Lorong Seratus Tahun
1/2 I try to be open minded about others’ food limitations. Even so, I will admit that while at a sushi lunch with a few workmates the other day, I was stunned to hear that crème brulee was something that one coworker’s new husband reluctantly tried for the first time on their recent Disneyworld honeymoon. “Um, that’s a delicious dessert, not something weird,” added the other luncher. Indeed.
While I don’t go in for the gross for the sake of being shocking antics, if a dish traditionally contains un unusual ingredient I definitely want to eat it the way it was intended, not toned down for delicate sensibilities. If it turns out to be loathsome? Lesson learned.
So, maybe I was being sneaky when I ordered two bowls of curry mee at Lorong Seratus Tahun, nodding yes to all of the mix-ins. I knew full well that James wasn’t going to be as enamored of pig’s blood as I.
“Should I even ask what this is?” he hesitated, poking at the jiggly crimson cubes. “Kidneys? Heart?” I had to break the bloody news, but countered that the texture isn’t much different than tofu. Oh, that’s right, he doesn’t like tofu either. I ended up with a double-dose of pig’s blood cubes.
Anyway, I loved this soup. Even though Penang laksa had undeniable hot-sour charms, I always fall for the spicy-creamy coconut milk-based soups. As you can see from the color of the prawn-enriched broth, they use a light hand with the coconut milk. This isn’t lemak as the curry laksa that’s more common in Singapore.
The fried bean curd puff soak up the flavor, cockles, shrimp and squid (not sure if that’s common or not) add chewiness from the sea and the coagulated pig’s blood? Yes, that is unusual. I suppose Portuguese combine shellfish and pork in delicious ways. Just as I can’t even imagine how it was decided to combine cuttlefish, fruit and prawn paste in rojak, I don’t how the idea of putting pig’s blood into a seafood-based soup came about either. Definitely a Chinese influence, and far from wasteful. Two types of noodles are used, both fat yellow egg noodles and rice vermicelli. You can add as much sambal as you like for extra oily spice; containers are left on the table.
I have been thinking about this bowl of curry mee off and on for the past few weeks, usually at work when I try to calculate if I have enough time to hop up to Chinatown and back during lunch. I’m not even sure where to go downtown. Nonya? New Malaysia? Skyway? Malaysian food in NYC often seems like a facsimile in ways that are harder to pinpoint than with American Thai food. I think it just comes down to ingredients and lack of a strong Malaysian/Singaporean presence in the city to keep flavors on track. I’ve had positive experiences at Taste Good in Elmhurst but that takes more planning.
As the check was brought at the close of my sushi lunch, a send-off plate of cantaloupe showed up instead of the usual orange slices. Payback time. After discussion of crème brulee and pig’s blood fears, I was faced with my own irrational won’t-touch-it dislike: melon.
Lorong Seratus Tahun * 55 Lorong Seratus Tahun, Penang, Malaysia