EFAC #9 Malaysian Food in Manhattan

Lovely ladies of #EFAC strolling in SOHO

Lovely ladies of #EFAC strolling in SOHO

If you’re a frequent visitor to my blog or acquaintance of mine IRL (in real life) it’s likely that you are aware of a little eating club called #EFAC. That’s the Ethnic Food Adventure Club and each month we visit a new exotic restaurant and do what I do best…EAT. And by the way, it’s pronounced eefack.

#EFAC grew out of my disdain for football. I had absolutely no desire to plop myself in front of a TV and watch sports on Sundays in the winter so I emailed ten girlfriends to ask if anyone wanted to adventure to Brighton Beach for Korean-Uzbeki fusion food. To my surprise, a few said YES. Over the past year we’ve been to queens 5 times, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn twice and eaten everything from Istrian to Sri Lankan. What started as a small group of coworkers and college friends has grown into a larger email list of friends of friends and even chance acquaintances. It seems I’m not the only girl who hates Sunday football with a flare for dim sum.

EFAC is an all female dining club…for now. Perhaps we’ll take a page from men’s clubs and allow the weaker sex to dine with us on certain occasions and holidays. But for now it’s just the ladies who lunch.

Saturday we decided to take a break from the outer boroughs and head to Manhattan’s Little Italy…but not for Italian. It was bitter cold but sunny so I think the ladies appreciated the break from the 7 train. On Grand Street, just on the edge of Little Italy and right next to the famous Ferrara Bakery (for cannolis) is a delicious Malaysian restaurant called Nyonya.

Having recently watched 6 hours of Anthony Bourdain’s travel show No Reservations on a particularly uncomfortable flight, I was dying for the shrimpy fruity goodness of Malaysian food.

Malaysia is a split island nation in the South China Sea and is populated by three main ethnic groups: the Chinese, Malays and Indians. Religious and cultural differences are often the cause of tension between the native Maylays and the Malaysian Chinese. One article I read cited two completely separate and bustling food courts near each other but completely segregated. Native Maylays practice Islam and the Chinese and Indian populations a mix of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism. The national religion is Islam, accounting for about 60% of the population. The tensions between religious and ethnic groups have caused many economic and social problems for the country but has done extremely interesting things for the food.

Appologies for making light of the situation, but when you have different cultures living in close quarters you are bound to get some wires crossed, flavors mixed and new dishes created. Thus Malaysian cuisine is a mix of the native island nation with Chinese and Indian influences, which is fantastic news for us.

Malaysian food, to me, closely resembles Chinese. Lots of shrimp, lots of vegetables like peppers and peas; pickled vegetables are common. But the Indian influence can be felt through the liberal use of turmeric in dishes like roti canai, a thin Indian pancake and acaht, pickled vegetables. Coconut sticky rice abounds but is mixed with curry-like stewed meat and vegetables in shrimp paste. Nyonya was delicious and hilariously affordable.

What we ordered for 6 people:

Roti Canai – A very thin flakey break dipped in a delicious tangy curry. Order 2 for 4 people!




Achat – Pickled cabbage and carrots in a tumeric vinegar. Sesame seeds add sweetness. MUST ORDER.

Nasi Lemak – An impressive plate of coconut sticky rice with lots of goodness to mix in.

Hainanese Chicken with Rice

Hainanese Chicken with Rice

Hainanese Chicken with Rice – Super succulent and moist for plain chicken.

Mango Shrimp – Not my favorite dish, sort of like the Geneal Tso’s of the meal.

Singapore Rice Noodles

Singapore Rice Noodles


Singapore Rice Noodles – Loved these thin rice noodles in a sweet sauce.

Me Goreng

Me Goreng

Indian Me Goreng – Thick noodles with shrimp and fried tofu. A crowd favorite.

In case you’ve missed my previous posts, here’s the complete list of #EFAC adventures. 

EFAC#1 Korean-Uzbeki Fusion in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

EFAC #2 Chinese Food in Flushing, Queens

EFAC #3 Cipriot Food in Astoria, Queens

EFAC #4 Tibetan Food in Jackson Heights, Queens

EFAC #5 Italian Food on Arthur Ave, Bronx

EFAC #6 Sri Lankan Food on Staten Island, Staten Island

EFAC #7 Istrian Food in Astoria, Queens

EFAC #8 Mongolian Hot Pot in Flushing, Queens


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