One such shoppe is Bo Laksa King at the up-and-coming Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood in East Vancouver. The owner, Bo Han, has a heart-wrenching story of his escape from Myanmar as a young man that's been told by many. I recommend you give the article a read. (Courtesy of The Friday Lunch) He started out by sub-leasing a counter at a local convenience store, conveniently within 3 blocks of my home. That original shoppe specialized in lunch-fare such as wraps, satay skewers and his trademark laksa. He has since shuttered it and opened up a true dine-in restaurant.
I need to preface all this by saying that I have no experience at all with Burmese cuisine. I have had quite a bit of exposure to Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian, so that's where my reference points are coming from. I don't mean to offend anyone if my experience and opinions are wildly off due to my lack of knowledge in this area. Feel free to leave a comment to enlighten me if I'm off about something.
This was a chicken wrap I had at the old shoppe. For $6, it wasn't oversized - a wee smaller than a 6" Subway, but a significantly preferred ratio of bread to filling. Cucumbers, bean sprouts, lettuce line the wrap, keeping the marinated chicken meat in the middle - preventing unwanton sogging of the wrap. That dear folks, is a sandwich artist! The chicken was marinated in a light sweet and sour sauce lending a nice tang to the proceedings. As lunch portions go, it makes for a healthy albeit light lunch, but big boys may need to order something on the side.
Now Ray and Maggs bought a place in Hastings-Sunrise and we've been making our yummy rounds. Bo Laksa King just happens to be a block away so one icy evening we decided we needed to warm up proper. In addition to the requisite bubble tea menu, they offer a selection of noodles, soups and rice dishes.
The Filipino fat kid in me can't resist meat on a stick so I jumped at an order of lamb satay. For a hole-in-a-wall, this is some fancy plating here. Sadly I don't remember the prices and their website is down, but I remember it being reasonable for the portions. The meat was pre-marinated then grilled. It wasn't outrageously gamey (which I actually prefer... yeah I'm weird like that), but tasty. The meat was lean, and in my opinion, was just a little over-cooked making the included satay sauce a necessity. The sauce was a bit thick, good complex spice flavours popping through, and not a hint of peanut, but altogether nothing to shout home about.
I of course had to order the trademark laksa and got this monster bowl plopped in front of me. A brilliant sunset of a soup, bean sprouts, lime, hard boiled egg and tofu puffs crown out some delightful chewy noodles. Considering the neon crimson colour of the soup, there was just a light spiciness coming through. Not enough to even break a sweat, but body-warming on a cold eve.
I did polish off as much as I could. Flavour wasn't crazy complex, but I've always had problems with identifying spices in Southeast Asian soups. There's just far too many... it's a skillset I'm actively trying to improve on.
Maggs had her favourite pad thai, and she seemed pleased with it. She didn't think it was best she ever had, but a good bite to come back to in the future. The portion was large enough to be shared by 2 people as a main, or 3 as a side.
Ray, of course, had the pork belly. Low gutteral noises of what I presume was pleasure could be heard from his general direction. The boy loves his pork fat.
Now considering we came here to warm up, you would think we would end it here and head out into the cold ether, happy and cheerful. But no. I saw a durian milkshake on the menu, and I just had to. Yes I know. I came here to warm up and I did with a steaming bowl of laksa... and here I was ordering a milkshake. Made of durian, of all things. Sadly it was more icy than milk, and the flavour and texture overall was lighter than I prefer. More of an ice-smoothie than a milkshake. Semantics, gotta love 'em. Due to the ice, the durian flavour came out stronger - like a sno-cone syrup, than a smooth mix. The drink wasn't what I expected, nor preferred, but I still finished it up regardless... while walking outside no less.
So check out Bo Laksa King on 2546 East Hastings in East Vancouver, about a block and a half east of Nanaimo for good filling and warming eats, and help support your local mom & pop shoppes!