Here is something we have not seen for a long time: a new Malaysian restaurant! Blue Ginger Garden is situated in the southeast corner of Independence and Parker in central Plano. Signs in the front proclaim: Malaysian Cuisine and Nyonya Delights. Those are clues that the people behind this establishment are aware of the multiple cultures that underpin the cuisine in that country where the majority of the population (60%) is Malay, Chinese make up 30%, and almost another 30 % is Indian. Malaysia is the crucible for merging these ethnic cuisines to produce something that, like grapes in a fine wine, is more than the sum of its parts. The best-known example is Nyonya cuisine, a confluence of Chinese and native Malay influences. The result is that a Malaysian restaurant has the potential to be a very special experience or a disaster if the kitchen fails to grapple with the subtleties of cooking the recipes of so many cultures.
The menu at Blue Ginger Garden is ambitious. You could start with Indian-inspired roti canai (Indian pancake) $2.75 . Continue with a bit of China with the Penang chow kueh teow (stir-fried noodle, Penang-style) $8.75 before proceeding to nyonya acar (mixed vegetable relish) $$5.75 or nyonya pig trotters with vinegar $8.95. The menu is five pages long and includes the lunch menu where everything is less than $7.
The people behind Blue Ginger Garden are Esther & Hai Say. Hai, a retired engineer, works the front of the house. Esther, a former tailor(her work bedecks the windows and walls), is in the kitchen. If you think backgrounds so removed from the restaurant business are unpropitious for a good meal, taste the food. On our visit the chef showed a dutiful attention to flavors and textures. My dining companion, a native Malaysian who had just returned from a two-week vacation back home, pronounced Blue Ginger’s roti canai better than the versions she ate in Malaysia. I particularly enjoyed the (Chinese influence) hometown pork belly with wood ear, an interesting mushroom that looks like a window blind and tastes meaty like a shitake).
The restaurant has been open for two weeks and is still working themselves out, but early signs are good. If you have a group of 8 to 10 people, you may want to reserve the private room. Oh, and Blue Ginger Garden is BYOB. We will be back.