Food Stuffs: Nothing quite says summer like a juicy stir-fry served in a mango shell.
Malaysia’s tropical climate allows for the growth of fruits like mango, coconuts, pineapples, and guavas all year round, and at Nyonya — a family-owned Malaysian restaurant on 86th Street — the nation’s abundance of sweet produce is reflected in the presentation of many of its dishes. The pineapple fried rice, for example, is served in a half fruit, and garnished with festive little paper umbrella. The coconut drink too, is served with straw straight from the nut itself.
Nyonya’s non-fruit based dishes are colorful too. Thanks to the multiethnic makeup of Malaysia, the country boasts one of the most diverse food traditions in the world, including Chinese, Malays, and Indian influences. Nyonya offers this explanation of the distinctive cuisine their website:
The inter marriages between the Straits Chinese and Malays offers a delicate culture of the Nyonyas (the ladies) and the Babas (the gentlemen). This was then translated to traditional fashion, handcrafts, and, of course, its special cuisine. Nyonya cooking is a specialty derived from the recipes of one’s Grandmother, and sometimes, the influence of one’s Grandfather. Recipes were passed from one generation to the other with very little variance.
We, at NYONYA, are fortunate to have inherited such guarded recipes. It is then, our utmost belief to present the MOST AUTHENTIC NYONYA CUISINE to the affluent palate of our American and Asian friends. Here, we strive to introduce and influence our friends, with the many dishes that is achieved through the delicate, and, somewhat perfect blend of spices and herbs.
The decor at Nyonya brings much to the dining experience, combining the breezy rustic elements of a wood hut with industrial, modern accents, and fruit decorations. The laid-back decor and soft, acoustic background music make the eatery feel like a tropical island sanctuary located in the middle of one of Southern Brooklyn’s most bustling corridors.
The roti canai, one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers, is similar to the pancake you’d find in any Indian restaurant. Thin, crispy, and delicious, the bread will run you $3.50. The accompanying curry dipping sauce comes with a hunk of chicken and a cube of stewed potato, adding some texture.
The mango chicken ($12.95) — which also comes in shrimp form — is served piled high in a mango shell and offers a somewhat more exotic flavor. The soft chicken is stewed with shredded mango, green peppers, red onions, and carrot slivers in a syrupy mango sauce, and infused with just a hint of Malaysia’s famous chili peppers, resulting in a complex, summery, and refreshing main dish.
Nyonya, which has two other successful locations, one in Sunset Park and one in Little Italy, is a hidden gem on 86th Street. The spacious, rustic eatery is a great summer spot where adventurous foodies can get a taste of the Southeast Asia and savor the vibrant flavors of this tropical country. Do remember to bring cash — Nyonya doesn’t accept card — and definitely bring friends, because you’ll want to sample everything. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Nyonya, 2322 86th Street, (718) 265-0888. Open 11am until 11:30pm daily.
Food Stuffs is a column exploring the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything remotely related to food. Because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.