I don’t know what it is about strip malls, but they seem to attract more than their fair share of good-quality Asian restaurants. I wasn’t exactly expecting to run into a Malaysian restaurant at one of San Mateo’s many unremarkable strip malls, but when I came across Langkawi, I was more than happy to give it a try.
Langkawi has since turned into one of my go-to Southeast Asian restaurants outside of San Francisco. It’s a little out of the way and the food is standard Malaysian fare, but it’s solid and well-prepared. My favorite dish at Langkawi is the char kway teow - the noodles are chewy but not overcooked, the seasonings have just the right amount of sweet and spicy balance and I love the extra chili sauce that they provide.
During my last visit, I also tried the cendol, a dessert-drink concoction made of shaved ice, coconut milk, green pandan leaf noodles, red beans and palm sugar.
It’s like a smoothie, slurpee, and bubble tea all mixed up together, but far less gross tasting than that description sounds. In fact, cendol is delicious and the variety of textures make it fun to eat. I’ve only seen cendol on the menu of a few Malaysian and Indonesian restaurants, but I cannot wait until it catches on and becomes as ubiquitous as bubble tea. Until then, I have Langkawi.