I'm a sucker for new culinary experiences. There is little that I won't try - from dried squid candy to rattlesnake - and I love discovering new foods. I'd been searching Portland Food & Drink and Portland blogs for some new food adventure, when I read a few Asian cuisine blogs praising Malaysian food, something I have no experience with. I did a bit of detective work and found that the only Malaysian restaurant in PDX is located in the Fubonn Shopping Center.
Ah, the Fubonn. "The largest Asian Shopping Center in Oregon!" Located on 82nd between Powell and Division, Fubonn is quite an adventure. My roommate, Dragonfruit, is always up for a food adventure, and was happy to join me on my hunt for Malay cuisine. Not least because she's had a kimchi jones for months.
We decided to hit up the supermarket first. Talk about variety! I was literally overwhelmed by how much I was unfamiliar with. Aisle after aisle of colorful wrappings and beautiful jars filled with things I'd never heard of. I hate to sound totally awestruck and, well, American, but it was such a pleasure to be surrounded by the (mostly) unknown. I'd been to plenty of asian supermarkets (growing up in L.A. gives you a leg up on knowledge of international cuisines) but Fubonn was exactly what I needed - a break from the ordinary - an adventure.
I was thinking about the issue of sustainability in a place that felt almost like a temple of packaging and foreign shipments. While, yes, it is possible to recreate cultural fare with the ingredients of a new country - a fact proven by many fine international restaurants in Portland that use local, organic ingredients - there was a different kind of sustainability here. Sustaining a culture, preserving a community, is vital part of any progressive movement. It was quite apparent that Fubonn serves as a hub for connecting to familiar tastes and brands, that, while foreign to most Americans, allow the tastes of someone's cultural past, family history, or personal sensory memories to remain in their present life.
I couldn't help but snatch up a trio of interesting drinks in beautiful bottles, some dark soy sauce and hoisin, and paused to peruse the produce section for some unfamiliar herbs and fruits. I scored a bag of lychees for mere pennies, as well as an opo melon (which I'm sure I'll be posting about once I experiment with it), and spent a good deal of time sniffing bundle after bundle of various basils and mints in a rainbow of hues.
D got her kimchi and a rather vile mochi bun (one of her "favorite textures on earth - sorry if I'm skeptical), and we headed out with our bags to the restaurant just outside the market.
Malay Satay Hut, originally a Seattle haunt with rave reviews in Northwestern periodicals, is an unassuming little spot that smelled of curry and fish sauce as we stepped through the doors. We were seated and I spent a few frantic minutes trying to absorb everything on the menu. Malaysian food echoes Indian, Thai, Chinese, and other southeast asian cuisines, and I wanted to try something traditional. I asked our waiter to recommend a few dishes, and sat back to enjoy the cheesy asian musack cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Our food arrived, and proved to be, while not astoundingly new and adventurous, quite tasty and plentiful. We shared the Roti Canai, Indian fried bread with a potato curry dipping sauce, and I had the Malay Prawn Mee, yellow noodles in spicy shrimp broth with fish balls, shrimp, green vegetables, and bean sprouts. The broth was excellent, savory and spicy, though the noodles themselves were a bit bland. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, perhaps some of the best I've ever had.
I think we'll go back sometime and order something a bit more adventurous, perhaps one of the whole crabs or a garlic duck. All in all, a fantastic adventure, a traveler's journey within her hometown.
Got any Malaysian recipes or stories to share?
Until next time,