Thursday, November 6, 2008

Strapping on the Feed Bag: 4 Days in Kuala Lumpur

Since mom & dad tend to keep us on a 3 hours feeding schedule when we’re here, listing the contents of every meal would be challenging (to say nothing of tedious). Here are some examples/highlights.

First night’s dinner
There was a multi-course meal waiting for us in the kitchen when we arrived at ~ 1:30am the first night, but we were too far gone to snap photos. Our first sit-down dinner together, was the next night. It was a seemingly simple meal of noodles, veggies, and fruit.

But the ingredients and level of effort bear some rumination. The noodles are Cantonese smooth fried noodles with egg & seafood. The rice noodles are made by a guy down the street in the morning, the prawns are fresh from the market, the squid is dad’s catch from a recent trip. Mom then combines all this goodness with a deft hand and careful technique to concoct a dish where the gentle flavors come through, but the textures may be even more important.

The noodles are like silk with a slight firmness thanks to a fry in a seriously hot wok (note the brown caramelized streaks – yumm). The prawns and squid still retain their snap, but the flesh itself is smooth and just-cooked through. The “gravy” sheaths everything; smooth and thin – NEVER gloopy. The combined effect is airy comfort food. The chilies served alongside are fiery but flavorful – adding a zing as counterpoint to the softness of the dish. After being sliced, they are marinated in a bit of light oyster sauce and kumquat juice to introduce some fragrant sweetness alongside their bite.

The veggies are the freshest baby bok choy given the simplest of preparations: tossed in a hot wok with aromatic ginger and then just slightly steamed at the end of their cooking. Their white stalks are soft and firm like the noodles; the ends a welcome element of leafy goodness.
And then there’s desert. Or, “Mango Fest” as we call it. Although not always about just mango, this part of dinner is always about a newspaper-covered table, incredibly good fruit, and dad with a REALLY sharp knife.

There are three types of mango on offer tonight; all remarkably different. The yellow one on the left is Thai with ultra firm flesh and a refined flavor. The orange one next to it is a harumanis; an Indonesian strain grown in Malaysia - heady and super sweet. Finally, the monster sized one on the right is a local hybrid (we think it’s crossed with some of the huge but flavorless Australian mangos) that has a bit of mango-y flavor and a light sweetness.

Just for scale, let’s note that although Pleen’s sister SC isn’t all that big, just the SEED of that monster mango is the size of her head!
Breakfast of champions:
This was breakfast this morning, but it’s emblematic of each morning here for us.

For Pleen, it’s a peanut pancake - a childhood favorite. A thin pancake sprinkled liberally with a crushed peanut and sugar mixture. The outside is crispy, but the very next layer is chewy-gooey & sweet. A wonderfully simple delicious treat.
That's one happy eater!

For me, it’s a bowl of fresh rice noodles & mixed yong tau foo (“stuffed beancurd”) all smothered in curry sauce. The sauce offers hot and spicy flavors set against the richness of coconut milk. It enhances the earthy goodness of the fried tofu chunks studded with bits of seafood or veggie (in this case, roasted eggplant) and counterpoints the cool softness of the rice noodles.

Along with a cup of kopi – local coffee roasted in an oil-filled wok, coarsely ground, filtered through a tea sock, and mixed with condensed milk – this breakfast costs about US$1.50. OUTSTANDING!!


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