Everyone who returns from trips to Asia always raves about the street food carts. Delray Beach has a restaurant that specializes in that fare. So, if you can’t afford a quick trip to the Far East, head to Delray’s Hawkers Asian Street Food for a quick vacation fix. Hawker’s may be a chain (there are a dozen or so locations, mostly up and down the Atlantic seaboard), but the Delray location is the only one in South Florida. Is the food authentic? Maybe not, it’s been adapted for the American palate, but like all good Asian street food it mesmerizes all five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and of course, taste.
We stopped by with our friends Jeff and Eva for a late lunch and, to our joy, discovered that it was happy hour (3-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday), with half off all baos and beers, special $5 small plates, and $3 off all cocktails. After a couple of tropical cocktails for me and our friend Jeff and a martini for his wife Eva, we were off on our culinary adventure. Hawkers is perfect for when you just want to sit and chat with friends. Food comes out as it is ready, and most plates are shareable. Everything we tried was delicious, I don’t think you can go wrong with Hawkers’ menu.
Dim sum treats include steamed bao stuffed with a choice of roast duck with hoisin, spicy Seoul fried chicken, lush pork belly, or sweet and sticky roast pork char siu. Dumplings are available seared or steamed and include chicken and soup-filled versions as well as two variations on deep-fried wontons. Chicken egg rolls, veggie spring rolls, and shrimp summer rolls are on the menu, as are Korean kalbi short ribs, bulgogi steak, cola-braised five-spice sticky ribs, Korean fried wings, and Hawkers wings, served with a choice of sauce: sweet Thai chili, spicy Hainanese spicy icon, honey sriracha, onion-ginger, or with a jerk rub. Skewers come laden with shrimp, chicken satay, or lamb.
Vegetarians have lots of options including green papaya salad (ask them to hold the shrimp), grilled shishito peppers, edamame, house-made kimchi, crispy tofu bites, five-spice green beans, and Hawker’s Delight, a saucy blend of wok-seared tofu, broccoli, carrots, napa, bell peppers, and straw mushrooms served with jasmine rice.
Larger plates to be shared by the table (or scarfed down on your own) include fried rice with roast duck, kimchi, or Hawkers’ classic, packed with chicken, shrimp, char siu, eggs, onions, and soy sauce. It wouldn’t be Asian street food if noodles weren’t involved and there’s a nice variety here. Wok-fired shrimp, chicken, lap cheong, egg, veggies, and fresh wide rice noodles in a simple soy and pork sauce is a Malaysian street classic. Singapore mei fun noodles are dusted with yellow curry, chicken, shrimp, eggs, and veggies. Yaki udon features chicken, eggs, and veggies in a savory sauce with a chili finish, beef haw fun combines fresh wide rice noodles, steak, and spring onions, and of course, there are the classics, pad Thai and lo mein.
Desserts aren’t big in Asia, usually just fresh fruit, or sweet bean cakes, but Hawkers offers up a bag of mini donuts. But what you really want to end your culinary adventure are the banana spring rolls (deep-fried with spiced honey and Nutter Butter crumbles. served with vanilla ice cream, fresh berries, peanut butter, and raspberry sauce). OMG! Not at all authentic, but with something this delish who cares? During our visit, we sampled at least a dozen dishes, each perfectly prepared, and service was impeccable. Not a bad way to spend a few hours on the attractive patio, for $40 a person (including a generous tip for the hot waiter).
Hawkers Asian Street Food
640 Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach