I noticed something jaw-opening and mind-bending (for me at least) yesterday while having my usual 6.00pm teh tarik session with my colleagues yesterday. We had diverted to an Indian shop for our drinks and food due to heavy rains, our presence absent from our usual mamak stall. What surprised me was that a couple of them didn’t know what a thosai was, much less what a puri, vade and pakora was. Scratching my head in bewilderment, I had to explain what they were, and recommended a few items for them to have with their teh tariks.
I’m baffled because we are Malaysians. I think that is a strong enough declaration which really does not require any explanation of any form. But for the benefit of those curious about what the former statement means, I will try to explain. As I told Dr Ramesh Biswas, a reknowned architect and author based in Vienna, Austria, whom I had a pleasure to work with on a book on Malaysia – Malaysia – Riches From The Golden Land, “Malaysia IS Food. Forget the shopping, forget the site-seeing. Malaysia IS Food, plain and simple”.
From the wonders of Chinese cuisine, to tasty Malay, to exotic Indian plus many more saliva-inducing yummies, Malaysia is all about good food. There isn’t a corner in the city which isn’t offering food of some sort, any time of the day. It’s wonderful. Choices, choices, choices. If local fare isn’t your thang, try Italian, Spanish, Tex-Mex, Greek, Swiss, German (*pant* *pant*). Or fusion. Whatever turns you on. Spoilt for choice, that’s what we are.
So it’s really funny that some have not even discovered our local fare. Where have they been? Having Chinese food, everyday 365 days a year? Gee, that’s sad. Really. Which comes to mind Malaysians who go overseas and just glue together, never exploring, never mingling, never even trying to learn the local culture. Instead speak their own dialects, eat Chinese food and shop in Chinatown. This is not about Chinese bashing, just giving an example, so don’t flame me 🙂
Back to the matter at hand – food. I got some puzzled stares from the Indian shop owner and his wife when I wanted my koli varuvel and payasam, almost not believing that it was this chinky Chinese dude ordering Indian food. I was quite surprised since it is quite a norm for me, as I do enjoy Indian cuisine a lot. And I mean a lot. Give me banana leaf rice anyday. Or thalli, the vegetarian version.
Hey, why not we all meet up for a good round of banana leaf rice one of these days? I’ll bring two of my most Indian friends – one who is Chinese and one who is actually Indian. We’ll have a laugh and lots of good food, I promise.
Oh, by the way, want a review of Kashmeer Naan? Visit AW’s blog.
“Malaysia IS Food”