Azalina Eusope fought the good fight. As probably the Bay Area’s most famous Malaysian chef, she kept her two San Francisco restaurants open for as long as she could, burning through her personal savings to avoid layoffs during the roughest stretches of the pandemic.
It wasn’t enough: Last March, Eusope closed Mahila, her love letter to Mamak street food—the food of her people, Muslim Malysians who speak Tamil and have roots in India. She also shut down Azalina’s Malaysian, her more casual food stall in the Twitter building. It was a heartbreaking end of a chapter for a business that Eusope had built up over the course of a decade, one bowl of noodles and jar of fiery sambal at a time.
But now, Eusope, who describes herself as a fifth-generation street vendor, is ready to give it another go. In a little over a month, she’ll open a new incarnation of Azalina’s at 499 Ellis St. in the Tenderloin. The first day of service is tentatively slated for September 1.
For fans of Eusope’s bold-flavored food, Azalina’s 2.0 will be a reintroduction to many of the chef’s most popular dishes: smoky, wok-charred hokkien mee; coconut-filled sweet potato dumplings; and nests of steamed rice noodles known as rice hoppers. These are dishes you’d be hard-pressed to find at any other Malaysian restaurant in the Bay.
“There are 16 states in Malaysia. There are 30 million people,” Eusope says. But despite the amazing diversity of food in her home country, she says most Malaysian restaurants in the U.S. all serve the same 10 dishes. The new Azalina’s won’t be as tightly focused on Mamak dishes, specifically, but Eusope says her overarching goal will be the same: to expand the way that most Americans think about Malaysian food.