Updated: 1st Feb 2011; This location had closed according to Urbanspoon.com. Bo is now located at 2546 E. Hasting, Vancouver.
I just gotta see for myself what this hype was all about.
When a group of pro chowhounds goes crazy in the forum over a particular food, it has to count for something. After having tasted something that costs about $5, they are yearning for more. They are even talking about throwing in $50 each to the chef to cook for them.
From the way I read it, everything that the chef creates, will turned out to be a winner. They had already been surprised by the chef weekend after weekend when the chef concocts something new.
So … I just gotta see for myself what this hype is all about.
And all these is happening in the most unlikeliest of places. All these is happening starting from one dish — Laksa.
Unless you live in the neighborhood, you will never walk into the Joyce-Way Food Market to buy your grocery. Even if you do, you will not even think they have an eatery in it.
This convenience shop is located on Joyce in Vancouver. It is just a short walk north of the Joyce Skytrain station. Word has it that some Aussie chowhounds stumbled upon this place and before you know it, the Vancouver chowhound community were scrambling over each other to check it out. All came out liking what they tasted.
IF … Even if … even if you went into this convenience shop, there is not sign of an eatery. It is tucked in a hidden corner. You gotta walk around some of the grocery display to see it.
The only hint you will see here is the orangey sign outside that says “Bo Laksa Kings’ – Famous Laksa and Wraps”.
The Bo Laksa Kings’ name got into the chowhound circuit initially because of their Laksa. No one really cares for the wraps. What really gets the chowhounds interested is what that is not on the menu.
Ladies and gentlemen … presenting, Bo Laksa Kings’!
Oh yeah, it is just a counter. It is mostly mean to be a to-go place. After all this is in a convenience shop. For good measures, they have two tiny round tables with four folding chairs if you so chooses to eat in. There is even ONE stool by the counter.
Even the cutleries are cheap looking. I was looking at the spoon and thinking to myself that it’s too small for Laksa. All these add to the intrigue of Bo Laksa Kings’.
Chef Bo was not around. His lovely wife was. It was just slightly past 4PM when Suanne and I were at the counter. We only planned to get a bowl of Laksa to share between the two of us. We just wanted to try the Laksa and the go for a real dinner afterwards.
It was an odd setting. You can see for yourself what the ambiance and decor Bo Laksa Kings’ has to offer. The odd customer walking into the last aisle ends up … peering over our shoulders to see what we’re eating. It’s unnerving.
Besides all that chatter on a couple of chowhound forums, there is only one review I found on Yelp. Nothing on Urbanspoon. Nyada on Dinehere.ca.
Mrs Bo served us the Laksa in two separate bowls — one for the soup and another for the noodles and stuff. It is the first time we had it served this way. Normally they are served together — just like you would with any soup noodles. Mrs Bo explained that these are normally for take outs and they wanted to separate it so that the noodles does not turn soggy sitting in the laksa soup for too long.
This according to Mrs Bo, is the Malaysian version of Laksa.
Mrs Bo said that everything they serve here is fresh. It looked fresh. It even smelt fresh.
For $7.50, it was a large bowl with a chockful of ingredients. There are prawns, chicken, fish balls and tofu puff.
What is missing is the cockles. The best laksa in Malaysia normally has these succulent clams but I had never seen it here in Vancouver. If someone could point me to where I could buy it, the next time I will bring my own cockles and add it to the Laksa.
Look at the richness and smoothness of the Laksa broth. It is spicy hot. Suanne thinks that it was not too hot but I swear it leaves a lingering heat in the mouth for sometime. The richness of the broth is from the coconut milk.
For the noodles we opted for vermicelli. We could have the yellow noodles but Laksa is always great with vermicelli. I noticed that they cook and soften up the vermicelli in the Laksa soup because it has laksa stains all over it. Even without the laksa broth, the vermicelli tasted great.
We split the one order into two bowls. Suanne does the splitting. Guess who ended up with the bowl with the most Laksa curry?
Bo’s curry laksa still can’t stand up to the curry laksas from Malaysia and Singapore. It is not in the quality but the absence of hard to find ingredients like cockles. But I will say that Bo have one of the best, if not the best Laksa in Vancouver. You just gotta try it.
One other main ingredient missing in Bo’s version of curry laksa is eggplant. When I was in elementary school in Malaysia, I studied in a school call the Methodist Boys School which has a proud tradition of producing leaders in the country. It is situated at the edge of Chinatown. I often go to this one stall on one of the back lanes called the Madras Lane where I had the best Laksa ever in this planet. They serve it with eggplants and cockles. Oh Yum! I wonder if they still exist today.
As I earlier mentioned, Bo Laksa Kings’ is also known for what is not on their menu. A little bit more about Bo’s …
Bo is Burmese who had worked in several countries in South East Asia. This is where his cooking is based on. On weekdays, he serves primarily Laksa and wraps with a few specials like roti canai and satay. But during the weekends, that is when the specials gets rolled out. I read that he cooks something different each weekend — mostly Burmese. I gotta come back and try it someday soon. The chowhounders were so impressed with these weekend specials that they are seriously thinking of paying $50 each to Bo to do a Burmese Omakase of sorts. That should be fun as there are no Burmese restaurants in Vancouver as far as I know. BTW, Bo has just started four months ago. So they are pretty new.
The above is another dish that people are raving about. It is called the Pickled Tea Leaves Salad. It is a Burmese salad. Mrs Bo said that the pickled tea leaves used here were marinated for at least 6 months — sometimes even up to 10 years. A single order of this is $8.
The taste is unique. It is sourish and crunchy at each bite. The moment we took the first spoonful, we couldn’t stop. It is addictive.
In it is some fried beans, peanuts, sesame seeds, cabbage, tomatoes, dried prawns and lime juice. And … birds eye chili for those who wants an extra kick. For those not familiar with this, don’t ever pop the whole thing into your mouth! You are supposed to nibble a bit off and eat it with a spoonful of the salad.
Boys and girls, I think it is worthwhile going out of your way to check out Bo Laksa Kings’. Don’t take our word for it but at least pay attention to what the chowhounders are raving about.
At this rate that the reputation of Bo is spreading, things will change and frankly, I am afraid it might not be for good. Mrs Bo said that they are thinking of expanding and if they do, maintaining the quality of their food is easier said than done.
If you do try it, please let me know what you think.
Suanne and I love the Laksa and will go check out their weekend specials someday soon.