Line Clear Nasi Kandar
Unlike my first gluttonous foray into nasi kandar, point-and-pick Indian-Muslim food over rice, I showed restraint on my second visit to Penang. I might’ve ordered more this time too, but I go with the flow when I’m not completely familiar with a dining style.
“White rice or biryani?” was the first question. Plain, trying to save calories (I kid…sort of). The New Yorker in me can’t bear holding up lines, so no time was wasted with the “What’s in that pan?” game. I identified chicken curry and settled on that. I would’ve liked something from the sea, maybe squid eggs, as well. My contemplative mood was ended by, “What vegetable?” Uh ok, green beans, then. “Cabbage?” That seemed like a requirement…so, yes. Then the guy manning the station ladles gravy from different dishes, not necessarily the ones you ordered, onto the rice. See? You don’t really need the biryani.
Some people eat with their hands, some don’t. Everyone eats quickly and no one wastes a speck. Even though I didn’t load up with a zillion different items like at Kayu Nasi Kandar (now out of business), this was a lot of food. I wouldn’t normally eat all of this rice, but to leave food behind seemed very American and grotesque and I have a hard enough time throwing away food as it is.
Clearly, there are scraps to be had. This tiny cat had a chicken bone to herself. 85% of the felines I’ve encountered in SE Asia are unusually small, angular-faced and have short tails, not like manxes but half the length or a typical US cat, with stubs on the end like they’ve been broken. This cat’s tail doesn’t extend behind the table leg, what’s pictured is the end of it. My cat weighs over 20 pounds even though I feed her as much as our normal-sized cat, so I am fascinated by these sylphs. I also wonder if you could possibly eat nasi kandar on a regular basis and not plump up.
A man at the table behind me wanted to chat because he had heard our American accents (I’ve always wondered if in SE Asia, for instance, they can distinguish among different English accents—there are definitely more Australians and Germans speaking English than Americans). He was in Penang taking his mother to a cardiologist even though he lived in Idaho where he runs a Chinese restaurant. I really wanted to ask what kind of food he serves—how could someone who probably enjoys char kway teow serve kung pao to his neighbors? Maybe he could answer this question I stumbled upon today in the Boise Weekly, “Why does most of the Chinese food in Idaho, well, suck?”
Line Clear Nasi Kandar * Jalan Penang & Lebuh Chulia, Penang, Malaysia