It is impossible to keep me from any place with the word “hawker” in it. I grew up in a country full of hawker food centers – which are basically open-air complexes housing many stalls that sell a huge variety of very inexpensive and delicious food. Though Hawker Fare in Oakland doesn’t have the physical appearance of a hawker center, it does serve some pretty yummy South-east Asian food. Not quite traditional hawker food but beautiful, kid-friendly and rather tasty rice bowls. They also try to use local, sustainable and organic ingredients as much as they can.
The menu is short and simple and in my opinion, that is often the hallmark of a good eating place. Most hawkers in Asia usually make one thing or a few things and they do it really well. Kind of boring for the cook/chef but it assures the customer high quality and consistency. We rarely frequent restaurants with gigantic menus and perhaps it is an unfair bias on my part. However, if I walk into your restaurant and you hand me a book, you are off to a bad start with me.
My kid loves rice bowls and if you offer to add a runny, fried egg on the top, she gets visibly excited. Her face lit up when the bowl of lemograss chicken ( “gai yang” with turmeric and coriander, macerated chiles with lime, garlic and fish sauce) with an egg was placed in front of us to share. She ate way more than her share (note to self: no more sharing rice bowls with Ria!) and was also trying to get bites from her grandparents who ordered the “vadouvan” tofu and beef short-rib rice bowls. Pretty good stuff, though it could be spicier/hotter but that would make it less palatable for kids.
We ended the meal with condensed milk soft serve in a sugar cone. I have made condensed milk ice-cream at home but this was far superior.
I wish Hawker Fare was closer to home. Oakland is a bit of a hike (true adventure for us) but I am now inspired to make more rice bowls (with eggs) at home. With kids presentation is sometimes more than half the battle won and rice bowls seem to be a runaway success with my little one. Here are some recipes from our blog that feature rice bowls or could be part of a rice bowl. Try them out on your little monkeys.