and egg with bitter melon, too.

                                                                                  2. re: Lau

                                                                                    And I've generally preferred Skyway to Overseas. However, I doubt there's any Malaysian restaurant in the Five Boroughs that's actually consistently good, let alone consistently spicy and good.

                                                                                    I think if you go to Skyway and get things like Curry Mee with Young Tau Foo, Kangkung (or petai or whatever) Belacan, and most any fish or seafood dish (except the oyster omelette), you'll probably be fine. Don't get rojak; no-one seems to make it right in New York, and it tastes weird and oddly fishy! And Skyway's Asam Laksa is fine about 90% of the time; perhaps Lau has had it some of the 10% of the time that it's overly fishy ("outright bad'). I like the Skyway Chicken Wings, too. And the Nasi Lemak is fine. Another thing not to get, though, is the oyster omelette; it's a greasy, salty thing made with oysters that are too old to eat, in my one and only experience of it. But I've never had problems with their fish in their fish head casseroles or their shrimps or crabs.

                                                                                    So yeah, it's hit or miss, but in general, I find their food good (for New York), and Overseas' mediocre.

                                                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                          Yes. I will walk by again shortly to double-check.

                                                                                            1. re: mitchleeny

                                                                                              I know this belongs in Outer Boroughs, but the best Malaysian food in the 5 boroughs is unquestionably at Taste Good on 45th avenue, the gritty streets of Elmhurst.

                                                                                              I went to Overseas once and was underwhelmed.

                                                                                              Taste Good is the real deal.

                                                                                              1. re: mitchleeny

                                                                                                Coming at this address ... http://www.boweryboogie.com/2012/12/m.... Not sure what to expect from a principal owner whose previous restaurant appears to be a Midtown deli.

                                                                                                1. re: squid kun

                                                                                                  It could be good, it's certainly worth a try. I'm in that area everyday so I'll check it out. As far as Overseas ( no relation to Overseas in KL) it always seemed more authentic than Skyway. Both places everyone speaks Chinese ( I forget if Cantonese or Mandarin). Is that common at all Malaysian restaurants here in NYC

                                                                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                                    Yes. Immigrants from Malaysia are usually Chinese Malaysians, and the reason they usually leave Malaysia is that they have tended to face more discrimination and have less opportunity in their own country than overseas. I totally disagree with you that Overseas was "more authentic" than Skyway, by the way. In what way?

                                                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                                                      I was mostly basing the authentic statement, because I've eaten at both several times , with a friend of mind who lives in Malaysia 6 months of the year ( owns a business there, not a restaurant) and He always said that Overseas was more authentic, and he also owns some restaurants, so I figured he was an authority on this. But he has been wrong before lol.
                                                                                                      Also, Now i notice Skyway also closed. So overseas and Skyway closed. That leaves the touristy Malaysian place, Nyonya, on Mulberry Street. I had the frog there and it was terrible.Please don't tell me Nyonya is very authentic.

                                                                                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                                        No, Nyonya is very inauthentic. I didn't know Skyway had closed. Are you sure? They closed Thursdays, I think, every week.

                                                                                                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                                            Oh well. They weren't as good as they once were, but it's still a loss.

                                                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                                                              Why are we up? it's too late for a midnite snack

                                                                                                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                                                I plan to go to bed shortly, but I'm typically (though not in the last few days) a night person.

                                                                                                          2. re: Pan

                                                                                                            skyway is definitely closed, its been closed for a while now