Serving Sake to a Serb: Malay Satay Hut

Roti Canai
Malay Satay Hut (212 12th Ave S.) is located in a dilapidated strip mall at a busy intersection. It's easy to overlook, but enough people know better than to do that. Before noon, they begin coming in for their fix of Malaysian food, an awesome blend of Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian influences.

On Slavko's first visit to the tiny restaurant, the busboy is running late. Really late. An old man emerges from the kitchen, stares blankly at us, then walks over to another table of two women. He begins talking rapidly and gestures toward us. They all look our way, then one of the women stands up and approaches us.

"Hello!" she chirps. "The busboy is late today. The cook [points at the old man] doesn't speak English, so I am going to take your order."

Slavko asks her if she has any recommendations and she enthusiastically answers, "Everything!" When he asks that she narrow it down, she confidently says, "The roti is to die for. Everyone orders it."

He nods, then inquires about the noodle dishes. "Everything is good," the woman repeats again. (The restaurant should consider hiring her as a publicist.) "Even the Pad Thai is Malaysian-style. Amazing."

Slavko heeds her advice and says he'll try both. The woman beams and rapidly relays the order to the silent but smiley cook. Then she scurries back to her table to return to more traditional customer behavior - like talking and eating with her own friends.

In less than 10 minutes, the cook emerges and sets a plate of warm, pie crust-like flakes and a cup of curry in front of us. Slavko is delighted when he sees the roti canai. "You know Serbians love their bread," he says. He digs in with a fork, dipping the flakes into the curry. "Nice sauce!" he says, noting that it's a smidge spicy and a smidge peanut-y. Then he gives a thumbs-up sign to our "server" who is craning her neck to see his reaction to the food.

Malaysian-style Pad Thai
Next up is the Malaysian-style Pad Thai. It looks somewhat like the Western favorite served at all Seattle Thai restaurants; a heaping pile of noodles adorned with chicken, vegetables, and ground-up peanuts. But the noodles are much wider and the sauce is thicker and smokier.

Slavko likes the rich taste but isn't keen on the noodles. "They're so fat, it's almost weird to chew them," he complains.

The busboy walks in just as Slavko is finishing his food. "Hi, can I help you?" he asks. Then, he looks embarrassed, realizing after a quick once-over that someone has already done his duties. He resorts to getting a water pitcher and refilling everyone's glasses.

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