Due to my now overwhelming love for roti canai, Malaysian restaurants are the easiest sell in the world. All someone has to do is utter “Mal…” and I’m in. If roti is there, so am I. So when someone recently suggested lunch at Tropika in Aberdeen Centre, I enthusiastically agreed. One of three restaurants in a Metro-Vancouver chain, Richmond’s Tropika is in Aberdeen Centre’s east side, and is open for both lunch and dinner. Its unique triangular shape allows for one and a half full walls of windows, so the tropically-themed space is well-lit. The service was decent, and they have a very large menu featuring dishes of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, and Indonesian origin. I’ll give you one guess as to what we ordered first, and here’s a hint: it starts with ‘r’ and ends in ‘i’.
RAVIOLI. Nailed it!
I kid. We ordered two roti at $2.95 each, which arrived with a smokey chili sauce.
I liked them better than the roti at Prata Man, but less than the roti at Kari House, who still reign supreme when it comes to fried flatbread. Tropika’s had that all-important flakiness, but the dough was a little tough. Even so, we devoured them in record time.
We had the Gado Gado (also known as Tahu Goreng, $6.95, which is fried tofu topped with bean sprouts and peanut sauce), but asked for the peanut sauce on the side since one person at our table has a peanut intolerance.
This was the best peanut sauce I’ve had so far in Richmond. It was great having a big bowl of it on the side, because then I could put it on everything!
We ordered two kinds of rice – Yellow Ginger and Coconut ($1.95 each) – to go with the Kari Kambing (lamb curry, $15.95)). It was quite spicy, with braised chunks of lamb and potatoes in a thick sauce.
I preferred the curry at Prata Man, but this was still very flavourful. I most enjoyed it with the Yellow Ginger rice, which was spiced with turmeric and vibrantly yellow. Can you imagine how dull it would be to eat foods that were all the same colour?
The Sambal Prawns ($16.95)) were well-cooked and I liked the sauce, but it was considerably less spicy than I’d expected it to be. The prawns were still in the shell but had been split down the centre, making it easier to peel them off. I appreciated that.
The Mee Goreng ($13.95) was a noodle dish I’d never had before, with egg noodles that looked like spaghetti tossed in a sweet, red sauce (ketchup!) with tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, beef, and prawns. I liked it, but I didn’t love it – I prefer my sweet to be offset by a little salt or spice – and don’t think it was worth the $13.95.
For a vegetable dish we tried the eggplant ($11.95), and it was incredible. The large chunks were tender but held their shape, with glossy purple skins offset by a dark, dried shrimp and green onion sauce. Every time I have something seasoned with dried shrimp, I become a bigger fan of this ingredient. It adds so much salty flavour to anything it’s in.
I’d be perfectly happy to eat this eggplant dish with coconut rice and call it lunch. With an order of roti canai on the side, obviously!
This whole meal was washed down with the juice of a fresh young coconut, which they serve with a straw and spoon so you can scoop the coconut flesh from the inside. It costs over $5, but since it’s both a novelty and a healthy, refreshing drink, I’d recommend giving it a try. You can easily split one between two or three people.
The food at Tropika was very good, though it’s definitely on the pricier side for Richmond. I guess I’m getting too used to feeding 4 people for $50! Of these dishes I would most highly recommend the roti, lamb curry, and eggplant. If we’d had room, we would have tried the deep-fried banana, too. I mean really, how can you go wrong with that.
And now, because I wanted any excuse to share this article, here’s an entertaining read on deep-fried food at fairs across North America, some of which make deep-fried bananas look healthier than a wheatgrass smoothie. Deep-fried butter, anyone? I am NOT kidding about that.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available