The region's best (only) Malaysian restaurant is in the burbs | Bleader

The region's best (only) Malaysian restaurant is in the burbs


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curry laksa, Asian Noodle House
People are always asking me what you can't eat in Chicago, and the first thing I always say—before Burmese—is Malaysian food. It wasn't always so—not until Chinatown's Penang burned down four years ago, anyway. And it turns out that isn't true of the wider region, either. Far to the north, in frozen Hoffman Estates, exists an innocuous strip-mall storefront noodle joint that at first glance appears to be nothing more interesting than another pan-Asian dilettante dishing out wontons, pho, udon, and chow mein with equal abandon, rarely a good indicator of a place that does any of them particularly well. But Asian Noodle House also features a small list of house specials that overwhelmingly skew Malaysian.

It seems strange that two of the most iconic Malaysian dishes aren't even listed on the menu—though maybe that's because the ones here aren't particularly stellar renditions. Curry laksa, pictured to the left, is the most common member of the Malaysian family of rice-noodle soups. This one has two varieties of noodle, thin rice vermicelli and a spaghetti-bore wheat noodle, both of which come swimming in a thick, spicy, coconut-based broth with shrimp (mushy), tofu, fish balls, bean sprouts, and shredded chicken. The broth's lack of depth is considerably improved with the addition of some shrimpy, spicy sambal, so be sure to ask for that.

roti, Asian Noodle House

Asian Noodle House's roti canai—as friend of the Food Chain Nab Uddin has already noted—is terrible. Stale, lifeless, reheated flatbread served with a cup of spicy gravy. Just don't do it.

Prawn Mee, Asian Noodle House

The prawn mee contains the same noodle formula as the laksa and the same add-ins plus hard-boiled eggs, but has a thin, sweetish broth that belies its angry red aspect.

Hainan chicken, Aisan Noodle House

Hainan chicken, a Chinese dish in origin, is big in Malaysia, and Asian Noodle House's version is about the best thing I tried. The steamed bird is silky tender, and served with the standard ginger-scallion dipping oil, though the rice is missing the chicken schmaltz essential to this dish.

Asian Noodle House also serves Malaysian-style chow fun; the dry stir-fried rice-cake dish char kuay teow mae; and on weekends, the pork rib and mushroom soup bak kut teh, which in totality and by default makes it the region's only Malaysian restaurant. It ain't much, but it's what we have. Once again, suburbia wins.

Asian Noodle House, 844 N. Roselle Rd., Hoffman Estates, 847-882-9650