If there's been a consistent darling of the local culinary scene as of late, it's Bo Han. His noodle counter, Bo Laksa King, has been the source of much internet fodder (including our review here) since last fall: a shining example of when street food, artisanal fervour and ingenuity - particularly as it relates to the city's food licensing regime - finally culminate into tangibility.
Part of this success is due to Bo himself. The man hails from Burma, though he's cooked throughout Southeast Asia, which his menu reflects. On most days, Bo tended to matters personally at the noodle counter (his wife covered on the days he did not), putting thoughtful care into each bowl.
This remains true at Bo's new spin-off, Bo Laksa King's Bubbles & Bits. This is an expansion of his empire, his first true sit-down location. Though having additional staff has now become a necessity, it's still highly probable that Bo will be at the new location on most days (his wife now runs the original location), either in the kitchen or making the rounds in the dining room to greet his patrons. The original charm is there, filling up what is otherwise a barren room that serves only the most basic of utilitarian functions.
The other part of Bo's success is, of course, due to the food. The original laksa is here in all its glory, this time sans the wraps offered at the Joyce Street location - which weren't really worthy of fuss anyway - but with a menu fleshed out by other Southeast Asian staples, all tied together with a common theme of spice. An authentic pad thai ($8.75) is offered, one of few in town that are made without ketchup, sweeter than most might have had before, and liberally featuring banana flowers, an ingredient uncommon to most palates in town.
Of note are the Burmese dishes. Instead of the laksa, try mohingar (often spelled 'mohinga' elsewhere; $7.50), widely considered to be Burma's national dish. It's all about the soup, a rich fish broth flavored with lemongrass, onions, garlic and ginger, filled to the brim with rice vermicelli, banana tree stems and the ubiqituous hard boiled egg. Crispy bits of deep-fried split pea fritters are also added to an already complex bowl, providing little bites of crunch with each slurp of noodle. The dish is a Burmese staple, often served street-side and as an all-day breakfast, and is to Burmese cuisine what pho is to Vietnamese fare (one can imagine the debates as to which region of Burma's is the best, which version is the most authentic, etcetera). It's the stuff of memories, and one can imagine the nostalgia each spoonful must have for those that are from the country.
The 'bubbles' part of the equation comes by way of bubble tea: as with the original noodle counter, which found its place inside a Joyce Street convenience store, this new location finds itself partnered with an East Hastings bubble tea place. The bubble tea, of course, is neither here nor there: it simply is. This casual randomness taken altogether, it all still feels like street food, despite the walls and ceiling. Most importantly, it all still feels - and is - as charming as the original location, and it should rightfully confirm Bo Han's ever increasing popularity and stardom around town.
Bo Laksa King's Bubbles & Bits
2546 East Hastings (between Kamloops St and Penticton St)