Fusion isn’t an uncommon component in any country’s cuisine. People immigrate, nations conquer other nations, spices get traded with neighboring countries. It all affects the food. Malaysian food has major elements of Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Thai and others. The flavors are all over the map. Considering how interesting the food is, it’s a bit underrated compared to the attention Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines get.

San Jose’s Mango Garden is one of a handful of restaurants in the South Bay that prominently serve Malaysian food. They also advertise Thai and Singaporean foods, though Malaysian is the focus. My only complaint is how large and daunting the menu is. There’s a lot to take in, and it’s not clear where to start.

I don’t normally focus too much on the service, but Mango Garden has probably one of the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve ever encountered.

The appetizer menu is short, at least, and a little easier to navigate. I started with the Roti Prata ($3.25) which is one of the most popular dishes at Mango Garden, as well as in Malaysia. The roti is a thin flaky bread that came by way of India. Malaysia’s roti is a little thinner and slightly sweeter than the Indian style. It’s served fluffed up and standing almost upright, with a delicious dipping sauce with flavors very much Indian. My other appetizer, Gado Gado ($7.95) was another classic Malaysian street dish. This one borrows more from Thai cuisine. It’s a salad with jicama as its base veggie, along with hard-boiled eggs, homemade tofu and peanut sauce mixed in.

The menu is divided between different meats, veggies and noodle dishes. Under the chicken menu I tried the Rendang Curry Chicken ($9.95). It’s another dish with distinctly Indian influences. The sauce is gravy-like and the chicken is tender. It doesn’t come with rice, but it’s wise to order some to accompany the chicken.

Off the noodle menu, I ordered the Singapore Bee Hoon ($8.95). This dish centers around small, thin noodles, chicken, shrimp and flavors reminiscent of China. It is smooth and addictive. Off the beef menu I tried the coffee short ribs ($13.95), which isn’t a Malaysian dish at all, but rather one of the chef’s specialties. Short ribs in general aren’t particularly common in Malaysia. The sweet and tangy barbecue chicken tasted like it could be served at a Chinese fast food eatery, and the subtle blending of coffee gave it an odd but delectable flavor.

Shaved ice is the highlight off the dessert menu. This is actually a Taiwanese dessert, not Malaysian. The mango shaved ice ($4.50) is a good place to start. It’s served with ice shavings and fresh mango slices, sugar and milk. It is a no-nonsense crowd pleaser.

Mango Garden
6154 Bollinger Road, San Jose. 408.446.4440