Fisticuffs brings Chinese-Malaysian street food favorites to Hamilton
The newly opened local restaurant creates a space that highlights popular Asian street foods through their own family's recipes.
Food allows for culture and traditions from one part of the world to be shared with communities in a completely different one. Fisticuffs is a local restaurant that is bringing Chinese-Malaysian snack foods commonly found in Asian night markets to the Hamilton community.
The restaurant’s menu is inspired by recipes from co-owner Caitlin Chee’s late grandmother. Chee operates Fisticuffs with their spouse and their vision is to combine the feelings of comfort a home cooked meal brings with a modern dining experience.
“[Fisticuffs is] inspired a lot by my family, bringing together those childhood memories for me of the comfort home cooking has. But it's also about bringing in the familiar with the new and making a really fun modern dining experience,” said Chee.
A large portion of Fisticuffs’ menu contains very popular east Asian night market snacks and a unique selection of beers.
One popular snack plate is shrimp chips, while another is satay, grilled meat served on a skewer. Satay alone makes up one section in their menu. Fisticuffs also offers a vegetarian version of this, which instead has grilled eggplant on the skewer.
Overall, their dishes strive to emphasis popular Asian street food dishes with their own twist.
Before opening their restaurant last November, Fisticuffs used be a pop-up vendor. Their very first pop-up was with the Toronto Brewing Company. Through these pop-ups, they formed meaningful connections with other business owners and learned about others’ experiences opening restaurants.
Chee and their partner also found other businesses they encountered were often connected with breweries in Hamilton a food vendor. Then, following the same footsteps, Fisticuff also eventually found themselves in Hamilton.
So far the response to Fisticuffs from within the Hamilton community has been quite positive. Both Chee and their partner love that there are people who are trying a new style of food and bring a positive attitude. They hope that these folks will continue to come to the restaurant in the new year.
“I know that a lot of the people who come into our doors may have never had the type of food that we serve or even some of the more experimental beers . . . But everyone’s been excited to try new things and I really appreciate how busy we’ve been and how much people have been writing about us,” Chee said.
Chee has also loved the response from the Chinese-Malaysian community in Hamilton. Many family friends from their childhood would visit the restaurant and recall eating some of the menu items in Chee’s grandmother’s home over 30 years ago. Their grandmother was a respected figure within their own Chinese-Malaysian community as she hosted many Chinese-Malaysian immigrants when they first arrived in Canada.
“[Our customers include] really old family friends that I haven’t seen since I was a young child. I’ve had people come in and be like, “We met you when you were a kid at your grandma's house. Do you remember us?” which has been really cute,” Chee said.
Fisticuffs is hopeful that the past months will continue to reflect the response they will receive in the new year. Currently, they are developing new ideas to keep Fisticuffs unique and ever-changing, including preparing their first five course dinner menu to celebrate Lunar New Year at the end of January. They hope to continue having themed dinner nights and bring the Hamilton community together at the restaurant.
“Fisticuffs is vibrant. It’s a fun space. We’re trying to create an environment that people. . .can come and make the night whatever they want it to [be],” Chee said.
As Fisticuffs continues into its first year of business, they hope to inspire people to try new foods and find comfort in their food. Ultimately though, Chee just wants the restaurant to be a place where people can come to relax and eat good food.