For my mother-in-law’s birthday a while ago, all nine of us headed to Tropika’s Cambie location for a South East Asian feast. Tropika has a few locations around the lower mainland, including one at Aberdeen Center in Richmond, and one in downtown Vancouver on Robson. They call themselves “Malaysian & Thai” restaurants, but they also serve Indonesian and Singaporean style dishes.
Satay ($1.20 each, minimum 6 sticks) – Marinated and grilled chicken and lamb skewers, and served with raw cucumber, pineapple and peanut dipping sauce. These satay were flavourful and tender pieces of meat.
Gado Gado (medium $6.95, large $8.50) – This Indonesian salad appetizer consisted of boiled potatoes, fried tofu, egg, bean sprouts, sliced, uncooked cucumber, and smothered in a generous amount of peanut sauce. Although raw tomatoes were included in this dish, this ingredient is not traditionally used. Also, authentic gado gado is always served with some sort of cracker, like krupuk (prawn crackers). Overall, it was tasty, but not exceptionally authentic.
Pineapple Fried Rice ($12.95) – Fried rice with egg, ham, green peas, and pineapple chunks, served in a half pineapple bowl. I always wonder if Tropika reuses these pineapples bowls?! Regardless of their potential recycling habits, this is one of their most popular dishes because it’s deliciously sweet and savoury flavoured. And who doesn’t love eating out of a half pineapple.
Hainanese Chicken (quarter $7.95, half $12.95) – This is arguably Singapore’s national dish, and called “chicken rice” in Singapore, (forgot to take a photo of the rice). Traditionally, the rice served is a delicious “oily rice”. The dipping sauces are traditionally chili sauce, and pounded ginger. Other variations of dipping sauce include a dark soy sauce like kepak manis, or oyster sauce. As far as the authenticity of this dish? Well, Tropika did make a valiant attempt, and it was tasty for what it was, boiled chicken.
Pad Thai ($12.95) – Its sauce was flavoured quite sweetly, with that distinct tomato ketchup colour and consistency. Also, the beans sprouts were cooked, authentic Pad Thai includes raw bean sprouts. It tasted good enough.
K.L. Crab (seasonal price) – K.L. is the abbreviation of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. This dish is deep fried dungeness crab, blanketed with crushed dried shrimp, served on its shell. I’d recommend picking out which crab you’d like from the tank, so you know exactly what you will be served.
One of the perks of dining at Tropika restaurant on Cambie is their service. Staff are always very attentive. Sure, the cuisine is not entirely authentic because flavours are more Chinese-influenced than Malay or Thai. Additionally, although Malay food is eaten with a fork and spoon, or just your hands the way roti is eaten, our server also gave us all chopsticks. All these little details made for Chineseified South East Asian food. However, Tropika’s dishes are still tasty, and the majority of them are as good as you’re going to get in this city. Having been so recently in SEA, its authentic flavours are still so etched in my brain. So, if you’ve never been to Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, etc. then you will thoroughly enjoy Tropika.