Walk into Nyonya‘s new, modern location on Grand Street and you are greeted by fragrant aromas of ginger, kaffir leaves, tamarind, curry, and lemongrass. Your stomach growls with desire. Good Malaysian cuisine is practically non-existent in D.C., but not in New York City. With multiple locations in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, Nyonya is among the best.
Start with the homemade roti canai ($3.50), a delicacy you’ll see on every table. Once you taste it, you’ll know why you can’t not order one and you can’t just order one. This balloon of paper-thin bread is steamy-hot, crisp and chewy. The yellow curry dipping sauce consumes you, like an arrow through the heart. It is intensely flavorful, slightly spicy, smelling of curry, turmeric and fish sauce. It’s a Malay national treasure and extremely popular.
A chunk of in-bone chicken acts as a sponge, soaking up the warm broth that you won’t get enough of. But wait! Your heart sinks as you realize the roti is gone. Will anyone notice you pick up the bowl and shoot the sauce?
Then the stingray arrives. Related to skates, stingrays can be dangerous when alive, sporting a stinger that is used if threatened. In Malaysia, they are common street food. Wrapped in a banana leaf, Nyonya‘s beautiful steamed stingray ($17.95) is enough for two, the fleshiest part of the “wing” topped with sambal belacan. Spiked with spicy chilis, salty fermented shrimp paste and lime, sambal belacan flavors an otherwise flavorless fish.
The stingray is translucent white, firm and ever-so-slightly chewy. Long strands of flesh are covered by a soft, gelatinous skin and long, thin bones like a kite. Tastes like the ocean. A clean one. If the idea of stingray doesn’t lure you, try the sautéed frog with ginger and scallion ($16.95); achat spicy vegetables in turmeric and peanuts ($5.75); or baby oyster omelette ($8.95).
Also highly recommended are the spare ribs Malaysian style ($10.95); and Hainanese chicken steamed with soy sauce ($8.50). Nyonya also has a full menu of noodle soups, casseroles, and unexpected desserts like tiramisu and profiteroles. Cash accepted only.
199 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Mary was born and raised in New York City where her family owned restaurants. Instead of eating dirt on the playground, she ate duck blood, beef tripe and pork belly. She cut her teeth at The Mandarin Oriental and The Ritz-Carlton hotels, working with Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Williams, Michael Stipe, LeVar Burton, Jane Krakowski and others. Mary founded Girl Meets Food in 2009 as a cover for her debilitating addiction to fried chicken and was named Washington Post’s “Favorite Local Foodie.” After 13 years in hospitality, she started freelance writing for USA Today, The Washington Post, Eater, Washington City Paper, and more. Today, she provides digital marketing for hospitality clients as a content creator who’s contently creating content.