Malai Kitchen’s in-house-made rice noodles are the food equivalent of luscious, soft white velvet. These noodles are different from all the other noodles in North Texas because they are made using a noodle machine designed and built in Vietnam just for Malai Kitchen. It’s a bespoke noodle maker, if you will.
Yasmin and Braden Wages frequently travel to Asia for inspiration for new menu items. Their first trip to Vietnam was in 2013, when they fell in love with the fresh noodles they ate. Inspired by the taste and texture, they searched and found a noodle machine manufacturer, ordered it in 2020, and took delivery of it in 2021.
Why go through all the trouble? While excellent packaged noodles are available in Texas, the taste and texture of fresh rice flour noodles are extraordinary. The Wages wanted to offer that experience to their guests.
It took some experimentation to get the noodles right. First, because the noodle maker is bespoke, it doesn’t come with a user manual, and there is no customer service line to call. The machines are very rare in the United States. Second, though there are only a few switches and buttons on the machine, even fewer are labeled. And where there is a label, the writing is in Vietnamese, which neither can translate. They returned to Vietnam and visited the noodle maker shop to learn how to use it.
Yasmin and Braden also had to try a few different flours in the machine to make the pale, runny batter. America’s food distributors have millions of products for restaurants, but Vietnamese rice flour isn’t one of them. However, they have Thai rice flour, which is stickier and gummed up the machine. That episode itself might have cratered lesser couples. But not the Wages, who clearly appreciate quality and will make strenuous efforts to achieve it.
The solution was to find Vietnamese rice flour, which they did in Vietnam. The minimum required order was around 24 metric tons, roughly the same weight as four adult elephants. That’s flour power.
After more trial and error, the culinary team at Malai Kitchen perfected the noodles. They started serving house-made noodles right after the Preston Center location opened in December 2022. The results are found in dishes like drunken noodles, chicken and broccoli noodles, Vietnamese soups such as pho, Jungle Curry Hot Pot, and the Chilean Sea Bass. I tasted the drunken noodles and Chilean Sea Bass, two different kinds of noodles but both silky, velvety vessels for flavorful sauces.
So, what about the other noodles? There are at least a dozen different kinds of Vietnamese noodles and at least as many Thai noodles. That’s oodles of noodles, and, frankly, they are all excellent. When you get a chance to try a dish with Malai Kitchen’s house-made noodles, though, take it. They are a real treat.
Ordering tip: Fresh noodles like these are best eaten at the time they are served. Because of their delicate nature, they don’t hold as well for leftovers as other noodles. Don’t count on leftovers; there probably won’t be any, anyway.
The in-house-made noodles are only produced at the Preston Center location, but they are available at all Malai Kitchen locations. If you’re curious, there is a window that allows guests to take a peek at the noodle maker. It’s a humble but strong piece of machinery.
Confirm with your server which menu items use the fresh noodles, and consider ordering one dish with the fresh noodles and one without so you can compare.
While you’re there, enjoy Malai Kitchen’s in-house beer available at all Malai Kitchen locations. They’ve been brewing their own beer at a nano-brewery at their Southlake restaurant since 2014.
Head brew master, Justin Meyers created a traditional Märzen version of Oktoberfest beer which is now on tap along with other Bavarian-style beers that will take over all the Malai Kitchen tops. These include Helles Lager, Hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, Munich Pale Ale, and Apple Strudel Milkshake IPA, a take on a popular Oktoberfest dessert made by using apple puree, milk sugar, oats, cinnamon, and vanilla. This IPA will be reminiscent of a rich and creamy apple dessert. The menu offers pairing suggestions, as can your server.
I consider Yasmin and Braden Wages to be tremendous assets to the North Texas dining scene. They are very dedicated to providing excellent quality food and service and make the extra investment to fulfill their mission. They do it with humility and grace, which is very refreshing.
Malai Kitchen has four locations: Preston Center, Uptown, Southlake, and Fort Worth. Be sure and check out the brewery operation at the Southlake location. It’s impressive.
All photos courtesy of Malai Kitchen.