Batik and other Indonesian handicrafts are displayed throughout the small restaurant. A couple of pairs of colourful wooden clogs adorn the wall – a glimpse of Indonesia’s Dutch colonial past.
Indonesia and Malaysia share aspects of their culture, such as mutually intelligible official languages and similar cuisines. Therefore, many dishes that you would find at an Indonesian restaurant, like beef rendang, laksa, satay, etc. – can be found in Malaysian (and Singaporean) restaurants as well.
I have fond memories vacationing on the Indonesian island of Bali on a few occasions but don’t ever recall ever eating laksa. I have, however, eaten a fare share of laksa variants during my travels in other parts of Indonesia and other cities in South East Asia: Penang, KL, Singapore, Brunei, Jakarta, Kutching, etc. Since laksa is one of my favourite dishes ever, I just had to order one at Balilicious – along with some other Indonesian/Malaysian staples like roti, nasi goreng, and satay.
Ayam & Babi Sate ($1.95 each) – Grilled chicken and pork satay skewers served with a side of peanut dipping sauce. The meat was faintly charred and juicy, especially the pork. The satay sauce was dark and embodied more of a tamarind flavour than just straight-up chunky peanut butter. Roti ($2.25) – Pan-fried, Indian-influenced puffed flat bread. Although most restaurants serve them together, a side of savory curry sauce cost $1.95 extra to accompany the roti. Crunchier and less puffy than typical roti canai we’ve had elsewhere, it was still a decent dish when combined with the curry dipping sauce.
Nasi Goreng ($10.95) – Spicy fried rice made with shrimp paste, spices and vegetable garnish. Topped with a sunny-side-up egg, fried onions and Indonesian chips/ prawn crackers. This “national dish of Indonesia” was nice, spicy and aromatic, and was packed with pungent flavours (I could really taste the kecap manis). Overall a really solid nasi goreng for what’s available in Vancouver anyway.
Curry or Coconut Laksa ($8.25) – Broad rice noodles, veggies, tofu, shredded chicken and sliced fishballs in a choice of savory curry or coconut soup. Curry laksa is a coconut-based curry soup, so the menu was confusing. Broad rice noodles (like those used in char kway teow recipes) aren’t traditionally included in laksa dishes, so I was expecting vermicelli or laksa noddles (thinner rice noodles that look like white spaghetti), or even yellow noodles found in a similar dish called curry mee. I found the flavours of this dish to be very subtle. You can request your preferred level of spiciness, I asked for “medium”, but the soup ended up being quite mild. In hindsight, I should have asked for my laksa to be “hot!”
FYI: Since pork dishes are served, Balilicious is NOT a Halal restaurant.