Kaya Malay Bistro gives Southeast Asian cuisine a West Coast twist

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      A new Malaysian restaurant in Vancouver aims to fuse flavours of Southeast Asia with ingredients found on the West Coast. Kaya Malay Bistro (1063 West Broadway) is a modern, two-storey dining space run by general manager Scott Kwan and executive chef SinSer Lim, who both previously worked at various Malaysian restaurants in the Lower Mainland for more than a decade.

      According to a news release, “kaya” is a type of coconut jam that is used in a variety of Southeast Asian dishes. At a recent media event, the harmony of sweet, savoury, and spicy flavours characteristic of Malaysian cuisine was apparent across all dishes sampled from the restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus.

      A creamy squash and apple curry bisque ($6) infused with aromatic Malay spices, gingery galangal, and pepper leaves was an early highlight, as was Kaya’s authentic hand-rolled roti canai ($6), which can be made with whole wheat flour for an extra dollar. This east-meets-west combination is not only ideal on cold, wet evenings, but awakens the senses for flavours to come. Traditional satay skewers ($1.50 per skewer) are also done well and available in chicken, beef, lamb, or vegetarian. The spicy peanut sauce served alongside is fresh and addicting.

      Kaya Malay Bistro’s Hainanese chicken dish can be ordered steamed or roasted.

      Among entrée dishes ($10 to $22 on the dinner menu), Hainanese chicken—a Chinese dish adopted by Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine— was succulent and comforting. The boneless, chilled chicken is served steamed or roasted with ginger paste, chili sauce, and a bowl of fragrant, oily rice. Vegetable dishes at Kaya are just as enticing and flavourful. The Sambal Chili Trio includes slices of crunchy eggplant, okra, and green beans stir-fried in a dried shrimp paste.

      Kaya Malay Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, and worth a visit for those hoping to try a mix of traditional and inventive Southeast Asian dishes.

      You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.