Following almost 14 years of successful Malaysian cooking, Café Sambal’s Beijing hutong restaurant is one of three branches throughout China. It continues to go from strength to strength, with a dedicated head chef popping in regularly from Shanghai to retrain the kitchen staff, and a new menu just around the corner.

Its location is definitely a plus: a renovated traditional courtyard home with separate smaller dining rooms for added privacy, and one main hall for larger groups. The most popular menu items, on both the old and new menus, include classic Malaysian fare such as roti canai with kapitan curry, beef rendang, and crunchy four-sided beans. 

Roti canai, a soft flatbread found in Malaysia with Indian roots, owes its chewy consistency and alternative moniker – flying bread – to the way it is made; by tossing and spinning the bread in the air until the dough is soft and billowing.

Café Sambal’s portions include two bundles of freshly-made roti canai alongside a rich kapitan chicken curry. While in Malaysia the curry would generally be served in whole chunks, the meat falling off the bone, Café Sambal opts for doing away with the bones, simplifying the eating process without sacrificing any of the flavor. The curry’s rich depth comes from the wide variety of spices used: kaffir lime, galangal, candlenuts, lemongrass, and belacan, a popular Malaysian fermented shrimp paste. 

The beef rendang, perhaps one of the most widely-known Malaysian dishes outside of the Southeast Asian country, also pairs well with the fluffy roti, if there is any left over. The huge cuts of tender beef are almost caramelized in the curry and are seasoned with coconut milk and a local spice mixture known as pemasak.

As their new menu is testament to, a trip to Café Sambal is a wonderful way to acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with Malaysian cuisine, without having to spend the cash on going all the way there this summer. 

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Photos: Uni

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