Rewind 22 years. I was living in Singapore and eating Chinese food pretty much every single day. For lunch at school near enough every day I had the same thing; Steamed Rice, Kai-Lan and Chilli Sauce. It was my favourite thing ever. Eating out at traditional Coffee Shops, my order would always be a huge plate of Kai-Lan. Kai-Lan (芥兰) is the greatest thing EVER, it is Chinese Broccoli which is normally stir-fried with ginger and garlic or steamed with oyster sauce.
My mom’s all time favourite was Hainanese Chicken Rice, a dish I always loved. When teaching at Japanese and local Singaporean Schools, she would have Chicken Rice for lunch near enough every day too. In fact, the last time we were in Singapore in around 2003, she ate Chinese Rice every day for 3 months. It’s THAT good.
When we left Singapore to move to Kuwait and then later back to University in the UK, it was so hard to find the Chinese food that I grew up on. Chinese food to me, isn’t the congealed fake red stuff that you get in so many takeaways here. It is the fresh traditional food that you see other Chinese people eating; the tell tale sign that a Chinese Restaurant is good.
I’ve been craving the food I grew up on for a very very long time & thanks to Alfred, a Singaporean based in Glasgow, I was introduced to Banana Leaf, a Malay Chinese Restaurant in Cambridge Street. He told me they had Chinese Rice & Kai-Lan. It was a no brainer. I had to go there! I was so excited, excited I was going to eat my childhood favourite food. It’s the simple things that excite me haha
On Wednesday, I went to the Restaurant around 5:30pm with my mom. Pretty early to go out for dinner, but within 5 minutes of sitting down, the entire Restaurant was full and people were being turned away. Surely a sure fire sign of how good the place is? Especially since half of the Restaurant was full of Chinese (& Singaporeans, I can’t forget the accent!). I was even more excited flicking through the menu, there was a vast selection to choose from. All I could think about was Kai-Lan though so I knew instantly what I wanted.
So we ordered a mix: Crispy Won-Tons served with Sweet & Sour Sauce, Kung Lou King Prawns, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Stir-Fried Kai-Lan with Beef, an additional huge plate of Stir-Fried Kai-Lan in Oyster Sauce (which I especially asked for since that wasn’t on the menu!) and a bowl of Chicken Flavoured Rice.
First up were the Won-Tons, 4 of them. Sadly, they were a little too oily and crispy on the outside but the filling of Pork and Shrimp was really nice and full of flavour. Not sure if I’d order them again though.
Next up was my Mom’s Hainanese Chicken Rice which was served before everything else. She loved it, not as good as what we normally get in Singapore but a damn good replacement! One thing she didn’t like was the fact there were a lot of bones. In Singapore, when you order this dish, they ask you if you want it with or without bones. I think she would have enjoyed it before if there weren’t bones. Possibly we need to ask if they could do that for us? The Chilli Sauce that came with the Chicken Rice had a little too much ginger in it which overpowered the sauce on it’s own but when mixed with the Chicken and Rice, it was great.
5 minutes later and a few belly rumbles, everything else was served. I started digging into the Kai-Lan with Beef, firstly attacking the Kai-Lan while having the craziest smile on my face. My eyes lit up with every bite and a few silent WOW’s! It tasted just like what I’d have in Singapore. The Kai-Lan was nice & crunchy, the Beef cooked perfectly in the sauce. Instant favourite!
Kung Lou King Prawns or Sweet & Sour Prawns was faultless. I honestly couldn’t find one thing I didn’t like about it, other than the fact I wanted more. The prawns were cooked perfectly, the sauce was good and I will 100% definitely be getting this again.
Then some more Kai-Lan which was stir-fried in Garlic and Oyster Sauce. I couldn’t actually finish this (my eyes got the better of me!) and I ended up getting this wrapped up to takeaway so I could have it for lunch the next day at work complete with rice and chilli sauce
Needless to say, I have found my new favourite place to eat in Glasgow. I will be back, I know that for sure, so sure that I’ve been looking at the menu to see what else I can order next time!
Banana Leaf gets very busy quickly, it’s not the type of place to make a reservation, just turn up and hope for the best. If you can’t get a table, they’ll tell you to come back in 15/20 minutes. It’s worth the wait! While in the Restaurant, I looked around to see what everyone else was ordering. I noticed that a lot of the local Glaswegians were asking the waiters what someone else on another table were ordering, in fact, I overheard a table asking about our dishes which made me laugh. The Hainanese Chicken Rice was a favourite with a lot of people along with the Roti to start with, which was another thing I used to have in Singapore a lot.
So there you have it. My new favourite place to get comfort food and the reason why I was so excited on Twitter. Excited that I have managed to FINALLY find my childhood favourite foods in the way I remember them.
I’m a happy girl!
67 Cambridge Street
G3 6QX Glasgow
Tel: 0141 333 9994
Facebook: Banana Leaf Glasgow