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Maple Malaysian Cuisine
University Village, Unit B7
5728 University Boulevard
Discovering the underground food court at the University Village on UBC campus was sort of like finding an unexpected twenty dollar bill in the pocket of a jacket that you haven’t worn since the season last dictated it was appropriate. It was very much a dungeon-like cavern hidden from the main floor road that I’ve passed by many times. Stepping inside the doors, I was surprised to find such a busy place during what is essentially off-season for classes, and the myriad of ethnic food options available. Granted, its very much food court in setup and appearance, with various tenants operating kitchens and table seating to accommodate people to eat right on the spot. Walking and scanning the scene, there were some Shawarma/Middle Eastern offerings, the requisite pick-your-items Chinese, a sushi shop, Mongolian BBQ, Indian, Korean and Malaysian. It was this last booth called Maple Malaysian Cuisine that led me here on this day in the first place, as I’d spotted a big banner for it outside from the road, and it raised my curiosity and my eventual discovery of this entire floor.
I know there are plenty well respected and more dine-in appropriate choices for Malaysian cuisine in the city, but finding a cafeteria scenario for a quick take out was a pleasant surprise. The menu board on the back wall next to the booth itself, featured an array of dishes (noodles, rice, fruit-based, and combo platters) each with a photograph and text description underneath. Prices appeared to range from about $5.99 (Mee Goreng, Curry Laksa, etc.) to $9.99 (for the chef’s speciality: black pepper king prawns served with rice). As well, there were several appetizer, dessert and drinks available.
Though I’ve been to Malaysia a few times and enjoy the cuisine, I know I am probably stuck in a rut and tend to order the usual suspects. I thought since the lineup was just me, that I’d chat up the man working inside and ask what he’d recommend, what’s popular, etc. He pointed me to the fruit-based dishes section and after a quick chat, I went with one of his recommendations, the Mango Seafood Rice. Gawd, I miss the fresh mangos in Southeast Asia! As a second item, selected the Sambal Prawns. While waiting he offered me a sample of one of the desserts, he called it the Glutinous Rice Dessert, and reminded me of a similar dish (Japanese Adzuki Beans) though not as sweet.
A man seated nearby was digging into what appeared to be some kind of seafood medley wrapped up in banana leaf and served with veggies and coconut rice. I received my order number tag, and wandered about the floor looking into each kitchen to see up close what else could be had, knowing that I will probably come back for the cheap offerings here and try things out. The Mongolian place was the most interesting setup, with a mix of meats and veggies laid out, I think you are to select the items you want and its all cooked up for you on the spot somehow. Nobody was ordering at the time, so could not see how this was actually done, but did grab my attention. About a 10~15 minute wait, and my meal was ready to go. The fellow was quite nice in explaining what was in each container so I wouldn’t be confused. I asked how long he’d been in this location, a year he said, furthering my shock at not knowing about this place until this day. As I’ve exhausted the nearby takeout options in this block, I am quite certain I would be back, as I headed back to my car, wonderfully smelling back in tow.
The Mango Seafood Rice contained mussels, prawns, fish, squid, carrots, broccoli, mangos, green beans – all coated evenly in a somewhat watery and sweet mango sauce. I can’t fully describe the flavors in the sauce as I’m not very familiar with Malaysian ingredients, but it was somewhat tomatoe-y in nature and in color, though the mango base made the thing overall sweet, but not overpoweringly so, and went just fine with the white rice.
The Sambal Prawns I think I preferred among the two items I brought back. It had a nice kick of heat, and deeper seafood flavors in the sauce that was not as liquid-y as the previous dish, and each ingredient (prawns of course, green and red peppers, onions) was again nicely coated. It would have gone well with a nice cold beer, but alas my fridge was devoid of such. (Foodosopher, I know what you will say, rookie mistake).
For the pair of choices, it came to about $15 and plenty enough for a meal-for-two. A nice, simple ethnic takeout option compared to the nearby burger joints in the same block, that was welcome on this night. Certainly at this price point and setting, you’re not getting the most amazing Malaysian meals that you could, but I’ll be back to sample more from this kitchen for sure, and from the others as well no doubt, when I am lazy and don’t feel like cooking myself. I hope some of you readers discover similar enjoyable finds in your neighborhoods that you may have overlooked for the longest time.