CHICAGO (WLS) --Every Friday in May, the Hungry Hound has been featuring a different Asian country for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Chicago has plenty of Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants, but only one focusing on the food from Malaysia.
There are familiar signs inside the kitchen at Logan Square's Serai, Chicago's only Malaysian restaurant. A wok implies Chinese recipes, while flat, griddled roti with potatoes and curry lead you to India. Chicken curry and rice lead you to Southeast Asia of course, but in the Malaysian kitchen, cooks welcome all of the above.
"So you get a bit of Chinese stir-fry, a bit of Indian curry a bit of local Malay cuisine which is mainly lemongrass as well," said owner Victor Low.
Gado Gado is a traditional salad, presented at the table in separate pods of fried tofu, string beans, pickled eggs in soy and a few other vegetables, coated in peanut sauce and topped with crushed peanuts and a giant shrimp chip; you just need to crush that chip, then mix up the crunchy, mild salad before eating. Chicken Rice is the national dish in Malaysia, and here, the rice gets steamed with the broth from the cooked chicken, which is itself quite tender from poaching, served with a fiery chile sauce for dipping.
There are curries aplenty - including one with coconut milk and curry paste, stir-fried - but don't overlook the humble roti. The potato-jammed curry is super mild, but it's the roti itself that's intriguing.
"Rather than a flat pancake that looks perfect, ours is smashed together - the whole idea is to create a texture so it's fluffy and you can tear it apart with your hand and dip it in the curry dipping sauce," Low said.
Chances are you've probably never had Malaysian food, but even if you vaguely like Chinese or Indian or Southeast Asian food, you're gonna find something on the menu here at Serai that you probably like.
2169 N. Milwaukee Ave.
EXTRA COURSE: Coconut desserts at Serai