Take it to the streets!

After living nearly five years in Malaysia Steve and I have safely concluded that the closer you get to the streets, the better the food gets. You can be fancy and opt for a highfaluting hotel restaurant experience and walk out with that “Meh” feeling and feeling like your pockets were assaulted, or you can rub elbows with rodents and other fine critters of the gutter and walk away highly satisfied having fed three people for all of 15RM (about $4.50). Tonight’s dinner was no exception.

My homeschooling friends (I.e. nearly Sister Wives) wanted to take me out for my birthday but allowed me to pick the location. Keeping it classy, the way I always like to do, I opted for one of my favorite haunts, the parking lot of the Honda dealership on Jalan Imbi (Jalan is Malay for road). At night the empty parking lot turns into a ramshackle hawker center where culinary smells mix with the exhaust of diesel-fueled generators. It’s pretty awesome.

Julie was no stranger to this mini culinary festival but Heidi hadn’t yet been (though she is no novice adventure eater). The tables are plastic folding tables that can barely sustain the weight of a napkin and the seating is plastic as well, but the Char Kuey Tow (Penang style fried noodles) here is delightful. My usual guy wasn’t there tonight but since we walked the distance from our apartment to Imbi, I wasn’t going to go away hungry. I settled for his competitor. In my opinion there are three foods that even when bad aren’t THAT bad: char kuey teow, nasi lemak and pizza. This char kuey tow was yum and I finally tried veggie yong tau foo at Julie’s urging. Yong tau food is veggies stuffed with a fish and pork cake and served with a side of sweet soya and chili sauce. Honestly, you really can’t go wrong with that either.

See below for some pics of our culinary adventure…Street style.

The people gotta eat!

The people gotta eat!

The char kuey tow. Katie, Cindy, Mo and Jess, you know what I'm talking about here!

The char kuey tow. Katie, Cindy, Mo and Jess, you know what I’m talking about here!

How could I ever leave this place? My tastebuds no longer do boring!

How could I ever leave this place? My tastebuds no longer do boring!

Chili pepper and eggplant yong tau foo.

Chili pepper and eggplant yong tau foo.

Best takeaway beverage container in the history of ever! Plus you just strap the string around your wrist and you can basically do anything with your beverage. Like drive a motorbike!

Best takeaway beverage container in the history of ever! Plus you just strap the string around your wrist and you can basically do anything with your beverage. Like drive a motorbike!

Fresh juice of any kind.

Fresh juice of any kind.

Still working for a living. Melts my heart.

Still working for a living. Melts my heart.

I wasn't kidding. It's a parking lot. For the Honda dealership.

I wasn’t kidding. It’s a parking lot. For the Honda dealership.

The competition's kuey teow

The competition’s kuey teow

Refreshing fresh young coconut

Refreshing fresh young coconut

TWG…No, I’m not shorthand texting

It's raining. It's pouring. Bring on the tea!

When it’s raining in the afternoon, and by the way these days it rains every afternoon, I find myself hankering after a cuppa hot steaming tea. I like them all, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Herbal, Chai, Vanilla, etc. etc. Today was one such day and I found stashed in the cupboards a most uncommon sight – A tasting box of TWG tea bags. Being that I’m too tight to actually splurge for my favorite tea brand (I consider TWG an indulgence) I was delighted to find said stash. I didn’t even want to ask how it got there. I simply tucked in.

In my humble opinion TWG makes the best Chamomile tea. You can see the chamomile flowers through the cotton bag once it is wet – Big huge flowers infusing my tea with lovely calming goodness. The sachets are hand-sewn cotton bags and I’m sure that inflates the price a bit. Simply said, TWG is fancy tea!

TWG is a Singaporean tea brand and it stands for The Wellness Group. Their business model has flourished beyond just teas as they now have cafes where you can enjoy quite good gastronomic fare. If you are in the  U.S. apparently Dean and Deluca’s stock the goodness, so if you like tea be sure to check it out.

English Brekkie? Yes, please. French Earl Grey? Oooh Fancy! Chamomile? Why thank you!

English Brekkie? Yes, please. French Earl Grey? Oooh Fancy! Chamomile? Why thank you!

They just want to make sure you get it right. No need to waste all that good tea!

Instructions boldly featured on the box. They just want to make sure you get it right. No need to waste all that good tea!

Hand-sewn cotton tea bags

Hand-sewn cotton tea bags

Electric kettle. Check!

Electric kettle. Check!

By the way, in the essence of keeping it real (what this blog is supposed to be about), I will confess that this cup of tea ended up dumped on the dinner table. Yep, I sat down with my cup to join the boys for their dinner and in the process of reaching to help R I knocked over my cup. Tea went flying. I nearly burnt R with hot expensive herbal water. Boooooo! How anticlimactic.

A racket…On the court

If you had told me a year ago that I would be taking tennis lessons and loving it I would have said, “Poppycock!”

And yet here I am. Taking tennis lessons…AND loving it. It’s great exercise and whenever you have any pent up aggression you can take it out on those poor little furry yellow balls.

My friend Julie convinced me to join her and I was pleased to find that our tennis coach, Mr. Anthony, is just the cutest most relaxed instructor. He never hollers, he’s constantly telling us not to think, he never makes a big deal out of any mistake, and whenever we do something pretty impressive he kowtows in honor.

The best part is he’s teaching the sort of tennis that you can play your entire life. No lunging and no pivoting, just running to the ball, putting your racket down and following through. It’s nearly zen and Julie and I aren’t too shabby at it. Playing and learning with a friend is so much fun and we are grateful to have such an indulgent opportunity.

Our lessons take place at Kelab  Darul Ehsan, known as KDE. It’s an older club but it serves our needs just fine. Watch out amateur circuit. We’re coming!

The entrance of KDE

The entrance of KDE

Our indoor court

Our indoor court

My doubles partner. Watch out amateur tennis circuit. We're coming for you!

My doubles partner. Watch out amateur tennis circuit. We’re coming for you!

Excited to play after a 6 week break

Excited to play after a 6 week break

The sight of tennis balls now make me smile. Who would've thought?

The sight of tennis balls now make me smile. Who would’ve thought?

Our lovely coach Mr. Anthony!

Our lovely coach Mr. Anthony!

After an hour of play. Not so playful any more.

After an hour of play. Not so playful any more.

Of Dumplings and Rice and Din Tai Fung

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

To those of you who have experienced Din Tai Fung and do not live within 200 miles of one, I apologize in advance (I say 200 miles because I know very well that most people would drive 200+ miles at least once a year to get the DTF fix). I would mail you some if I could. I really would because I get your longing. I get it so much that since living in Taiwan in 2006/07, we have set a standard for countries where we will live – There must be a Din Tai Fung.

Din Tai Fung is not uniquely Malaysian. It’s Taiwanese. It’s L and R’s favorite restaurant by far and as most know, from the time the food arrives on the table until the table is cleared is about a solid 15 min of desperation. Chopsticks fly around the table at lightning speed as one inhales a dumpling from the middle of the table, a mouthful of green beans from the opposite end, a spoonful of perfect fried rice from the communal plate that by a pure stroke of luck was set in front of you by one of the food delivery aunties. Xie to the Xie auntie. You knew what you were doing when you came to my table! You don’t ask anyone to pass you anything. You would never be so foolish. The food may disappear by the time it reaches you otherwise!

What makes the food so special? I have no clue. I seriously don’t, though I assume it may be crack…Or MSG. The dumplings are stuffed with juicy pork filling that oozes soup at first bite. Draped with impossibly thin strips of ginger that have been bathing in a pool of black vinegar, these little pockets of love make my children lose the plot if they are not ladled onto their plates fast enough.

My eldest has taken to special ordering the pork buns and my youngest is a huge fan of the strips of ginger. Before the food arrives you will find him demanding one strip after another that he gingerly chews on until the food makes its appearance.

Here are some photos as I’m feeling particularly cruel today.

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

The site of this always makes my entire family smile.

The dumpling kitchen. Where the magic happens.

The dumpling kitchen. Where the magic happens.

Oh here there pure steamed goodness. Called Xia Long Bao, these are a Shanghainese specialty.

Oh hey there you pure steamed goodness. Called Xia Long Bao, these are a Shanghainese specialty.

I told you I'm feeling cruel. Can't you just savor the flavor?

I told you I’m feeling cruel. Can’t you just savor the flavor?

These xiao long bao have a spicy kick.

These xiao long bao have a spicy kick.

I think the black vinegar is what I'm really fond of at this place. I would put it in my cornflakes if allowed.

I think the black vinegar is what I’m really fond of at this place. I would put it in my cornflakes if allowed.

Drenching the sliced ginger in black vinegar goodness.

Drenching the sliced ginger in black vinegar goodness.

Fried rice with pork chop.

Fried rice with pork chop.

L's new favorite. The pork bun.

L’s new favorite. The pork bun.

There was a period of time where DTF couldn't find a quality supplier of green beans. A mini riot happened every time a customer was told they didn't yet have the green beans for sale.

There was a period of time when DTF couldn’t find a quality supplier of green beans. A mini riot happened every time a customer was told they didn’t yet have the green beans for sale.

 

Obama…”World’s #1 Terrorist” – is coming to Malaysia!

One nuance of living across from the U.S. embassy is the constant protests that take place at this location. 

For example:

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This protest took place after the U.S. Embassy attack in Benghazi attack and also partly in response to the same video that prompted the embassy attack in the first place. 

Yesterday’s protest was preempting Obama’s visit to Malaysia. I can’t be certain how many turned out for this one as by the time I got home the crowd had dwindled to this:Image 

P.S., that’s not American flags they are holding. It’s the Malaysian flag that looks similar as it WAS modeled after the U.S. flag. Having also obtained independence from British colonialism (though much later than 1776 – 1957 to be exact), they admired the U.S. model of democracy and used the U.S. flag as their template.

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Photo credit: IUFAN417 via Photobucket

Small or big, most protests against Israel, in support of Palestine, in support of Syria, or any other protest worthy event generally take place in front of the U.S. embassy as Israel has no presence in the country and the U.S. is Israel’s biggest ally. We’ve seen nearly five years of protests and we’ve come to appreciate their nuances.

  • They generally always take place on Fridays after prayers.
  • They must be pre approved by giving 10 days notice to the police as stipulated by the Peaceful Assembly Act of 2012.
  • They are mostly attended by men.
  • The media will always make them seem bigger than what they are.

I digress, I’m not entirely certain of all the reasons why some Malaysians felt the need to protest Obama’s arrival. But I got to see one person’s opinion in the form of art. As I was walking to the train station in the evening I saw this discarded in the bushes. It made me chuckle. It’s not every day you see something like this and I wonder why someone would put forth so much effort only to casually chuck it aside once their event was over. Well, to whomever made this, here is your work on display. Except to me your work is ironic. And it is with a high level of sarcasm that I ask, “Really? Are you quite sure about that?”

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Bird’s Nest

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the amazing spectacle unfolding on my friend Julie’s porch. A bird built a nest in one of their potted plants. Said bird laid eggs. Said eggs hatched and this is what greeted me today when I peeked into the nest.

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I was enthralled. I kept going back. I couldn’t stop marveling. They are so vulnerable. So perfect. So intelligently designed by an amazing and detail oriented creator. Thank you God for a very tangible reminder that none of this happened by mere coincidence. It’s simply too perfect!

 

Where do you get your food?

Whenever I go home the number one question people ask when they’ve just met me and find out I live overseas is, “What are the supermarkets like? Or do you shop in open air markets?”

Here goes a photo editorial of one of my favorite supermarkets. I’m die hard loyal to my people at Hock Choon. They were one of the first supermarkets I visited in KL. The staff is a bunch of delightful Nepalese guys who run the stocking and cash registers and a crew of grumpy Chinese aunties who manage the mart. I like them because they consistently stock the same stuff (a frustrating reality of imported products in Asia). But my absolute favorite bit is that they allow you to pay your pork purchases at the front register and not in some cordoned off cubby hole that hails back to the leprous “Adult” video section of your creepy local video rental place.

Pasaraya Hock Choon

The glorious…The wondrous…The Chooner (my friend Kyla nicknamed it that…It stuck!)

The entrance to the Chooner.

The entrance to the Chooner.

The teeny tiny Hock Choon shopping cart. I often end up using two. And my ever useful reusable shopping bags..."Ayam not a plastic bag!" Hilarious (Ayam is Bahasa Malay for chicken. Please tell me you get it?)

The teeny tiny Hock Choon shopping cart. I often end up using two. And my ever useful reusable shopping bags…”Ayam not a plastic bag!” Hilarious (Ayam is Bahasa Malay for chicken. Please tell me you get it?)

That will be another post in and of itself. No really. There are some interesting shops up there!

That will be another post in and of itself. No really. There ARE some interesting shops up there!

The widest of the aisles. This is certainly the only aisle that fits to carts side by side. From here on out the customers are forced to play Frogger.

The widest of the aisles. This is certainly the only aisle that fits two carts side by side. From here on out the customers are forced to play Frogger.

British much?

British much?

American much?

American much?

They don't need refrigeration because the outer protective layer is not stripped off in a chemical wash like is done in the U.S. America...Stop washing your eggs!

They don’t need refrigeration because the outer protective layer is not stripped off in a chemical wash like is done in the U.S. America…Stop washing your eggs!

But if you want that refrigerated egg thing you're welcome to rely on the Korean technology of the Safe Egg. I'm assuming they are "pasteurized" as they do in the U.S.

But if you want that refrigerated egg thing you’re welcome to rely on the Korean technology of the Safe Egg. I’m assuming they are “pasteurized” as they do in the U.S.

Some high tech shelving systems are employed here. I think it's charming.

Some high tech shelving systems are employed here. I think it’s charming.

Queso, fromage, cheese!

Queso, fromage, cheese!

I haven't yet tried it but I hear it's yummy!

I haven’t yet tried it but I hear it’s yummy!

Can I get you a drink? Or some ice cream?

Can I get you a drink? Or some ice cream?

Frozen veggies and frozen halal meats.

Frozen veggies and frozen halal meats.

You have been warned. This is not for you if you don't get down with swine!

You have been warned. This is not for you if you don’t get down with swine!

The pork section...And you can special request from Mr. Wong the butcher pretty much any cut of meat you desire.

The pork section…And you can special request from Mr. Wong the butcher pretty much any cut of meat you desire.

Japanese and Korean goods to be found here.

Japanese and Korean goods to be found here.

Have fun getting your cart down this aisle. And don't you dare have a toddler in that thing. An avalanche awaits you otherwise.

Have fun getting your cart down this aisle. And don’t you dare have a toddler in that thing. An avalanche awaits you otherwise.

My Nepalese dudes. They are so sweet! They unpack your cart, bag your groceries, and take them to your car. My boy on the right has been my favorite since we arrived 4.5 years ago. He has a nephew and was married to his 18 year old bride (he's 23) during his last home leave. She is not here with him so Skype and Facebook will have to do for now.

My Nepalese dudes. They are so sweet! They unpack your cart, bag your groceries, and take them to your car. My boy on the right has been my favorite since we arrived 4.5 years ago. He has a nephew and was married to his 18 year old bride (he’s 23) during his last home leave. She is not here with him so Skype and Facebook will have to do for now.

Oh wait! I forgot to mention. I don’t buy my produce at Hock Choon. When we arrived in KL Hock Choon was a family owned business (now owned by Jaya Grocer) and they didn’t have a produce section. Instead you went to the other family business next door. See that! People once did work together to make a living. Well, even though Hock Choon is now well stocked with produce, I still take my business next door. They still have some of the freshest produce at J &Y so I will keep my business there!

Fruits

Fruits

It's a compact fresh little place!

It’s a compact fresh little place!

Either local or imported, strawberries are Enzo's favorite fruit!

Either local or imported, strawberries are Enzo’s favorite fruit!

These little nuances are what I love about non-commercial establishments. When's the last time you saw raisins on the vine. That's right. Never!

These little nuances are what I love about non-commercial establishments. When’s the last time you saw raisins on the vine. That’s right. Never!

Here starts the vegetable section.

Here starts the vegetable section.

Nice to have this option if you really want it.

Nice to have this option if you really want it.

Potatoes and onions and garlic galore.

Potatoes and onions and garlic galore.

And since you're tired from all the shopping, don't bother cooking what you bought. Take a little nasi lemak love packet to go! (Nasi lemak is the national rice dish)

And since you’re tired from all the shopping, don’t bother cooking what you bought. Take a little nasi lemak love packet to go! (Nasi lemak is the national rice dish)