Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Roti Telur & Baby Back Ribs

Banana Leaf MilpitasI could probably have come up with a better title for this post, but it is 2 AM as I type this in the the lounge at Singapore Airport and my creative juices have run dry. Silicon Valley can be quite a foodie's delight with it's wide variety of eat-outs that include food from every corner of the world. On one day, a friend took me to Banana Leaf in Milpitas which specializes in Malaysian food. On another day I decided to try barbecued Ribs at Armadillo Willy's right next to my hotel in Cupertino.

I had arrived to a packed week, full of meetings. However, I was in better shape this time wrt jet-lag; I had arrived late Saturday and the extra day, before the week began, helped. Monday morning was dull and rainy, but as the day progressed, it got brighter and warmer. In fact, throughout the rest of the week it remained pleasant; it didn't get chilly even in the evenings.

Roti Telur at Banana LeafMalaysian restaurants are a rarity in the USA. However, I have often seen Malaysian food in Singapore restaurants (such as Straits). Singapore food, like it's people, is a mishmash of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Western. Banana Leaf was pretty crowded when we arrived. Since they do not accept reservations for parties smaller than five, we had to wait for 15 mintues to get a table. The restaurant has seating areas outdoors, indoors, and in the bar. The eating area is built around the bar and a large open kitchen; tables are close to one another and the noise level can be quite high.

From what I could see, Malaysian food is influenced by elements of Indian and Thai cuisine. Many dishes use tamarind, lemon-grass and/or mango.

Gado Gado at Banana LeafWe bagan with Gado-Gado and Roti Telur. The Gado-Gado includes fried prawn cake, crispy tofu and thinly cut vegetables drizzled with lime juice and a spicy peanut sauce. The widely different taste from the ingredients, the cold and the hot mixed together, made for a very interesting starter.

The Roti Telur is a multi-layered bread, like a stuffed Indian Paratha, in this case stuffed with egg. However, the Roti comes with a dipping sauce which tasted really good - sort of like the egg curries of North India.

Sake MohitoSoon after, our entrees appeared too. Please note that here everything appears on the table in quick succession. They usually don't wait for you to finish the previous course. The Sake Mojito we had ordered instead of wine was very interesting too: a mojito made with Gekkaikan sake instead or white rum.

The Malay sizzling chicken was cooked in a black pepper sauce with mild Anaheim chillies, red bell peppers and sweet onions. I found this dish nice and spicy, and similar to Thai fare.

Malay Sizzling Chicken and Banana Leaf RiceThe Banana Leaf rice is a special Malay coconut rice and is served with Rendang chicken, boiled egg, sambal anchovies, onion, cucumber and peanuts all on a banana leaf. This seems to be one of the 'must have' dishes to try. Certainly looks good and tastes delicious too!

By now we were so full, I had to pass the desserts. A rarity!

I hadn't seen a BBQ chain before I came across Armadillo Willy's in Cupertino. I decided to pop into this place for lunch and try some baby back ribs, which can get a little messy! The hot sauce was spicy and pretty good; the ribs were ok. This place is configured like a fast-food restaurant where you first order, pay and wait for them to buzz you when your food is ready.

I need to find a more upscale BBQ place. Hmm, wonder if that is an oxymoron, like an upscale dhaba (in India)! Actually, I guess I am looking for a better BBQ place that not part of a chain. Well, well...whatdoyaknow? A quick Google search just now did yield some results: here's a Forbes list of high-end BBQ restaurants in the USA (full article here). Unfortunately, none in California, which I visit most often! I have to try to visit New Orleans some day.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind tasting Malaysian food, from what you describe, I think I'd like it.

We have the best ribs in North America ;-)

Sank said...

My Friend, make a visit to Minneapolis and I can accommodate both Malaysian food and good BBW. We have sort of a new place in town owned my a Malay family, Peninsula is the name of the place. Fantastic mix of Indian curries, Chinese noodles, Thai BBQ and tropical fruits and flavors. It's really good stuff.

BBQ here is good, Famous Daves is the spot. Although not to brag but my back yard has been selected by neighbors as a hot spot for ribs.

Really good BBQ in Kansas City and St. Louis. They have different styles and different cuts of ribs in each town. If you find yourself in KC the beef rips are really excellent. Short ribs are good too.

Anonymous said...

@zhu: Thanks, Zhu! Whew, blogger finally fixed the problem: for 36 hours people with IE couldn't view this blog (and many others!).

@sank: The nearest I expect to visit any time soon is Roseville, MN. Thanks for the info; I will certainly keep this in mind. :)

Anonymous said...

This took me straight down the memory lane as I was in Malaysia more than ten years ago. What strikes me is what you said: the multicultural society and the mishmash of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Western.

When I was there, the prepared for the Commonwealth games, so the whole town was under construction.

Thanks for sharing this - my mouth is watering - have a great stay and trip!

Anonymous said...

@renny: How interesting! Thank you for sharing this experience.

Anonymous said...

Yumm, I never tried Malaysian food but this stuff looks awesome. They actually serve you on coconut leaves? great! With so much quantity no wonder you didn't have desserts but they must have been similar to Thai ones?

Ribs, hmm, it does appear excessively carnivore while eating :) Thank God you didn't post a picture of you eating... LOL

Anonymous said...

@priyank: Heh! Those are fake banana leaves - design on the plate actually. I did eat on real banana leaves recently in Bangalore...will post soon.

kyh said...

Roti canais (known in Malaysia)/Roti pratas (known in Singapore) are indeed imported from your country, my friend! Most of the restaurants selling this dish here are operated by mamaks (Indian(Tamil) Muslims), and they are open 24/7! Great for treating your midnight hungers! :P

They also have roti naans, chapatis, tandoori chicken etc, all at a pretty affordable price! And they all came with different selections of curry dips, including dhal. :)

Anonymous said...

@kyh: Thanks for this useful information. Food tells a story too, of how people migrated (along with their favorite cuisines).

kyh said...

I think that's one of the +ve points of immigration, ya?

In fact, Southern Indian cuisine has become synonymous with Malaysian cuisine as a whole, and mamak stalls are an essential part of Malaysian identity!

Salt N Turmeric said...

Hi Shantanu, banana leaf rice is definitely NOT the name its known for. From the description and pic, tht is called Nasi Lemak and only known as nasi lemak. Be it you're in Msia, Spore or in the US.

Whc part of Cali do you normally go to? i dont eat pork so im not sure where is the best place for it but there's a small mom/pop place in Huntington Beach that seems to be always pack with bbq lovers and they do have bbr.


Anonymous said...

@salt n turmeric: Thank you for the comment. Well, that's what they said on the menu. Since the restaurant is called Banana Leaf, I guess they created their version of Nasi Lemak and named it themselves. :)

I usually travel to SFO and the Cupertino/San Jose area. Thank you for the recommendation. Will keep that in mind!