It is no secret that we at New York Food Journal are especially fond of Sunset Park, one of Brooklyn’s most exciting culinary destinations. Its long stretches of 7th and 8th Avenues boast the city’s largest Chinatown, including the cavernous East Harbor Seafood Palace, which for years has been our go-to spot for an action-packed dim sum brunch. If that weren’t enough, all up and down 5th Avenue are excellent Mexican and Latin American restaurants, stores and bakeries. They include Tacos Matamoros, with its transporting atmosphere and $2.50 tacos topped generously with cilantro and onion.
For something a little different in Sunset Park, we dropped into Langkawi, a family-run restaurant serving up big portions of traditional Malaysian cuisine. The decor is bright and modern with smooth tiled walls. Because it’s Brooklyn, there are exposed pipes and accents of painted brick.
Langkawi is a tropical archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, off the northern coast of Malaysia and southern coast of Thailand. At Langkawi in Sunset Park, the seven-page menu fittingly offers a great number of fish and seafood dishes. Indeed, the first thing we noticed as we sat down were some giant shrimp tails timidly poking out from under a giant mound of golden-brown fried coconut that was sitting invitingly on the next table. Naturally, we had to have that for ourselves. Mental note.
But first a house made roti canai, the famous Indian Pancake found at many Malaysian restaurants. It came out piping hot, crispy and chewy. We ripped pieces and dragged them through the accompanying curry dipping sauce, nice and thick with large pieces of stewed chicken and potatoes. The kids dipped tentatively but asked for seconds. The adults went at the potatoes with big spoons.
The menu also offers a more elaborate roti telor, which is stuffed with egg and onion. Next time.
Time for soup! We were offered a steaming bowl of Ipoh hor fun, a traditional chicken noodle soup from the Malaysian city of Ipoh, famous for its Buddhist cave temples and noodle-centric cuisine. It had flat wide rice noodles, shredded chicken and prawns all together in a savory clear broth–just what we wanted on a cold December night
I couldn’t resist an order of Indian mee goreng, the classic Malaysian street food of stir-fried yellow noodles loaded with chicken, shrimp, egg and tofu and topped with crushed peanuts. It was good and spicy with big curry flavors and the tangy sweetness of kecap manis.
At last, our shrimp arrived–a dish styled stir fried jumbo prawns in coconut butter. The prawns were massive, with heads and shells on, stir-fried with a crispy coconut batter. They were partially split open at the top to make peeling easier and peeked out from inside a giant mound of more crispy coconut tossed with curry leaves and some chilies.
At first I wondered why the giant pile of coconut, but then it dawned on me–the dish solved the age-old problem of the coating coming off the prawns when the shells are removed. No problem! After nibbling at the shells, we dipped the meaty parts of the prawns back in the coconut flakes to renew their crispiness. A brilliant solution and an excellent flavor-packed dish.
5323 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220
Recommended dishes: roti canai ($3.95), Indian mee goreng ($8.50), stir fried jumbo prawns in coconut butter ($25.95)