Alex: Hawkers Asian Street Fare is the newest addition to Five Points, and is definitely the hottest place to grab a tasty bite. On a nice day, you’ll find the some of big pane windows open to enjoy the weather, bringing some of Five Points inside while also giving the area even more unique character. Inside the first thing you’ll notice is how open the floor plan is. There is a straight shot from the woks frying up all the wonderful food to your table by the open window. With low-watt incandescent bulbs in a variety of shapes and sizes dangling overhead the atmosphere inside is very cozy and warm. Hawkers has creatively used old woks and bird cages for the lighting as well. Each table is wrapped with foreign newspapers, and the backs of the booths are constructed of recycled sacks of rice bags. It is hard not to feel like you’ve stepped out of Jacksonville and into some exotic new land, at least until you realize everyone is still speaking English.
The menu is full of small dishes from China, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand; including plenty of traditional dishes and newer fusions of cuisines. A large portion of the menu is served tapas style (also known as Yum Cha in Cantonese); so a full meal would consist of several items that might be shared around the table so that everyone can try a scrumptious bite. Food will also arrive in no particular order beyond how fast it can be prepared, which allows you to avoid the monotony of the appetizer/main course/dessert progression. The menu is interesting in and of itself, with plenty of tidbits about proper chopstick use and various cultural references that add to the street fare atmosphere.
Start out with the roti canai, tasting like a wok-fried flatbread crossed with a croissant. The rich and buttery flavor of this Malaysian flat bread is the perfect platform for dipping the curry, but you’ll definitely want to get an extra roti if you don’t want to see any of the sauce go to waste. This dish will normally come out quickly, so it is a great way to get started on your Asian adventure.
One dish was surprising both in its simplicity and its deliciousness. The curry mashed potatoes were exactly that, and we couldn’t believe we’d never thought of adding some amazingly rich curry sauce to a batch of mashed potatoes. It will be a long while before we go back to plain gravy, because it will be hard to beat Hawker’s balance of creamy spicy goodness.
Hawker’s offers a variety of Banh mi sliders, which comes as a pair of small baguette sandwiches. The bread is a great level of crusty and chewy, but it is the pickled vegetable toppings that really bring out the flavors. The Korean bulgogi steak is particularly of note; the strips of beef come fresh off the wok and provide a great contrast with the chilled vegetables. The sliders also come in many other varieties, including vegan and vegetarian options.
Heather: This classic Chinese dish is one of my favorites at Hawkers. The tender pork belly is roasted to a crisp and the mix of crunch from the outer layer and the savory meat on the inside is enough to make your mouth water. Be sure to dip in the hoisin sauce for an extra punch.
The wok fried lettuce was an unexpected delight. You’ll find nothing fancy with this one, the dish is lettuce stir-fried with shitake mushrooms and includes red chilies as a garnish, but the result is simply scrumptious. Make this a palate cleanser between other dishes.
Listed as Malaysia’s most popular street food, the Char Kway Teo noodle dish is a good introduction to the variety of noodle and rice courses that Hawkers offers. There is a blend of shrimp, chicken breast, scallions, and bean sprouts that are stir fried with wide rice noodles. While not our favorite dish, it makes a great one for sharing.
As if the roti was not addictive enough – the dessert roti, a cinnamon concoction served with ice cream, is a delicious way to wind down your culinary tour of street food. The desserts are not included on the menu, be sure to ask your server what is available. If the trio of creme brûlée is an option, put your order in immediately!
Another item not on the menu but one you can’t miss is the Vietnamese coffee. Your waiter will bring out a cup with condensed milk on the bottom. You’ll see the brewing phin on top, with the coffee already inside of it. The waiter will pour water inside of the phin and then tell you to wait a few minutes for it to brew. After the brewing is complete, you can remove the phin and stir to combine the coffee with the condensed milk. What follows is nothing short of bliss. While I’ve been ending my meals with this delectable cup, I have been tempted to come in to Hawkers just for the coffee. But let’s be honest, with a menu as varied and large as Hawkers you can’t just come in for one thing.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1001 Park Street
Can’t get enough Street Food? We recommend checking out the following:
The Dropout Diaries – Street Food
Where’s Sharon – Eating in Taipei