Sweet Chili Cafe on Victoria and 39th, Vancouver


Updated 11th Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

I had lots of leave accumulated from last year.  Believe it or not, I have almost 6 weeks of leave which I need to clear by the end of this year.  So, HR sent a note to everyone that we had to now use a certain number of days by June 30th or we lose it.  The only way I could use it without really impacting my project is to take a day here and there.

So, I took a day off mid week to meet up for lunch with someone I had always wanted to meet.  He is known as fmed as a commenter on chowtimes.  Fmed is a prolific foodie and very active around the local food blogs and forums using other names.  It was only recently I managed to piece together who fmed really is.

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We decided to meet up at the Sweet Chili Cafe, a place we had always wanted to try twice before only to find out that they were closed on Sundays.

Although the sign outside the restaurant says “Thai and Authentic Indonesian Cuisine”, to me the Sweet Chili Cafe is more of an Indonesian restaurant.

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Like they say, the best things comes in small packages.  The Sweet Chili Cafe is small having only 6 tables in all, each spread with batik as a table cloth.

This place is owned by Angeline Tan, a very friendly delightful lady.  The moment she saw me taking my camera out of the bag, she immediately asked “are you doing a review?” like she was expecting me to.  I said no with a smile and that I just like taking pictures of  my food.  She knows.  I like her already because I know she has a lot of stories to tell … all I had to do is to ask.  Angeline told us she is part Indonesian and part Chinese.  The decor and menu reflects that.

The Sweet Chili Cafe is actually the smaller newer incarnation of the Bali Restaurant on Broadway which had won awards 2 years in a row from Georgia Straight for Best South East Asian Food.  I read this on one of the many newspaper clippings that Angeline framed up in her restaurant.  I actually thought it kind of strange that she changed the name of an established award winning restaurant and started afresh with a new name on a new location.  I thought it was intrusive and impolite to ask, so I did not.

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We ordered drinks.  The Es Cendol is a popular cold drink in Malaysia sold mainly by the Indians community.  I was not sure it was also a common drink in Indonesia too (is it?).

The word cendol refers to the greenish pandan flavored starch noodles at the bottom.  This is served with coconut milk and palm sugar (the Malaysians insist on calling this gula melaka while the Indons calls this Gula Jawa!) — that is all one need to call this Cendol.  This is a great drink for a hot day.  It is a rich but not overly sweet drink.  The cendol here is served with a tinge of saltiness which adds a bit of a element of surprise.

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The gift of Indonesia to the world is their excellent coffee beans.  While Indonesia is far from being the top producing coffee in the world, their contribution is in the word “Java” which refers to the main island of Java in Indonesia.  I wrote a sentence or two on another Indonesia Coffee called Kopi Luwak, proportedly the most expensive coffee beans in the world at $500 per pound (see here).

So, in an Indonesian restaurant, drink Indonesian Coffee ($3).  It is thick and strong.  They add condensed milk as a sweetener.  Try it, you might like it.

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The Rojak Kemanten has a nice little tartness to it.  It is a local vegetable salad and is great as an appetizer.  $7.25.

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The Roti Canai is $3 and is basically a Malaysian, not Indonesian food as far as I know.  It was flakey from the layered dough.  Angeline serve this with a yellowish curry sauce made with tumeric.  But the curry is served in a small dipping saucer only.  In Malaysia, you could spark a riot for serving curry in a saucer like this.  LOL!  Normally it is served in a bowl — lots of it.

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The Beef Rendang on Rice ($7.50) looked pretty good and tasted good.  Suanne thought the beef is a bit on the tough side and should be mushier but I thought it was quite OK like it is.  Rendangs are cooked over many hours in coconut milk and various types spices which allows the beef to soak up all the spices.  There was quite a generous helping of beef in here.

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The Lamb Curry ($8.25) was something I cannot remember trying.

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I also ordered the Bakmi Goreng simply because I had never heard of this dish before.  When it was served, it tasted very familiar but cannot quite put a name to this.  The noodles used are of the thinner stringier variety.  We asked that it be made as spicy as they can make it.  It was REALLY spicy … burning hot but we like it.  They use sweet soya sauce to stir fry this.  $8.25.

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The total came up to $40 before tips.  It was a lot of food for the three of us that we had some leftover to go.  The Sweet Chili Cafe is a delightful little hole in the wall.  Prices are quite OK.  If you crave for spicy South East Asian food, you should check it out.  Angeline is such a friendly and genuine person that many people could connect with her instantly … even if you don’t pull out a camera.  LOL!

Fmed was a great company.  Suanne and I had a great time because he is such a respectful person and so knowledgeable about the food scene in Vancouver.  Thanks for coming out, Fmed.  Let’s do this again sometime soon!

Sweet Chili Cafe on Urbanspoon

28 thoughts on “Sweet Chili Cafe on Victoria and 39th, Vancouver

  1. i think malaysian/indonesian origin debate (which is everywhere on the internet) is pointless. our culture and its artifacts including food cross pollinated and evolved together as we were in the same cultural ‘race’ (for lack of a better word). what i mean is the whole nusantara region including what is politically known as indonesia, brunei, malaysia, maybe phillipines, etc, today. it is a cultural border and is not easily defined politically.

    think about it, a century ago malaysia and indonesia did not exist, we had different political borders (i believe it was kingdoms). but we have always existed together culturally as ‘rumpun melayu’ or ‘malay peoples’; and again, the word ‘malay’ here is not proprietary of malaysia but a word describing the ‘cultural race’ of a people over a certain geographical area, which definitely encompasses more than just the malay peninsula or sumatra.

    i think if we both understand that we have a common heritage, and don’t claim political ownership of common cultural artifacts we can enjoy everything together!

  2. I envy all of you living in or around Vancouver. There seems to be quite a few Malaysian/Indonesian like restaurants in your area. I live in one of the suburbs of Sacramento, the capital of California. There is not one Malaysian/Indonesian restaurant here. Tragic. Wish I had known Ben’s blog 15 years ago when I visited Vancouver twice. Didn’t know then about all these good restaurants there. Thanks Ben for your great postings.

  3. Yes,es cendol atau es dawet adalah benda yg sama,jd panggil saja es dawet klu berada di Indonesia,panggil es cendol klu berada di M’sia,kalau di Singapur panggil apa?

      • FYI. All future comments from Rahel8877 will be automatically moved to the spam folder. Sorry for having to do this. It is not so much for posting in Malay but for how irrelevant the comments were.

  4. Just a friendly reminder that this is a English blog,I could post in Filipino together with fmed,crispy lechon etc But We try to respect those that dont speak or write our native language

  5. Ya betul cakap kamu Paul,di Indonesia “es cendol” di panggil “es dawet” tapi kebanyakan gerai dan rumah makan di Indonesia panggil “es cendol” juga.

  6. Just some corrections here. Es cendol is very popular in Java. The reason why gula jawa is included. Javaese is known for its sweet tastebuds.

    I consider it is rujak pengantin not kemanten. Also roti canai, I believe it’s Indian influenced to the Sumatrans include Malay descendants. It is also popular in Padang (West Sumatra)and it’s call roti cane. In Surabaya, roti cane is known as roti maryam and sold in kampung Arab. Served with gulai kambing or sop kambing kacang hijau.

    • I agree with pepy. I think you both need to get ur facts right.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cendol

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satay

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gado-gado

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendang

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indonesian_cuisine

      I mean it is only fair that people should know where they originated since it also reflects the people and the culture of one’s country.

      Also fyi, it is considered rude to address Indonesian people as “Indons” it is almost the same like calling African American with the “N” word.

      Nothing but the best for ur website.

      • Hi,

        I was born in Malang, East Java.

        Just a correction that “Es Cendol” is not an Indonesian name, because Indonesians usually call it “Es Dawet”. The name “Cendol” (or, sometimes “Chendol”) comes from Malaysia. “Dawet” refers to the green jelly in the drink. I believe that “Cendol” also refers to the green jelly in the Malaysian “Es Cendol”. However, “Cendol” in Indonesian language means something of spherical shape which is not the case for the green jelly shown in the photo, so that Indonesians will not call it “Es Cendol” but “Es Dawet”.

      • Just read this. My family are from Medan and Penang. In Bahasa Indonesia and Melayu, es “cendol” is a common word. Of course, in Western Java it is called something else. 🙂

  7. When we went, the owner informed us they often cater for events for the Thai consulate, so I guess they must be pretty authentic.

    I found the food decent, but the place very tiny. There were less than a handful of tables so it can feel pretty crowded quickly. Also, make sure you allow plenty of time, as the food takes awhile to be prepared. I was on a typical lunch break with my sister, and she felt a little rushed.

  8. sorry to spam you, but one last comment, the buffet has 5-6 hot dishes, much better than Kedah, though it’s a $1 more.

  9. Hi Ben,
    I prefer Kedah’s gado gado of the three(Henry doesn’t like their dessert), the randang : we prefer Seri, and we found Sweet Chili overall impressive:P
    From salad to main to dessert( we have the black rice pudding and the coconut sause is not too sweet, taste very home made).BTW, Henry mentioned you to the owner:P
    Turns out we have some mutual friends.

    Ken: i also looked at your link, the reviews are not good.

    • I too prefer Seri’s rendang. The flavour is deeper – it is more savoury and more salty (the way I like it).

  10. Ken:
    I’m like the 12 spies who went to Canaan & like Caleb& Joshua ,brought the good report to Henry:P
    So we went & tried their buffet today, impressive.

    • Hi Cissy: Was that good? When I was there I saw a really small table with food warmers which I reckon was used for the weekend buffet. It looked half the size of the buffet table size of Kedah House and did not think much about it. Gosh, all this Asian food is making me hungry. I think I am going to seek out Dim Sum in Barcelona tomorrow morning. Ben

  11. Canido & Jeannie, see search results on Dinehere.ca:
    http://www.dinehere.ca/results.asp?l=24&n=&o=r_name&s=ASC&a=SEARCH&c=53

    Perhaps Pondok is the most famous (and long-lasting) of all of these, having started out on Commercial Drive near 12th Ave. Now they’ve moved to their new location at W. Broadway at Laurel (where The Saigon used to be) that is much more spacious and elegant. I’ve yet eaten at their new location, but the original place was good.

    Cissy: you go eat while Henry goes do Grouse Grind …. LOL !

  12. went there last night by myself b/c hubby was doing the Grind:P

    Had gado gado & chicken satay… the gado gado was different from Seri & Kadah, but the satays were the best, reminded me of the ones i had (n)th years ago at an Indonesian restaurant near the Indonesian Consulate in HK.

  13. Yay, thanks Ben and Suanne for the review, I was looking forward to this. It’s good to know that you liked this place. I need to pay a visit here soon. I’m salivating at the sight of Es Cendol!

  14. Great review, I’m Indonesian and I’d love to try this place, not having tried any Indonesian restaurants in Canada before.

    I also have never heard of Indonesians referred to as Indons…? Sounds weird to me.

    Es cendol is definitely served in Indonesia 🙂 Love it.
    As for the bakmi goreng, the noodle size is preferential. I’ve seen it with thick round noodles as well.

  15. I’m also from Indonesia and wondering why Malaysian like to call Indonesian as “indon”?

    BTW, i love your blog and like to try the restaurant you recommended..and I’ll be sure to try this place as I’m craving for my kampung food.

    Thank you Ben and Suanne

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