Bo Laksa King
4910 Joyce Street
Each and every time I venture out to eat Southeast Asian food, I’m reminded of the fact that more and more time has passed since my last visit to that part of the world – which is now creeping up on a year and a half. Fortunately here in Vancouver, there are ample opportunities to discover the tastes of that region that are relatively realistic and authentic (considering the constraints of sometimes difficult to source fresh ingredients). Some Asian cuisines are more well known than others to most Canadians, and as a result when you try to cater to this crowd, you have to rely on those dishes that have stronger awareness while at the same time trying to sneak in lesser known thing to try and build up their exposure. Taking a look at Bo Laksa King‘s concise, limited menu, it was clear to me they were having to follow this mould (referring to the stereotypical Thai, Malay, Singapore-influenced choices, with a bit of the male proprietor’s Burmese roots trickling in).
Skimming through the listings and looking to avoid a few things that have already been widely reported about online (such as the namesake laksa) and which I thought could hold up better as takeaway to be eaten later, I began with asking for a small order of the roti canai. Made right in front of me at the counter with an electric griddle, it was interesting to see it come together. A lot of slopping and turning of the dough, amplified by a generous amount of oil. Others have commented about this fact, and I can attest, it is a very greasy result in terms of the final product. If you prefer your roti on the drier side, then this one will disappoint.
Slightly browned and crispy on the outer sides, these two pieces of roti didn’t soften too much as I transported it to a place to plate up and devour. To give a sense of what “its made of”, I tore it open and basically turned it inside-out. It didn’t result in an appetizing looking shot (see below). The tender, flaky consistency at first glance almost reminded me of crab meat. It was inside here where I noticed the high degree of oil. Making it a heavy thing to eat, even with the accompanying watery thin curry dip.
Pictured next is the feature item of my order – or at least what excited me most when I saw it listed as available.
For just $7.50, Bo Laksa King offers one of the most unique salads I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, either in Asia or here on Canada’s west coast. The fermented tea leaf salad (lahpet thoke) is comprised of a myriad of fresh mixed ingredients, full of contrasting textures and flavours, thus enriching the entire package. The menu lists the keynote pickled tea leaf, along with tomato, cabbage, garlic chips, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, broad beans, that are all mixed together by hand with fresh lime juice seasoning. I also noticed some hints of garlic and fish sauce, red bell peppers, chillies, and little pieces of dried shimp.
I’m sort of at a loss for words as to how to best describe this almost “trail mix” of an Asian salad. I just know the first time I had something like this in Thailand back in 1998, I was blown away, and that sensation returned to my taste buds as I started digging into this tray now twelve years later. Sharp, pungent, crunchy, crisp, fragrant are all words that pop into my head! I found it interesting that after leaving half of it in my refrigerator to eat later, that the taste seemed to be heightened – perhaps due to the increased time of being mixed together and fermenting some more, or maybe it was my sense of taste when it came to this distinct salad that had recovered from the sudden jolt of memory experience.
Lastly, with none of the rice-based dishes aside from the beef rendang available on the lunch menu, and still wanting something more substantial to round out my lunch, I randomly chose the pork wrap. Again, the freshness of the slices of vegetables inside (cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, etc.) was evident, as each seemed to snap between my teeth as I bit into the roll. But my oh my, was the sauce overly sweet! I’m sure kids would love this but it was way too sugary for this old timer.
Bo Laksa King is anything but what you would expect to find walking into an east side grocery store, though that’s what makes it so enthralling and worthwhile supporting. From the joyous way the owner was playing with his young daughter outside, it just make you feel good knowing that if this place thrives and develops, her life will be better off. And let’s hope that one day, some more Burmese specialties make their way onto the menu, as we know this city already has its share of mundane Thai, Malay and Singaporean food offerings that just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to those fascinating and deep cuisines. A touch of something different and tantalizing to the taste buds, is worth asking for!