the food guy

The Food Guy: Hawkers Delight specializes in Malaysian cuisine

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It’s rare to find Malaysian food in the Chicago area.

There are only one or two options in the city. That's why NBC Chicago's Food Guy Steve Dolinsky was pleasantly surprised to find a Malaysian family running a tiny restaurant in Wheeling.

Dolinsky recently paid HD Cuisine, HD Cuisine - the HD stands for Hawkers delight - a visit in honor of Asian American And Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Its menu is based on the tradition of Hawker stalls, which are scattered all over Malaysia, especially Singapore, where he visited a few years ago.

Hawker Stalls are everywhere in Singapore. We’d call them food courts in the U.S., but in Malaysia, they’re essentially street cart vendors moved indoors, and regulated by the government. Dumplings, curry laksa and Hainanese chicken rice are some of the more popular offerings.

In Wheeling, the hard-to-spot restaurant is more kitchen than dining room, but the family behind it is cooking with gusto, just like back home.

“It’s a mix of Chinese and Malay. Southern Indian and influenced a little bit of Thai, and a combination of the Chinese together,” said owner Lin Randazzo.

A rendang, or stew, is the basis for a plate of Nasi Lemak.
  
“Nasi Lemak is the national dish of Malaysia. The word "rendang" means stew…”
  
It could be chicken or fish, but here, they’re offering chicken.

“…and there’s five different spices in there: lemongrass, onions, fresh turmeric, star anise in there,” she said.
  
Butterfly pea flower, or blue tea leaf, stains the rice a gorgeous hue. Then, it's served with peanuts and anchovies.

  Satay skewers are familiar, but they’re not like the Thai versions you’ve probably had due to the marinade.
  
“Malaysian satay is different. Our peanut sauce is also different from Thai,” she said.
  
Noodles are obviously prevalent here; take the Hokkien mee.

“Hokkien mee is a creation of Penang natives; into your mouth you feel the texture of two types of noodles.”
  
That’s a result of both egg and rice noodles, both submerged in a flavorful shrimp stock. Wider rice noodles are used in the Char Kway Teow, a cousin to a Thai version, but cooked with egg, shrimp and pork.
  
“This rice noodle is very smoky, and it’s not sweet, it’s savory and salty,” said Randazzo.
  
For dessert, do try a colorful kueh – either steamed or baked – sweetened with coconut milk and sometimes served with aromatic pandan, a sort of Asian floral vanilla that’s hard to describe.
  
“In the olden days, I always see my grandma steaming kueh all the time. The rainbow layer we call kueh lapis. It’s like yum,” she said.

  The at HD Cuisine is so massive considering how small the space is – just two tables. But the chef is constantly adding new items, so you’re never never going to have the same thing twice. 

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