Hawkers Asian Street Fare has beena go-to spot in Riverside for a few years, and for good reason. Neptune Beach Hawkers just opened, with new items—it’s a good time to hit the Asian Streets!
Both places have a wide variety of tapas-style small plates including noodle, soup and rice. The dishes are served when they’re ready, so they don’t pile up all at once—dig right in. Keeps a nice flow of food and sharing at the table. The chefs often switch up the menu; to bid summer Tam biêt, they threw in new and, frankly, fun fare to try.
You must begin with Roti Canai ($3). It’s like Naan and a biscuit had a baby, you just can’t get enough. The non-vegetarian curry dipping sauce is so good you’ll want to use it on everything. If … that’s if … there’s any left over, keep it for later!
Of these new items, the 5 Spice Soft Shell Crab ($9.50) may be the most notable, presentation-wise. It’s a shareable medium-ish crab—if you’re new to soft shell crab, this is how to learn. The shell has a nice little crunch, like you’d want in a nicely fried bite. The flavor of the 5 Spice, a traditional Asian spice mix of fennel, Szechuan pepper, anise, cinnamon, clove and star anise, paired well with crab but, really, it works on everything. The different components boost the sweetness of the tomato and egg-y sauce ladled atop the crab—sauce is boss.
The ’Nam Nem Rolls (2/$6.50), a chicken sausage summer roll, was the most surprising. I’m usually not into textured rice paper rolls; too gummy or mushy, even when done right. However, Hawkers strikes gold, using a very skinny crispy spring roll. The added crunch, with grilled sausage and veggies, was a perfect bite. The beautiful mint leaf on the outside of the roll was nice and refreshing, like you expect in a summer roll.
#DimSumCrunchyBalls (3/$8) are on the new menu and, no, I didn’t throw a hashtag in there—that’s the name their mama gave them! These were the most fun of all the new choices, due to a wavy, crunchy fried outer shell. It’s a clumsy chopstick maneuver, but that’s part of the fun challenge! Your order includes salty, spicy soy sauce, so dunk ’em in.
Hawkers has a really great happy hour, held 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. with select small plates for $3 and an excellent selection of local and imported beers, bottle and tap. However, to do it right, I recommend sake, a Japanese rice wine. If you’re not sure what kind to order, go for a flight. Mix and match tasty options and get a feel for the kinds of sake there are. You may be drawn to a sweet one, like milky Momokawa Pearl, or something that clicks with a fresh dish, like crisp Ty Ku Cucumber. Whatever the choice, it’s fun to test new stuff—but don’t forego dessert!
You’ve had your fill of savory roti, and now it’s time for sweet cinnamon roti with ice cream ($6) or a mochi trio ($7.50) in flavors like Thai tea, lychee and green tea.