JB Malaysian Cuisine – Burnaby, BC

JB Malaysian Cuisine
5212 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 430-8999

My previous visit to this very same location on the corner of Kingsway and Royal Oak Avenue just east of Metrotown in Burnaby was not an overly memorable or gastronomically exciting one.  I think its even had more previous incarnations as a restaurant, which brings me to the conclusion that it has some kind of curse on it, preventing this location from really grabbing hold as an ideal spot for dining out.  The geographical setting with limited street side parking might be another mitigating factor causing the negative results.  Such turnover in a spot must raise red flags for any prospective leaser, but I guess everyone wants their kick at the can…

At the beginning of this year, JB Malaysian Cuisine set up shop replacing the defunct Miki Japanese Ramen.  So much for that loyalty stamp card I received from them, during my one and only meal there. 🙂  Oddly enough though, there didn’t seem to be a lot of change done to the interior… the furniture and even the bookshelf with the dated Japanese comic books still sat near the front door entrance from when Miki existed. A loud playing of some Chinese music over the portable stereobox filled the otherwise lonely feeling air of this place.  Not very welcoming, almost felt like I was intruding in a private establishment.

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Café D’Lite – Vancouver, BC

Café D’Lite
3144 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 733-8882
Mon~Thu: 11am to 8pm | Fri~Sat: 11am to 9pm | Sun: Closed

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

Perhaps its relative geographic obscurity on the far west side of the city, the unassuming and some would say uninviting exterior facade or just the power of rumors, but it seems to me that Café D’Lite has a unique impression in the minds of many Vancouver diners in that although popular, reports of its demise seem always front and center.  Call it the Mark Twain of the city’s restaurant scene.

I’ve dined there several times over the past few years as its the closest spot for me in satisfying any cravings for Hainanese Chicken Rice (their “house special”), but on my most recent visit I decided to get a take away order as I was in a hurry.  Pictured above is the large size ($11.95), which is more than enough for one hungry person.  Unfortunately, the non-dine in order of this does not include the soup as a takeout item – I didn’t ask but assume its their lack of appropriate styrofoam containers.

While the absence of the soup was a letdown, it was not as large as the disappointment I felt when I returned home and opened up the package containing my meal and realized that the traditional condiments were not really there.  As the image above attests, there was a small dallop of chilli sauce, with a small spoonful of a ginger sauce added in the corner of the container, but no dark soy sauce!  In hindsight, I wonder if you had to ask or pay for that separately…?

The chicken itself was a bit lukewarm, probably from the time it had spent layered over top of the rice (which itself, was not so flavorful and somewhat drier than I like), but the meat’s texture was tender.  The thin layer of skin was not overly gelatanous, which can be good or bad depending on your personal preference, and the boneless factor made for easy eating.  All in all, not the best version of this southeast Asian creation I’ve ever had (too many great ones I’ve eaten in Singapore have ruined me), but not horrible as to not wanting to ever have it here again.

I must try to remember to order some of their other dishes such as their Singaporean Laksa or their Malaysian curries.  As long as they continue to operate and get the customers that are aware they are still in business, I’m sure I’ll be back and among them.

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

Seri Malaysia – Vancouver, BC

Seri Malaysia
2327 Hastings Street East
Vancouver, BC V5L 1V6
(604) 677-7555

Seri Malaysia on Urbanspoon


When eating at an ethnic restaurant anywhere in town, I often ponder the authenticity of the food being served. Vancouver diners  often get shortchanged in this department – certain cuisines (think sushi) being served by untrained “chefs”, unsuccessful re-interpretations of regionalized cooking (think “Szechuan”), classics of a cuisine automatically “dumbed down” with prejudice for fear of offending unadventurous  tastes…I could go on.

In order judge the “authenticity” of a restaurant, I often have to rely on my experience in that particular cuisine gained from my travels, or from my attempts at cooking it, or sometimes through some sort of intuitive gustatory extrapolation. Still – on cuisines where I have little experience,  I wonder whether a dish I am currently enjoying is an exemplary example….and I reassure myself that if I’m liking what I’m eating, that’s all that really matters. The food of Southeast Asia is something I know quite a lot about – experience I gained when lived in that part of the world….so I know almost instantly whether a dish is hitting its target in terms of authenticity.

Seri Malaysia is a non-descript Halal Malaysian restaurant on Vancouver’s East Hastings St. The restaurant, like its Hastings St environs, is a little run down. It could use a paint job, the awning needs a wash, and the decor needs some re-thinking.  The ambiance, however, is not why I keep returning here – I come for the food.

I know a little about this place from my casual chats with the chef/owner Jamal. Chef Jamal used to co-own the original Kedah House…which, at one time, was the only Malaysian restaurant in Vancouver with honest-to-goodness Malaysian cooks. Having a Malaysian cook is still a rare occurrence here in town – the most popular Malaysian restaurants in Vancouver are known to have Chinese cooks. (Sometimes, it really does make a difference.)


Much of Malaysian food is bold in flavour – often pungent and unsubtle. It uses a lot of curry spices, strongly flavoured and scented botanicals (lemongrass,  galangal, and so forth) and fermented seafood (for example: belacan – a dried fermented shrimp paste, and ikan bilis – dried anchovies). Seri Malaysia serves what I believe to be the most authentic examples of some of the  classic Malay  dishes here in town (with a disclaimer that  like most countries in the Straits – the cuisine is highly regional and does vary significantly).

As if to validate my assessment of the food here – on my most recent visit here a couple of days ago, none other than the Consul General of Malaysia came in to dine with some compatriots a couple of tables away. I had a quick chat with these gentlemen on my way out.  I understand that the Consulate regularly orders the Rendang and other items here from here in bulk whenever they have official banquets.


The Beef Rendang (a dish of Indonesian origins) is delicious – tender beef with strong hints of lemongrass (you can see the lemon grass fibers in the  sauce). I’m not sure what cut of beef was used to prepare this one – probably chuck or something similar. A more celebratory rendition would use the meat from short ribs or shank. Rendang takes hours to cook properly…and it gets better with age.


I also ordered the Chicken Curry which is traditionally prepared in coconut milk. It was well seasoned and tender, though perhaps a little toned down in chili heat today.  You can always order one of the three or four kinds Chili Sambal to adjust the heat. The curry wasn’t an exemplary dish, but it was still very good. The Roti Canai (the Malaysian rendition of an Indian flatbread) was nice and flakey (almost croissant-like) and not at all oily ( a common misstep in its preparation). The Roti was perhaps not the best one I have had in town, nonetheless, it was a perfect vehicle for the curry sauce.


Chefs who serve me food “the way it should taste”…whatever that means to them…have my admiration. It is an indication to me that they have respect for their diners – they make no assumptions and they will ask you questions about your preferences. Vancouver is a town full of adventurous diners…yet I fear for this place and other restaurants like it.  Chef Jamal has indicated to me that it is a struggle for him at this location (he often runs the entire show by himself- he is the waiter, cook, dishwasher, and host – it really shows when the place is busy). He has, in fact, considered throwing in the towel on occasion (I sure hope he doesn’t any time soon) and he is on the lookout for a better location.

If you are on East Hastings Sunrise area and you are a little peckish, check this place out. They have inexpensive lunch specials (under $7), but I think it is worth it to order from the full menu.

Seri Malaysia on Urbanspoon

Madam Kwan’s – Kuala Lumpur, MY

Madam Kwan’s
Unit 1.16, The Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur 55100, Malaysia
+603 2118 8833 (main mall)

Observing people easing into a new cuisine that they are unfamiliar with is an interesting study in personality. Some will boldly leap into a hot dish without hesitation, seeking that thrilling, first time experience of new flavors and a jolt to their mundane eating experiences. Others will meekly play with their utensils and anxiously pick away at the foreign food on their plate, and look around as if hoping someone will bring them something they are much more comfortable eating. Do you fit one of these profiles?

Some restaurants are very good at helping neophytes to ethnic cuisine, by introducing menu items that are generally mild in nature and visually appealing. Usually this will comprise staple dishes that have been proven to be popular among Westerners, be it in the native country or in North America, with the intent to appeal to a wide audience. To help accomplish this, businesses will often tend to invest in a more refined dining environment (location, design, etc.). As such, simple dishes that one could find in more “local” spots or even on the street (though vendors, etc.), are often more expensive than they should be – or cost more than a native would find normally acceptable – with the debate of which is better in terms of quality, also wide open.

Madam Kwan’s to me, fits this description. Taking up locations in Kuala Lumpur within major shopping centres (Mid Valley Megamall, Suria KLCC, and The Pavilion), this operation has established their outlets where heavy foot traffic is guaranteed, as well where many foreigners are known to visit. With a spacious, clean interior, featuring tables on the open floor as well as some more secluded dining rooms for larger groups/parties, Madam Kwan’s offers what it calls “Truly Malaysian Cuisine”, featuring dishes such as Hainanese Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak, Fish Head Curry, Laksa, and desserts such as Cendol, etc. It also tends to be a popular place for the locals, who are out and about, perhaps shopping in these centres, as they have always been boisterous whenever I’ve passed by or eaten in.

I thought this dish, the Nasi Bojari, is one of the most popular items on the menu, judging from scans of other tables on two occasions, and would be a safe bet for those new to Malaysian cuisine to try. It features a large lump of fragrant rice on a banana leaf, surrounded by a sampling of Beef Rendang, a fried chicken drumstick, Assam Prawns, slices of veg (cucumber, tomato), and half boiled egg. In terms of proportion, it is quite large (even for a hungry adult male). The spicy Assam Prawns are my favorite item on this plate, whereas the chicken thigh is not overly exciting (not bad though), and the Beef Rendang perhaps a tad dry for my liking, though its clearly soaked up the coconut milk and spices that is was cooked in. The price was about 20 Ringgits, which is a notable premium over the street hawker version of this same dish.

I am sure the more adventurous among us will cringe at the thought of places like Madam Kwan’s that are “selling out”. I’m among them for sure, with this place being a safety blanket whenever I am taking a finicky newbie to Malaysia out to try some “local” food. I suppose places like this do have value, if it helps appease a diner that I am stuck with for the night, and has a lot of dislikes when it comes to food, but when I still want to avoid the dreaded hotel restaurants. If I’m on my own, I’d rather hit some back alley or side street, getting my meal cooked up in the humid conditions of KL, by some middle aged man wearing an undershirt and sweating profusely while standing near the hot wok. Sound appetizing, perhaps not. But I guarantee the food does! And it will hit your wallet a lot softer than the pristine, air conditioned, modern designed restaurants of the city.  Which generally means, more meals for me. 🙂

Hawker’s Delight – Vancouver, BC

Hawker’s Delight
4127 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 709 8188

With all the talk about doing what’s best for the people on “Main Street” amid the financial meltdown and stump speeches in the American election, it stuck me that I rarely visit the road with the same name on Vancouver’s east side.  Neither living nor working in that part of the city, nor having any friends with residences there that I would ever visit, Main Street really is an afterthought for me.  However, I did know it is home to many off-the-beaten-track, hole-in-the-wall, beloved restaurants with the locals, and it deserved a thorough investigation.  For this, I decided to walk up from the intersection at Broadway and Main, all the way up to 49th Avenue – and on both sides of the street.

It certainly was an education in the range of eating choices available on one single road.  Some places peaked my interest, others were not open yet on this late-morning Saturday, and others I just simple brushed off as not worthwhile in my mind after just looking inside the window.  Fortunately, Hawker’s Delight was not one of the latter, as the minute I strode past the big open windows and could see into the kitchen in the back of the space full of activity before the doors opened for business, I knew I was to go inside.

Apparently a re-creation of a hawker style spot that one would find in places like Singapore and Malaysia (yes, I am headed there on a trip next month!), this cramped cafeteria-like restaurant is a popular place for locals who have a craving for the taste bud tingling flavors of Southeast Asia.  On this day, I was the first customer through the doors before a handful of others followed behind me (for both dine-in and take out).  As I stepped to the counter to give my order after scanning the menus on the walls, I noticed how frenetic the pace was inside the cooking area where three people were busy getting ready for the lunch rush.  On the immediate right, I spotted this large pot that was bubbling over and giving off an intense spicy aroma – I enquired about it and was told it was a veggie curry.  On the grill top was one of my favorite food sights, meat on a stick.  This made my opening volley an easy decision, and I asked for a quintuplet of Beef Satay.

The sweet and savory flavors coming from the chewy meat and the accompanying dip of garlic infused oil, reminded me of why I love street food from this part of the world.  With just the right amount of charbroiled parts as well, the smoky properties added to the richness of the overall taste.  It’s hard to do this kind of thing badly, and Hawker’s Delight obviously did not fail in this regard.

As it was still morning, and given my unfortunate weak stomach for spicy food before the noon hour, I settled on a more milder tasting dish to help fill me up after my long walk down Main Street.  Figuring it would be a good test of how well they do a staple of Singaporean cuisine, I elected to go with the Hainanese Chicken Rice.   I will never forget the first time I had this in Singapore and ever since then its been hard to compete with that memory, no matter where I have eaten it since that fateful first plate.

Many people have their personal preferences for how they like the meat, but generally I feel its best when its of that silky soft consistency, with just a small amount of gelatinous texture from the skin, which is all jacked up with the trio of dipping sauces such as the powerful dark soya, chili and of course ginger.  In fact here at Hawker’s Delight, they mixed the potent chili and ginger together to form one single dip, but lacked the soya much to my disappointment. Back to the meat, it did have a pleasant texture and was not stringy at all, and the poaching liquid it was cooked in had infused some addtional flavors into the chicken.  No complaints here, but again, not blow-your-mind outstanding either.  The side rice was not as fragrant as I would have hoped and frankly halfway through I was just fine not to eat much more of it at all.  This is a stark change to the same rice I’ve had in Singapore/Malaysia in the past, where I could not get enough of the stuff.

Where Hawker’s Delight really did stand out was on the price performance.  I do not think I saw anything on the menu that was over six dollars as a main dish.  Frankly, I am sure you cannot get a better deal in town for this level of authentic ethnic food.  Don’t expect much for service, as its more a case of one of the kitchen workers simply dropping it off at your table once its ready, and water/hot tea is all self service from the station set up near the front counter as well.  But all is well, as this is the kind of environment one would expect from a hawker-style setup and one that I will no doubt return to again to try out the other offerings.  This is of course, if I am not tired of this food after my travels next month – ooh, what a delight!

Hawker's Delight on Urbanspoon

Maple Malaysian Cuisine – Vancouver, BC

[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Maple Malaysian Cuisine
University Village, Unit B7
5728 University Boulevard
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-221-6138

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.

Maple Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon