Kuih Cafe

My husband likes to hold grudges. I still remember the time when he talked about wanting to eat Malaysian food years before we were a couple, and I quickly Yelped a few Malaysian options in Manhattan Chinatown and chose one for us to meet at for dinner. Needless to say, it was just okay at best, or in his words, “absolute shit.” He did not like any of the dishes and said that everything seemed more Chinese than it was actually Malaysian… which was pretty true. He was not happy with my choice and made sure to remind me of this incident years and years after it happened.

So now, whenever I suggest trying a new Malaysian spot that opens in New York City, he’s always… just a tad skeptical. But when I told him that Ronny Chieng, an actual Malaysian and comedian we love and respect, went there and had good things to say about it, he seemed convinced. So we went down to Chinatown this afternoon for our monthly massages, and I stopped by Kuih Cafe to pick up a few things on their limited pandemic-era menu. While waiting for my food, I chatted up the worker, and he said that they opened this cafe just a month before the pandemic. That must have been harsh. I felt so bad for them, and at the time time wanted to support them even more to ensure they stay afloat. I ended up getting nearly one of each thing on their menu: we got the nasi lemak, salty duck egg butter fried chicken, a few pieces of kuih, and a slice each of caramel kaya cake and burnt pineapple cheesecake. Since indoor dining has officially shut down in New York City and the cafe was too tiny for outdoor dining, we got takeout and took our food home to eat.

You probably don’t care what I think given what I wrote above, but I thought all of it was delicious. The briny fishiness of the nasi lemak was impossible to ignore. It tasted like we were in Southeast Asia again.

And the verdict from the husband? “Mm. Tastes homely,” Chris said between bites as I asked him what he thought.

“Homely” is a compliment from this critical Malaysian food eater. I’ll take that.

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