Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Mills 50 District – Orlando
Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a brand spanking new restaurant that opened recently on Mills Avenue in the Mills 50 district in the same building as the old Chinatown restaurant. Although I enjoyed the food from the former occupants, I think I enjoy Hawkers much more. I think what they are doing at Hawkers is one of the best things to happen to the Asian food scene in Orlando in a long time.
A hawker is a person who travels around selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting. Although you won’t see any yelling about here at Hawkers, the cuisine is heavily influence by the food peddled by street hawkers in Asia, particularly from Malaysia. The owners of Hawkers actually have family in Malaysia who are street hawkers. They brought these street hawker recipes over and adapted them for the Hawkers menu. The curry dishes, skewered beef, noodles, and more all show this influence.
If you look carefully at the Chinese-like symbol adorning the Hawker building, you can tell its made from the shape of a person carrying two baskets on a wooden pole stretched across his/her back. This is how street food is done in Asia with old ladies and men carrying their wares to market and plopping on the street to start selling their creations.
The decor at Hawkers is similar to the urban warehouse feel of Chipotle, with walls accented by corrugated metal sheets and high bar top stools. Photos of street food scenes from Vietnam to Malaysia decorate the walls. Chinese newspapers are laminated into the table tops, reminiscent of street stalls in Asia.
To start off, street food is often best eaten late at night with a round of beers and drinks. Hawkers has a impressive beer selection including some beers that come from local Orlando Brewing Company downtown. I’d recommend getting some beers to go along with the street food theme.
The roti canai is one of the signature dishes from southeast asia, a crispy crepe like roti that you dip in the curry sauce. It was pretty delicious and would taste even better if it came with 2 rotis instead of just one.
Another popular appetizer were the Hawker wings, made with Asian spices and served with a sweet chili Sriracha sauce.
Hawkers is best for their noodle dishes, noodle soups, and roast duck items. I thought their five spiced pork choppetes could use some work, maybe include a bowl of rice to balance the flavors.
One of my favorite items was the char kwa teo, a Malaysian dish from the teochiu people who immigrated from China, sort of like a Chinese influenced pad thai.
The curry chicken dish that I had was okay, I thought it needed some more hot pepper to bring the spices up a notch.
The roast duck in the roast duck banh mi sliders that we ordered was awesome, crispy and tasty to the bite. The roast duck udon noodle soup was another popular item; the broth was very light and mild tasting and went well with the flavors of the dish.
The fried fish with black bean sauce was a dish that was good, and would be better if served with a side bowl of freshly steamed rice.
My friend ordered the five spice fish tacos and he enjoyed it thoroughly.
On another occasion, I ordered the very spicy prawn mee noodle soup, a satisfying bowl made with a shrimp and pork based spicy soup, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, chinese vegetables, and shrimp. The curry laksa, a similar type of noodle soup, but with more curry flavors of course.
I thought the prices were reasonable, with most of the dishes under $6.00. Its important to note that the portions are much smaller than at traditional Chinese restaurants, but I think of it more like dim sum or tapas portions and prices that are meant to be shared. My friends and I ordered about 10 dishes and it came out to be about $15 per person for the meal.
Overall, I would definitely recommend checking out Hawkers, especially with a group of friends to share in good food and good times.
Click here for their menu!