How to bring hand-pulled turmeric noodles and duck curry to your doorstep

Azalina Eusope started during the pandemic delivering her Malaysian fare to neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula. (Images via the Azalina’s FB page)

Before the coronavirus, Azalina Eusope’s “bread and butter” was catering gigs.

The owner of the eponymous Azalina’s in San Francisco would bring her Malaysian food to companies and events throughout the Bay Area. While that business has dried up during the pandemic, it’s thanks to one of those clients that she’s stumbled onto a new, community-driven business model: delivering food to neighbors who band together to place a large group order.

Azalina Eusope comes from a family of street vendors in Penang, Malaysia. (Image via Azalina Eusope’s FB page)

“It’s almost like catering but to a small community,” Eusope said. “It’s been so nice knowing that a community, even though you live 45 minutes to an hour away, still wants to help because they had a couple experiences eating your food and it had that much of an impact.”

It started in June, when Eusope finally caved to a persistent former catering customer who wanted to organize a delivery to her Palo Alto neighborhood. She told neighbors and friends, who came to her house on a designated day and time to pick up takeout orders.

Now, Eusope’s employees bring hand-pulled turmeric noodles, roast duck over coconut rice and other Malaysian fare once a week to a different Bay Area neighborhood, including Mountain View, Redwood City and Sunnyvale on the Peninsula. Other restaurants adopted a similar model during the shutdown, such as San Francisco’s Wayfare Tavern, whose delivery van now brings fried chicken to neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area.

From left: duck curry with coconut rice; Azalina’s tumeric noodles; vegan laksa with lemongrass broth. (Images via Yelp and Azalina’s FB page)

Most of the people hosting the Azalina’s pickups are customers or friends. Eusope doesn’t charge a delivery fee but there have to be at least eight orders to make it worth it financially, she said. The restaurant’s sales are still down and she’s had to cut her staff by half.

“It’s a good business model but it’s not saving the business,” she said. “It’s a good way to keep everybody busy and employed and doing something rather than just throwing (in) the towel. We’re trying anything and everything right now.”

Takeout orders lined up at a recent pickup in a Mountain View neighborhood. (Photo courtesy Johanna Mansor)

Eusope grew up in Penang, an island off the western coast of Malaysia, and comes from a family of street vendors. She makes mamak food, named for the outdoor food stalls throughout Malaysia. Food and spices in particular are essential to mamak culture, Eusope said. She still has photos of a necklace made of spices wrapped in leaves that she wore until she hit puberty, at which point it’s believed that the spices have integrated with the person, becoming his or her “soul spice.” The Azalina’s logo is an image of star anise, which she said symbolizes perseverance in mamak culture.

Eusope described mamak cuisine as a “melting pot” of Thai, Indian and Chinese flavors.

“I always tell everyone, ‘We successfully stole everyone else’s cuisines and made it our own,’” she said.

Eusope puts her own spin on Malaysian dishes, inspired by the food her grandmother cooked for her and her seven siblings growing up. Her grandmother was also a street vendor, selling coconut rice out of a basket she carried between villages. The Azalina’s menu includes roti murtabak (crispy flat bread stuffed with lamb and dates), hokkien mee (wok-charred shrimp over turmeric noodles) and fried chicken served with a chili-cilantro-coconut sauce and fermented pineapple tea vinaigrette dressing. She grows hard-to-find vegetables and herbs using hydroponics at her commissary kitchen in San Francisco.

From left: Mamak fried chicken with coconut rice; Azalina’s homemade sambal (Indonesian chili paste); and hokkien mee, or charred shrimp over turmeric noodles with veggies. (Images via Yelp and Azalina’s FB page)

“I’m not doing anything original. It’s more about sharing the story and using what’s accessible here,” she said.

Eusope also sells pantry items such as her hand-pulled turmeric noodles, jarred sauces and pandan kaya jam.

Azalina’s next Peninsula pickup is this Saturday, Sept. 26, in Mountain View, from 5–6 p.m. Orders must be placed by Friday at 5 p.m. For more information, check here.

Anyone who is interested in hosting an Azalina’s delivery in their neighborhood can email Eusope at [email protected]

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Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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