If any dish could catapult Malaysian cuisine to the top of everyone’s must-try list it has to be the roti canai with curry at PappaRichn.
A flaky tortilla-size disk, roti is as light and airy as filo, with just a slight crispiness and a dreamy buttery texture that makes it phenomenal on its own. If you use it the traditional way, as a scoop to eat Malay-style curry, the sauce adds a tantalizing layer of spiciness.
PappaRich’s curry isn’t the melt-your-lips-off variety favored by certain chileheads. But it’s not even remotely bland, either. The powerhouse flavor comes from a multi-dimensional spice blend that typifies the cultural interweavings fundamental to Malaysia's cuisine.
With its South Indian-influenced curries, its Chinese-inspired noodle dishes and its many culinary similarities to Indonesia, Thailand and even Vietnam, Malaysia clearly deserves its moniker “Crossroads of Asia."
Possibly that’s why Malaysian food has been named one of the top trending cuisines by the National Restaurant Association this year. With foodies worldwide now hip to the merging of cultures within many cuisines, Malaysia’s polyglot cooking has built-in allure.
If you’re a chile lover sambal terung is for you. Boat-shaped wedges of fried eggplant—not the least bit mushy as eggplant often is) are glazed with an umami-infused hot-sweet chili sauce. Other roti go-withs include Malaysian braised beef, sambal-spiced shrimp or sweet and sour chicken. All these items may also be had with the more substantial yogurt-based nan or garlic nan, both replicas of their Indian relatives.
Of course you can’t talk about Southeast Asian cooking without mentioning rice. Consistent with its blendo heritage, PapaRich offers a palette of four culturally-diverse rice preparations that include chicken-stock flavored rice, coconut-milk infused rice (nasi lemak) and long-grain biryani style rice cooked in an array of spices.
Any of these may be the foundation for a PappaRich combination plate. On it, garnishes of crunchy fried anchovies, roasted Malay--style peanuts, a hard-cooked egg, refreshing sliced cucumber along with a pile of fried peppery sambal add excitement and textural interest to the Main items you select like roast chicken leg or beef braised in red curry.
Another major PappaRich draw, especially for noodle fans, is curry laksa. Submerged in a spicy-creamy coconut milk curry broth, the eggy wheat noodles come topped with plump shrimp or a combo of meats and shrimp. It’s one of those just-can’t-stop-eating dishes borne of the Asian night market scene.
Malay food, once generally unknown outside the country’s borders, is now gaining an audience at PappaRich locations, in China, Australia and elsewhere. The restaurant’s add-on method keeps things simple for newbies. If you really want a complete sense of Malay cooking though, get a group together and try everything on the modest menu.
Location: 721 S. Western Ave., Koreatown (213) 434-6627 or 434-6535.