- Mike Sula
- Curry laksa, Asian Noodle House
People are always asking me what you can’t eat in Chicago, and the first thing I always say—before Burmese—is Malaysian food. It wasn’t always so—not until Chinatown’s Penang burned down four years ago, anyway. And it turns out that isn’t true of the wider region, either. Far to the north, in frozen Hoffman Estates, exists an innocuous strip-mall storefront noodle joint that at first glance appears to be nothing more interesting than another pan-Asian dilettante dishing out wontons, pho, udon, and chow mein with equal abandon, rarely a good indicator of a place that does any of them particularly well. But Asian Noodle House also features a small list of house specials that overwhelmingly skew Malaysian.
It seems strange that two of the most iconic Malaysian dishes aren’t even listed on the menu—though maybe that’s because the ones here aren’t particularly stellar renditions. Curry laksa, pictured to the left, is the most common member of the Malaysian family of rice-noodle soups. This one has two varieties of noodle, thin rice vermicelli and a spaghetti-bore wheat noodle, both of which come swimming in a thick, spicy, coconut-based broth with shrimp (mushy), tofu, fish balls, bean sprouts, and shredded chicken. The broth’s lack of depth is considerably improved with the addition of some shrimpy, spicy sambal, so be sure to ask for that.