I was pretty surprised and excited when my Dad told me that there’s a place called Bo Laksa King which serves traditional Myanmar cuisine here in Vancouver. Up until quite recently Myanmar has been very closed off to the world and so I didn’t know we had any sort of Burmese community here. But, Vancouver being the multicultural tapestry that it is, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Wendy and I checked the menu online and it looked fascinating, so we trekked down to Hastings-Sunrise for a lunch date.
It’s a pretty unassuming little place, and you might not expect much if you haven’t heard Bo Laksa’s reputation, (it’s won itself a few awards over the past couple of years). However we learned that Bo no longer owns the place as he’s sold it along with his name. We think maybe his recipes too…but we haven’t been here while Bo was still here so we had nothing to compare to. Now this Bo Laksa King is owned by a nice couple with the husband manning the front and the wife cooking in the back.
The menus contain a combo of Southeast Asian dishes; Thai, Malaysian and Burmese are all represented. I picked the Burmese choices since I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to try these again until I (hopefully) make it out to Myanmar someday.
We had decided in advance on this intriguing sounding pickled tea leaf salad, lahpet thoke ($8),which blends the star ingredient with lots of cabbage and some tomato chunks, dried shrimp and the crispy crunch combo of garlic chips, peanuts and broad beans. It’s tossed in lime juice and chili. Very refreshing, and everything you could ask for on a hot summer day. The tea leaves added a nice subtle flavour too. If I was forced to make a comparison, I’d have to say its closest relative would be som tum, but this dish is definitely unique. If you like the aforementioned Thai salad, you gotta try this. I’m personally looking forward to the jin thoke variation with ginger on the next visit.
Mohingar ($8.50) is THE staple dish in Myanmar, with infinite variations on the recipe being passed down generation to generation and varying by locale etc. I’m happy to say that if we ever do travel there I could eat this dish day in day out the entire time. Yes, it’s that good! Thin rice noodles cut into bite size in a fish broth thick with banana stem, topped with boiled egg, cilantro and split pea fritters, with chili paste and lime on the side. The broth was made quite aromatic with the addition of lemongrass, garlic, ginger and onion. The pea fritters were great, and when dunked in the broth they softened somewhat but retained just enough crisp to keep the texture interesting. This dish had a real tropical taste and feel to it, and the only complaint I have is there wasn’t more of it!
Wendy ordered one of her personal staples, laksa ($8.75). We actually smelled the broth from half a block away and were salivating by the time we arrived. Hers was suitably spicy, and came with tiger prawn, fishballs, tofu puffs, chicken, a boiled egg and some fresh veg on top. She chose a mix of vermicelli and yellow noodle. She said the soup’s thicker and more aromatic than the Singaporean and the
fake Cattle Cafe version, and there was quite the variety of ingredients to keep it interesting. I had a bite and the homemade coconut broth tasted great to me. We were in agreement at the end of the meal though that overall Bo Laksa serves tasty, exciting and authentic food at a very reasonable price.
Edit: Wendy here. Hitman’s mom and sister were in town and so we decided to take them to Bo’s since it’s for sure something they wouldn’t have the chance to try on the island. It also gave us an excuse to come back and perhaps try some things we couldn’t last time.
Since there were more us this time, we were able to order a few more appies to share. Aside from the Lahpet Thoke from last time, we ordered the Jin Thoke ($8) which is a pickled ginger salad. They were essentially the same just made with pickled ginger instead. The ginger was very strong and pungent, and quite a kick to the mouth. Hitman’s sister did not like it but his mom was a trooper and stuck with both salads. Hitman and I did enjoy this but we both agreed that the fermented tea leaves were more our taste.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Spicy Squid ($7.50) seeing it on paper. I didn’t expect it to come in a red sauce though. I must say this didn’t live up to my expectations as the squid was probably over-boiled resulting in a tasteless, almost mushy mouthful. The sauce was too tart for my taste and quite spicy also.
The next new food item was Hitman’s Lamb Curry ($12.50). It looks very oily and I’m sure it indeed was. However it was quite flavorful and tasted between an Indonesian and a Hong Kong style curry, but still quite different from both. The kick factor was medium. It could have had more pieces of lamb though in my opinion.
Lastly we have Hitman’s sister choice – the Pad Thai ($9.25). It was extremely small in my opinion but luckily it was not the ketchup concoction that is so common and so despised by us. The sweetness factor was not very high, which is a good thing, nor was the spicy factor…which is probably not a good thing in Hitman’s opinion. This was not memorable for me at all though so I wouldn’t order it again. Hitman however liked this a lot and he commented how the side of chili flakes allowed you to adjust the spiciness to your liking.
There are definitely some hits and some misses here, but that’s likely in any restaurant. Luckily there’s enough hits for us to consider coming back again and again.