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Satay Brothers: Satay in the city

Satay in the city

Satay Brothers: Singaporean cuisine with a (lime) twist
Photo: Marianne McEwen

The Satay Brothers cook up Singaporean food at Atwater Market

A friend recently commented that Montreal is finally getting the Asian food it deserves. Homey Japanese, genuinely spicy Chinese, interesting dumplings. And now, praise be, a Singaporean food stall.

Polish-Singaporean brothers Alex and Matt Winnicki, along with their mom, Mama Kim, have set up at the North end of Atwater Market for the summer. They take pride in their turf, prettily arranging crates to display produce and homemade sauces for sale, and avoid that fast-food feeling by using ceramic plates and plastic chopsticks. I like guys who care about their customers and environment enough to wash dishes. And they’re friendly.

Order at the stall, sit at a picnic table, and Alex will you bring the food. First off: satay. We chose beef (Boston cut), tender beyond belief, and drippingly juicy. The pale peanut sauce had a soft galangal (a ginger-like root) taste and tamarind notes.

The green papaya salad must be had spicy. The pile of green papaya slips with bright reds of chilis looked like lipstick on hospital scrubs. The sauce was softly puckering, redolent with lime, I spooned it up long after the salad was devoured. A salad of the day was intriguingly sour with endive, cabbage and watercress, topped with pork

slices. Deep-orange mango gave it some sweet.

The laksa is a noodle soup with coconut milk and so much more, revealing complex, nuanced flavours. Atop the bowl is a spoon of their homemade chili sambal, deep red with a slight sour funk. The yellowish chicken broth is thick with noodles, shrimp, fish cake slices, a quail egg – ask for shredded chicken to be added. That crisp thing looking vaguely like a slice of baguette is fried tofu. Let it soak up the liquids, then lift to your mouth and bite in.

A steam bun was an oblong of folded-over dough (a style popularized by NYC resto Momofuku), wrapping gloriously fatty pork belly, thin slices of cuke and perfectly dosed hoisin sauce.

We finished with kueh benka, a dense coconut-tapioca cake, and kueh salat, a cake of sweet rice topped with firm green pandan leaf custard. My lunch mate and I played Zeno’s dessert paradox by continually dividing the last bite in half to share.

With each dish, Alex spoke with pride of the ingredients: where the veg grew, who raised the pigs, the provenance of the chickens. He explained that the menu will expand (gado-gado and mee rebus beef curry coming up) and change with the seasons. When the time is right, I’ll be first in line for the chili-potato-octopus dish. I’m not sure what Montreal did to deserve the Satay Brothers, but they’ve certainly earned my loyalty.

Satay Brothers

Atwater Market; 514-661-6983

Meal for two: $15-$30

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