Tuesday, January 31, 2012 7

Banana Leaf - Vancouver

By FaFoFi in , , , , , ,

I have a terrible story to tell with this restaurant review. As you all know, I've spent a year living in Taiwan and during the course of the year I've made many wonderful friends from all around the globe. Luckily enough, some of those friends were based in Vancouver and we've been hanging out ever since. However, a friend from abroad had decided to visit the Vancouver chapter of awesome, but he became sick while visiting. Long story short, he wasn't feeling very well and asked us for a light and non-greasy place to eat. As the resident foodie what did I suggest? BANANA LEAF. One of the heavier and greasier restaurants in Vancouver. WHY. I am a terrible person. 


Banana Leaf, oh dear. Hahaha! My family and I go to the one located on Broadway. =) Banana Leaf is one of the more decorated restaurants in Vancouver winning multiple restaurant awards for "Best Asian" and "Best South Asian" in The Georgia Straight, Vancouver Magazine, Westender, Courier and Where Magazine. In fact, they have so many awards stickers you practically can't see through their window. It's sort of reminiscent of those old fashioned suitcases that have all the stamps pasted on the outside showing where they've been. Only their restaurant suitcase is plastered with accolades from varying years. =)

As with many of the places I've reviewed in Vancouver, I've been going to this restaurant ever since I was little. My parents are on friendly terms with the owner and I've grown up eating their roti. Although the waitstaff has long since changed, the decor, the food, and the bustling atmosphere has always remained the same. 

The decor of the restaurant is really colorful and casual. The waitstaff are attired in Malaysian inspired uniforms, the walls are painted bright colors, and there are a myriad of "artifacts" from Malaysia hung up on the walls and displayed on the counters. The waitstaff are all polite and courteous, but because the restaurant is always so packed and busy they may forget about you. Don't be shy in asking for refills of water!

Now, onto the meal. 

Roti Canai/Roti Prata

On the menu Banana Leaf says that "Roti Canai" is "the Indian community's greatest culinary contribution to Malaysia" and it just happens to be one of my favourite, favourite foods. Roti canai isn't very "bread-like" in the traditional sense, but instead more like a delicious, thick, chewy crepe. The curry sauce its paired with has a very thin consistency and isn't very spicy.  This dish is a mandatory order for my family. Something about the delicious carbohydrates and the thin amazing curry sauce just makes my heart melt. You see how the roti canai is all torn up for your convenience? I don't need that. I CAN RIP THAT UP AND EAT ALL OF IT BY MYSELF. 

Chicken, Pork and Lamb Satay
The second appetizer my family always, always orders is satay. The simple, grilled, unassuming satay is declared on the menu as Malaysia's most signature stall food. Tender little morsels of meat that are marinated, skewered through, and lovingly grilled to perfection. Even though they look quite easy to make, mastering the art of creating the perfect satay is deceptively difficult. Since the pieces of meat are so small, its difficult to cook the satay "just right." Oftentimes, restaurants over or under cook the satay just leading to a terrible eating experience. Some restaurants even "cheat" when it comes to satay and boil the skewers first. This is a big no, no. It kills the flavor and alters the texture of the meat. 

From my experience the satay at Banana Leaf has always been grilled to perfection. The meat has always been tender and well marinated. The flavors of the skewers lean towards the sweet side and  the flavor is  counterbalanced by the spicy peanut sauce they're paired with. Always a staple and very delicious.

Sambal Green Beans
My family have always ordered this dish as well. It's like one of those situations where you've ordered an entire table of food....and then you realize you have no veggies. This dish is a mandatory requirement on my table, not only because it is an essential veggie dish, but also because its absolutely delicious. The stir-fried green beans have a really nice fresh crunchy texture, while the concentrated shrimp paste and garlic add a wonderful salty, savory flavor. In addition to the shrimp paste there is also whole shrimp and fresh tomatoes in the dish. All the textures and flavors meld together to form a nice stable, salty vegetable dish among all the sweet aforementioned flavors found in Malaysian food.

Hainan Chicken Rice (1/4)
As my dad was born in Singapore, his heart and stomach have an instinctual calling and craving for Hainan Chicken. At Banana Leaf you are given the options of ordering a quarter, half, or whole Hainanese chicken. Although I have a slight feeling that Banana leaf doesn't prepare the chicken in a "traditional way", which is very time-consuming and laborious, it is so, so, so good. Traditional preparation involves slowly simmering your chicken, on the lowest heat, in a broth of chicken and pork bones, and topping off the broth only when needed in order to concentrate the flavor, up until the chicken reaches the correct internal temperature. 

Mmmm. As I said the chicken served at Banana Leaf is especially tender and flavorful. Although its served cold I'd still order it on a rainy day because its so delicious. However, I have a feeling if you order a quarter of Hainan Chicken you'r more likely to get a higher ratio of majority bone pieces to meat pieces. 

One thing that you have to do when eating Hainan chicken is that you must dip them into the sauces they give you. No Hainan chicken experience is complete without it. They give you the option of three sauces: the first is a thick, sweet soy sauce based dip, the second with shredded ginger, green onions, and oil, and finally the third with sweet, spicy, chili.

Rendang Beef Curry
One of my friends totally ruined this dish for me. Now I'm going to ruin it for you too, but first I'll tell you all the pros of this beef curry dish. First of all it's spicy, not like melt your face off spicy, but it certainly was the spiciest dish we ordered on the table. The beef was very tender and soaks up a lot of the coconut, curry spice flavor from being boiled so long. However, I feel that the larger pieces of beef in the curry end up....sort of just being...lumps of beef. If the chunk of beef is too large, I find that the curry flavor doesn't have the ability penetrate into the interior and instead relies completely on the curry sauce to impart flavor. This dish isn't "mandatory" for me, but if you want some curry or protein this is pretty ok.

I'm going to ruin this dish for you now. My friend told me that every time she orders it she's incredibly excited, but when it arrives it looks like hot diarrhea in a dish. So she doesn't eat it. THANKS GURL.  I'm not sure if I can eat it anymore either...

Mee Goreng

The Mee Goreng, surprisingly, isn't always the noodle dish my family orders, we usually order the Chor Hoh Fun, but my friends and I wanted to try something new. Mee Goreng consists of fried Malaysian egg noodles with beef, egg, shrimp, tomato, bean sprouts, choy sum, and tofu. However, I'm allergic to bean sprouts and my friends were kind enough to let me tell the waitress to omit them from this dish. Overall my impressions of the dish were good, the acidity from the lime, bit of the noodles noodles and the tartness of the tomato made for an addictive mix. I feel like I enjoy the Chor Hoh Fun better, but I would be more tempted to order the Mee Goreng. 

Now for the more "boring" stuff. Rice choices! 

Coconut Rice

One of the staples to almost any Asian meal is rice. At Banana Leaf they offer you three different "kinds" of rice: plain, Hainan Chicken Rice, and Coconut rice. Coconut rice is one of my favorites side dishes to eat, because of its delicate fragrance and light coconut flavor. It is cooked with a combination of water and coconut milk and served to you wrapped in a banana leaf. I find coconut rice an especially delicious companion to any sort of curry. =) 
Hainan Chicken Rice

Usually this type of rice is served as a side dish to the above mentioned Hainan chicken rice and that's probably where it got its name from "Hainanese Chicken Rice". The rice has been imbued with the oil and flavor of the Hainan chicken. The rice is created by using a different soup stock  than the chicken was created in, resulting in a slightly oilier rice and a highly concentrated chicken flavor. In fact, I think in some places chicken rice is known as "oily chicken rice."

Now overall Banana Leaf is one of my favorites and one of the established "Southeast Asian" food places in Vancouver. Dependable, tasty and reliable there is almost always a crowd at Banana Leaf during mealtimes. I would recommend making a reservation if you're dead set on eating here. I highly recommend Banana Leaf for all y'all who are visiting Vancouver and want a good place to eat, they can back up all those awards in the window. HOWEVER, if you and your travel mates are ill...please don't come here. >< LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. ><

Repeatability: Yes
Price: 2.5 out of $$$$$
Kid Friendly: Yes! They have highchairs and booster seats.


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7 Responses to “Banana Leaf - Vancouver”

  1. cushy says:

    yummy malaysian food. have you been to malaysia?

  2. Memosne says:

    @Cushy: No I haven't~ I really want to go though! I was planning a trip when I was in Taiwan, but it never came through! ><

  3. Joey says:

    Wow, I'm really impressed. This restaurant looks pretty authentic. I mean, I'm just judging from the pics, not sure about taste, but it looks really good. I enjoyed reading this post :D
    You seem to be pretty knowledgeable about Msian food hehe
    I'm also impressed you know that real Hainanese chicken rice takes really long to make. I used to do it the right way, but my mum and little cousin niece laughed at me haha

  4. Memosne says:

    @Joey Yay! I'm glad! I was all nervous before posting this....I was like "Joey KNOWS WHATS WHAT." I'm glad I lived up to your standards!!!

    No wai, why did they laugh at you? You were baller enough to cook it the right way!! =Db

  5. Joey says:

    Hahaha no pressure :D

    Well, cos I took about 2 hours (including prep time) haha. My mum would take half the time because she would make the simple version or use some ready-made stuff (like sauces etc)
    I know it's long, but the recipe I followed, it ensures that I get the pure chicken essence from the chicken and also the rice will be extra yummy (tho terribly unhealthy).

  6. Memosne says:

    Oh wow. I always knew Hainanese chicken took a long time to cook. >< It seems like everything that tastes amazingly good in the world is actually terrible for you. *shakes fist*

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