One of my mom's best friends slash my godmother is Malaysian.  She speaks pretty fluent Cantonese, albeit with a funny accent on her tones, but she also maintains Malaysian culture and visits often.  When I was about 8 or so, she took us to a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown and there are three experiences from that lunch that I remember.  First, I remember eating this delicious flatbread, which was a bit unusual of Asian food because most of the carbs are rice or noodles, unless you are at a bakery eating bao.  Second, I remember eating something entirely bizarre for dessert: a slushy ice thing with red bean and sweet corn kernels and jelly and probably other weird stuff.  Finally, I remember that sometime during the course of lunch, someone spilled ice water on my lap and it was really cold and uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  Hmph.

The restaurant is called Nyonya, and the menus say that it means "pretty girl" or something in Malay.  The original one I went to on Grand Street in Manhattan closed, but moved literally across the street.  There's one in Brooklyn's Chinatown, and one near my house.  How convenient!

There are a few dishes that I looooove.  First, the roti canai.  It's a fried, puffy, flaky, greasy bread that comes with a curry dipping sauce. Sometimes if you're lucky, you'll get a chunk of potato or chicken in the curry.  The roti is a very communal family-style food, as are most of the dishes here, and it's kind of fun to rip off little shards of the hot bread - crispy in some parts and pillowy in others.  One day, I will end up making an entire meal of roti canai.

The tricky thing about the next dish I love is that I don't really know what it is on the menu. My cousin ordered it one time and I didn't catch what it was.  It's either the Hainanese chicken or spicy Thai chicken.  Ever since, I've tried both and come to the conclusion that both are very good!  Either dish is room temperature chicken with rice and cucumbers, but one of them has this thick, chunky, black sauce that is divine.  It probably has enough garlic to ward off a vampire and it is probably salty enough to make you drink a gallon of water immediately afterwards, but for some reason it is just so addictive.  I spread it all over my chicken pieces, and then take spoonfuls of the sauce and smear it on the rice as well. Nyonya also has a very good sweet chili sauce that goes well with any dish, particularly their poultry.

Something a little less mainstream than chicken is the sarang burong, a mound of taro shaped into a bowl and deep fried into crispy perfection.  Then the bowl-shaped interior is filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, and cashews.  There are only two ways to get me to eat taro: mashed and deep fried or in bubble tea/ice cream form.  Luckily, the sarang burong takes care of one of these items.

Finally, there's one dish that I also don't know the name of because my parents ordered it in Chinese and I wouldn't be able to match it to anything on the menu if I tried.  In descriptive form, though, it's these enormous prawns that are breaded in this prickly sweet-ish breading and deep fried like nobody's business.  Having these prawns requires some dirty work: scraping the breading off with your teeth, then ripping off the shell and devouring the juicy prawn meat, and finally...though not for the squeamish ones...sucking on the head.  I'll leave that last part as "optional".

My dad was just suggesting to me today that we should do another family dinner at Nyonya for graduation/celebrating my sister coming home from college.  I'll try to get a more precise analysis of the menu this time...but for now, go enjoy some of that roti!