Roaming Atwater Market in Montreal this past July yielded a lovely surprise – a bustling outdoor hawker market installed under tents north of the main building. Of course my eyes eagerly soaked in all there was to offer. My gaze halted when they ran across the sign Satay Brothers, with their sub-header stating they served South-East Asian Foods.
I scuttled up to their menu, wary of what I’d find. I was all on the defensive as I’d recently gotten burned in Toronto with a highly disappointing meal from a downtown restaurant purportedly serving Singaporean food. I had my mental gun all primed to fire vitriol at Satay Brothers’ menu.
Now, before I get too far up on that soap box, it’s not like I lived in Malaysia or Singapore – I was born and bred in Toronto. But I’d experienced all the flavours of these countries growing up and going “back home” to visit – and eat – with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and umpteen cousins. And each visit left no meal un-eaten. In fact, it felt like we invented meals to eat; I would swear we were hobbits in another life. But food is so intrinsically linked to culture and life in Malaysia and Singapore that everyone wanted to show us their favourite haunts. They’re proud of their dishes and it’s important that things are done right.
It was thrilling to discover Satay Brothers could deliver.
Given that I’d already eaten lunch elsewhere (if only I had known there were food stalls at Atwater earlier!) there was some restraint involved in ordering. I’d gotten the papaya salad (okay, lah) and chicken satay (the peanut sauce was super good) because they were there. My real focus was the laksa – and it didn’t disappoint. The broth was creamy and rich, noodles were cooked just right, and the sambal – house made – was phenomenal. All the spicing and textures were on-point.
And to my everlasting delight, they had Nonya kuih (pronounced “kway”). The term kuih covers a lot of things, but to me, these generally are sweet and/or savoury steamed cakes (usually) made of flour and/or glutenous rice. The brothers’ mum makes them and I tried their kuih salat (glutenous rice, pandan, coconut milk) wrapped in a pandan leaf. A little sweet, a little salty, a lot like “back home.” Talking with one of the brothers at the counter after the meal, we spoke of other desserts like kuih dadar (that’s a pandan crepe with a coconut and gula melakah filling) and the trials and tribulations of getting the wrapper just so. Wish I could have tried their version!
We have some great Malay restaurants in the GTA – One2 Snacks in Scarborough is probably my favourite for laksa and kuih – but the downtown core is still devoid of any good examples of this cuisine. If you find yourself in Montreal before Satay Brothers wraps up their season at the end of October, get to Atwater Market and taste a bit of great Malay/Sing cuisine.
- Satay Brothers Atwater Market, Montreal