Bessie's Best: Southeast Asian Comfort Food in a Pandemic at Wok Wok

Bessie’s Best “Pandemic Edition” is here. I had actually left NYC for a bit and came back, just in time for the COVID-19 crisis. The restaurant industry needs love, so I am back at this giving a shout-out to the places I have loved getting delivery from or am now enjoying outdoor meals at.

To start, I want to write a love letter to Wok Wok, which recently opened to outdoor dining in Chinatown. I had wanted to write about Wok Wok way back when, so I have a few pictures from better times. During the shutdown, Wok Wok was one of my go-to delivery spots. Malaysian food holds a special place in my heart, which I’ve written about, because of the incorporation of so many culinary heritages: Malay, Chinese, Indian, British, and more.

To start, I recommend the Cheese Roti as a guilty pleasure, melted cheese in Indian roti served with a flavorful spicy chicken curry dip. I spent some time working in Malaysia and would get this greasy treat on the street. Wok Wok provides the same yum factor in generous American sized portions. For the non-Cheese inclined, the Roti alone is also delicious.

For my favorite mains, the Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of the most authentic I’ve tasted. It’s an acquired taste for some since it is served at room temperature, but that really allows the flavors of poached chicken and the aromatics to shine through. Many restaurants specialize in this dish alone, and Wok Wok’s is just as good as any of the specialists.

For rice dishes, the Malaysian Pork Chop is akin to the sweet and sour pork chop but has more of a Chinese BBQ flavor. The Basil Wok with Eggplant with an egg on top is a good option for vegetarians. The Beef Curry is delicious as well.

You also can’t go wrong with noodles here. The Laksa Spicy Noodle soups are coconut-y classics. The Hokkien Noodles are also Malaysian staple, made with a dark soy sauce with meat and veggies that are different from your standard chow meins. Not Malaysian, but I do love getting the lunch special with Chicken Satay and Pad Kee Mao that holds its weight against Thai restaurants.

Pulut Hinam, a sweet coconut soup with purple rice and pandan, is a great and hard-to-find Southeast Asian dessert to end on.

The family who runs it is also super nice, and I wish Wok Wok and them the best as it weathers the pandemic.

Pro-tip: Mix and match the offerings. I’m normally hesitant of restaurants that have too much of a menu of everything, but Wok Wok is a veritable diner menu of Malaysian and Thai dishes. This is not one of those restaurants where you have to stick to one lane.

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