January 5, 2010

Malaysian Food

You will have to be satisfied with the style with which this is written: I have some time on my hands and am determined to be productive. This post is one I have told myself I would write for quite some time. The "you" refers to everyone who I think reads my blog: my family and maybe my grandparents, my friends, and even the people who occasionally comment (or just follow) but whom I'm not completely who they are. The fact that the last category exists makes me feel special, in a very ridiculous way. So I'll start on my assigned topic. Oh, before that I will inform Catey and Hayley that I'm doing this at their prompting. =)

A while ago I wrote something about rojak in my notebook which is relevant. I meant to copy it here but I don't have my notebook with me right now. Sad, huh? To paraphrase what I remember: rojak is Malaysian fruit salad, with jicama and "jambu" and a few other fruits. It's served with a brown sauce topped with peanut crumbs. People say Malaysia is like rojak, a mix of different cultures. Like the salad bowl analogy for America.

What other interesting foods shall I tell you about? Did you know that coffee here is roasted with sugar and margarine mixed in? My dad and I agree it makes the coffee taste... well, not as good as American coffee. I think it's like Cafix, and tastes like burnt leaves.

Malaysia is unique in its food because it blends Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisine. In general, the difference between the three is their base from the grain food group. Indians do roti (a commonly-used word for bread), Chinese do noodles, and Malays do rice. Of course, anyone familiar with Chinese people could tell you that they cook rice, too. And also the Malays serve noodles.

There are a bunch of types of noodles: do you really want me to enumerate them all? Suffice it to say that my favorite noodle dish is one served at little breakfast shops everywhere - the staple curry noodles. My dad orders it in Chinese, so I'm sure there's a proper name for it, but it's a very common dish. Essentially, it is composed of noodles (I prefer the mee hoon, which is a very thin noodle, apparently vermicelli) in curry soup. Often there are chunks of fried tofu, and little bits of tofu mixed in. Unlike many noodle dishes, it's actually served warm (or hot). Watch out, as you slurp it up with your chopsticks, that the spoon doesn't fall in. (Happens all the time.) :P

Now I suppose I'll talk about rice. I like rice a lot - it's a nice break from the oiliness of many noodle dishes and even roti. My favorite rice dish here was the green pandan rice I had two days ago. Pandan rice simply means that the normal rice (I think mine was long-grain) is flavored and colored (I almost added extra u's in those words) with pandan leaves. Talking about food like this makes me feel educated.

Now my organization of the foods and the people that cook them comes out to be rather elementary, because now I'm getting to roti and I realize that lot of people, not just Indians, cook roti, especially roti canai. (In Malaysia every c is pronounced "ch" like chocolate, just so you know.) Other amazing breads are naans (filled or flavored with potato, or garlic, or onion, or cheese, or butter), murtabak, (I may be spelling this wrong: basically it's like omelette with meat inside) and other types of roti. There's roti tisu, a flaky kind of bread, and roti kaya, which is like roti canai, but with a coconut paste, kaya, in it. Have I explained what roti canai is, anyway? I don't know how to define it - it's bread dough, cooked on a hot round metal surface, with lots of oil. It starts round and flat, like pizza but thinner and less "bready." Oh! pizza. My Yeh-yeh (grandfather) always tells this story about roti canai. (Well, he's told it at least twice, referenced it more, but that doesn't count as "always.") One of my aunts came to Malaysia and asked for pizza. It wasn't available anywhere near. Instead, they served her roti canai, and after that she didn't ask for pizza again. So that was the whole dream, as far as roti goes.

What else to say? I don't know that I feel very strongly about food. I think I've gotten a little tired of all the fried food. I really like the salads and smoothies we have all the time at home. Or maybe not- maybe I'm apathetic about food all the time. I do know that I really like mango lassi. It's a sweet and creamy drink. :)

My mom coined a term to explain what food we usually order: Vegetable Lover. Auntie Juliana then shortened it to "VL." The way she put it amused me, or to use her word, "tickled" me. :P

That's all I have to say about food, I think. Closing thought which doesn't summarize this post (I am a lazy writer): I think that the best part about meals is not the food, but the conversations. I enjoyed getting to know my relatives better on this trip. I think I'm going to be sad to go. I like thinking about connecting with people you don't really know but have a loyalty to because you're related. Families are interesting social units, don't you think? How is it that I have so much time with them, and so little time with friends, I wonder. And that's what makes me realize that they matter too. I think that's the reason I've come to appreciate them more and more as the trip has progressed. I like thinking about God orchestrating everything for his purposes, and the value of being fully where you are.

4 comments:

Micah E. said...

Conversations are automatically better when food is involved, because you :have: to listen while you're chewing. Listening makes everything better.

the caitlin-bird said...

"The "you" refers to everyone who I think reads my blog: my family and maybe my grandparents, my friends, and even the people who occasionally comment (or just follow) but whom I'm not completely who they are. The fact that the last category exists makes me feel special, in a very ridiculous way"

ooh, ooh... i feel this way too *wince* makes me wonder what i'm trying to do.

I mostly agree with Micah. Eating helps listening, mostly. There are the times, though, when my brain is still talking while my mouth is full. If only our minds could take a lunch break.

*salivating* wow, Malaysian food sounds amazing! My family is Arabic--so we eat lots of pita bread, yoghurt, feta cheese, olives, lamb, rice, lentils, and cabbage rolls when we visit family. SO good.

Michael said...

"families are interesting social units, don't you think" Yes! As we've moved back to MA I've realized what a great family we have :) We get together so often, and everyone loves one another!

I'm glad your trips given you a chance to get to know the family you're bound to without being connected to, that's exciting to think about :)

Hayley said...

YAY! I feel edjumacatamed now. Tasty, tasty education.

"I like thinking about God orchestrating everything for his purposes, and the value of being fully where you are." QFT.