Adventures in Eating
So far, we have two de facto rules. 1. If it’s offered to us, we will try it. 2. If we have a choice, we won’t eat the same thing twice (yet). We have been adventurous on our own, and tried a lot of things we couldn’t identify. So far I haven’t had anything that I absolutely don’t like. We really got to experience some great food when one of Micah’s colleagues invited us to visit some hawker stalls with her. We let her order and we got to try a lot of different things that we probably would not have been brave enough to order on our own. Most of the pictures below are from this excursion.
Malaysia is famous for its street food. I love street food. When the food truck craze started in Austin a few years ago, I was beyond excited. My idea of a perfect vacation would be to go somewhere and try different street food every day. I get to live that for a year! The food carts here are called hawker stalls. Eating at the hawker stalls is just as cheap as cooking for yourself, at least for a family of one or two. When we went out with Micah’s colleague, we ate a lot of great food for RM13 each (read: 13 ringgits, currently, $1 USD equals about RM3.) So we ate a great dinner for less than $10, combined. Even on my best shopping trip, I don’t think we could both eat at home for less than $10 (including fish, chicken, rice, noodles, and vegetables).
Malaysia has three primary ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, Indian. Each group maintains a distinct culinary heritage, so it’s possible to get Chinese food (actual Chinese food, not American Chinese food), or Indian food, or Malay food. All are equally common. There are hawker stalls for each type of cuisine. Just like American food trucks, each hawker stall sells a few different items. There are lots of stalls together, so it’s easy to sample several things. You can get things “to go” and you get a little packet or there are often picnic-type tables you can sit at. If you decide to sit, you tell the hawker what table you’re at (they all have numbers), and they will bring your food over to you. You get actual plates, chop sticks, and spoons/forks- very little paper stuff to throw away. I am working under the assumption that these items get cleaned sufficiently, otherwise I could never eat at the stalls and it’s too delicious to avoid.
You’d think hawker stalls would be where all of our food adventures are, but you’d be wrong. The hotel breakfast has an equal amount of food adventures! We get a complimentary breakfast every day. With all of the expats that stay here, they serve American breakfast items (eggs, sausage, potatoes), Asian breakfast items (rice, chicken, noodles, porridge), and European breakfast items (bread and fruit). They also have a lot of brunch type items- salad fixings, cold cuts, and desserts. (But breakfast closes at 10, I don’t know who eats salad before 10am.) We’ve tried pretty much everything that’s been offered. Except salad, I can’t bring myself to eat salad for breakfast. The only food faux pas (that I am aware of) happened at breakfast. It’s all served buffet style, and I was making a bowl of various fruit items. Next to the fruit was a plate of what looked like cubed mango. I love mango, so I took about a half dozen pieces. I was feeling brave, and fairly confident it was mango, so I didn’t bother walking to the other side of the table to read the identification card. I bit into one and it was waxy and salty. I finished the bite, but it came close to being the first thing I could not bring myself to eat. Micah had the same perception as I did when he tried it. When I got up to refill my coffee, I decided to see what it was. Edam cheese. It’s amazing how much your expectation of food colors your opinion of it. When I expected something sweet and fruity, I thought it was awful and I couldn’t eat it. After I learned it was cheese, I got some crackers and enjoyed the rest of it! Central Market in Texas has a motto: “Chew with your mind open.” We are learning how true that really is.
Here is a gallery of some of the food we have tried.