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Posts from the ‘Malaysian’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Side Trip

Almost always if someone outside the West Coast hears you’re from Portland, they assume you know everything about Seattle even though with 175 miles separating the two cites, that’s practically like conflating New York City with Baltimore. (Also, no one in Jackson Heights has ever heard of Oregon or Portland.) Prior to January, I’d only been to Seattle once in 1993 on an art school field trip where I used fudged work study money to buy a pair of John Fluevog flatforms, got my photo taken by tourists, and sipped not even second-wave coffee at some place called Puss-Puss Cafe before being driven back south by a charter bus.

Contemporary Seattle is…I’m not sure exactly. Definitely more mature than Portland, a little bland (seriously sad Tinder), a lot wet and outdoorsy, kind of like if a city could be the municipal embodiment of damp polar fleece. That said, there is also a lot of new, and a lot of it seems to have sprung-up close to where I was staying in Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Cider This is where I kicked off my final night of eating and drinking (my first night of three was a bust after barfing into an air sickness bag while waiting on a porch for an Airbnb host) a little before night truly began. At this cider-focused tavern with a Northwest bent, just a glass of Apple Outlaw’s Ginger Bite kind of because the gluten-free menu wasn’t my thing (nothing against bbq or tempura broccoli) but mostly because I had many more pit stops ahead of me.

bar melusine

Bar Melusine I eat a lot of happy hour oysters, often without paying much mind to origin. At Bar Melusine I was excited about two things: trying more than just the familiar kumamotos, and getting an eyeful of that mint green, marble, and brass scheme that’s like visual Xanax. With six oysters on offer, the kumamoto being the only non-Washington bivalve (and raising the question as to why you never encounter Oregon oysters), ordering a dozen was the perfect opportunity to try them all, with an Aquavit-based cocktail like the Fleet Wanderer. Supposedly ranked mildest to strongest (I did not agree): Kumamoto, Treasure Cove, Eld Inlet, Passage, Blue Pool, Hama Hama.

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Pasar Malam

threeshovelOver. Malaysian food in a burgers-and-oysters neighborhood always seemed to good to be true. (5/18/2016)

Sometimes I think Instagram is good for nothing (unless you consider foodie weddings/group vacation rental parties/storm clouds over skyscrapers as something), and other days it’s great for letting me know that there’s a new Malaysian restaurant down the street hosting a media event where apparently everyone’s eating nasi lemak. What’s this? Pasar Masam on Grand Street? I was there the next day.

I wasn’t so sure about Malaysian food in Williamsburg, but I will give the restaurant credit for opening on one of the soupiest weeks of the year. It might not be a real open air night market–the no nonsense back-lit signage advertising multiple permutations of roti is spot-on, though–but they couldn’t have orchestrated the humid monsoon effect any more authentically. I can’t think of a single outdoor meal eaten in Malaysia where I wasn’t sweating to the point of distraction.

Pasar Malam is from the same owners as Laut near Union Square, the mishmash Thai-Malaysian restaurant you rarely hear much about. Here, there is pad thai, papaya salad and tom yum on the menu, but that’s it. I don’t think they even need it. We’re over saturated with Thai restaurants already and suffering a dearth of Malaysian, especially in Brooklyn.

pasar malam roti prata

I managed to rope in two others on short notice so I could  try more dishes (I’m always amazed at the diversity of food quirks: one doesn’t like hard-boiled eggs, the other eggs scrambled with seafood, i.e. char kway teow and chili crab). I will be back for the meatier things like murtabak. And maybe brunch, which is supposed to happen?  The roti station is prominently featured at the top of the menu and in the back of the restaurant, so you can’t really pass on the flaky, grilled pancakes  (plus your server–all super invested in your trying and liking the food–probably won’t let you). Roti prata is a slightly thicker, chewier version of the more-common-in-NYC roti canai, and served with a thin lightly spiced curry, no chicken or potato chunks. One person could easily eat a serving themselves, and might want to, but only make that rookie mistake if you don’t plan to order much else.

pasar malam rojak

Rojak isn’t a superstar with the name recognition of satay, or even laksa, but the salad exemplifies Malaysian flavors with its sweet-savory balance that teeters on weird. Ostensibly, it’s a crunchy fruit salad, made up here with pineapple, green mango and apples, but also cucumber and jicama, plus chopped up fried cruellers for a little chew (I like the versions that also include squid for even more chew). The whole thing gets dressed in a thick, burnt umber shrimp paste dressing (I could’ve used more) that’s like a fishy molasses and garnished with sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. Mexican fruit preparations with salt, chile and lime get at this odd combo, Thai papaya salads with dried shrimp, a little palm sugar and fish sauce get pretty close, but nothing really reaches the fruity-fishy intensity like rojak.

pasar malam chicken satay

Satay always seems boring to me, but the classic grilled chicken with peanut sauce was sweet, smoky and in appropriately demure-sized chunks to retain moisture. While the flavors aren’t watered down and I wouldn’t really call this nouveau anything, there are some creative liberties taken–the Hainan chicken rice being fried rather than steamed may give some pause–for instance, our server really wanted us to try the tandoori satay. Who knows? It’s probably good?

bk malaysia crunch frank

If you want serious liberties taken, look no further than the new Burger King Malaysia tie-in with the latest Transformers movie. This potato chip-topped hot dog could give a Colombian perro caliente a run for its money, if not for the chicken wiener.

pasar malam garlic shrimp

And as if to be proven wrong in my know-it-all self-sufficiency, we were brought a butter garlic prawn each after ignoring the glowing recommendation. Yes, they were good, really good, and like a spicier, curry leaf-fragrant version of salt-and-pepper shrimp.

pasar malam mantou & chili crab

To be honest, after you’ve had chili crab twice in your life, the novelty wears off and you might just move on to less messy dishes that don’t require extracting precious morsels from goopy shells. That was why I was not bothered by the use of soft-shell crab in the Singaporean classic. The sauce leaned more sweet and sour than spicy, as tradition dictates, and really the egg just gives it body a la egg drop soup minus the massive amounts of corn starch. Thankfully, no one messed with the accompaniment: fluffy mantou, available steamed or fried. Don’t think that I didn’t notice that orange chile ring artfully placed on the tip of the battered leg.

pasar malam nasi lemak

The other thought I had when first seeing photos online of the conical mounds of coconut rice was that Pasar Malam was really going to mess with my plan to not eat (I said nothing about drinking) any carbs until my birthday, 23 days into the future. Clearly, I caved before I barely began. More than just some curry, rice and a few fried anchovies and peanuts tucked into a banana leaf package to go, this was serious sit-down dinner-style nasi lemak. The chicken curry also comes with multiple shrimpy, fishy sambals, pickled achar–and that requisite hard-boiled egg half.

pasar malam fish head curry

I’m not convinced that Williamsburg is full of the educated eaters the owner thinks there is, but I do appreciate the presence of a fish head curry. And yes, I was warned it was a fish head. And yet I was dismayed by the lack of an actual head, eyes intact, cheeks for the picking. It comes pre-hacked, which actually makes it fussier to eat, necessitating a lot of sucking gelatinous bits from nooks and crannies rather than being able to dig in yourself with chopsticks from a more stable mass of flesh. Served with okra and green beans, this is a creamy, coconut milk-based version, not the hotter, orange-tinged broth style.

pasar malam michael jackson

There is no liquor license yet. There is a Michael Jackson, though, my favorite un-PC name for the popular black-and-white soy milk and grass jelly drink.

Pasar Malam has made me a little excited about Brooklyn dining, something I had been feeling jaded about recently. I’m only sad that I finally got an interesting, non-meatball/bbq/fried chicken restaurant so near to my apartment, mere months before I move to Queens. Nice knowing ya.

Pasar Malam * 208 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Celebs, Curry, Classics

Sweet chick trio

Sweet Chick I would not say that Williamsburg, or
NYC in general, needs another southern joint. How much fried chicken can a city
stand (and I love fried chicken)? Battered, craggy and sticky with sweetened
soy like the finest Chinese takeout, General Tso fried chicken, is a different
story. Add a light rice waffle with what appeared by be chopped Chinese
broccoli baked in and you have a fun blackboard special. Lest you think all
this retooled Americana is a young person’s game (jerky fries? purple
drank?)  it was good enough for Canadian
Pat Kiernan and family, who'd apparently made the block-and-a-half trek on a Sunday

Laut curry meeLaut And then I (or rather my table-mate) spotted
Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova the following night strolling past our window.
I only saw the backs of two tall, skinny people all in black. If an ‘80s
celebrity marriage can last this long, it gives hope for the rest of us. Laut
does the dreaded pan-Asian thing, mostly focusing on Thailand and Malaysia.
Stick with the latter. The laksa and curry mee wouldn’t compete with anything
you’d find in Queens or Chinatown, but where else are you going to get these
spicy soups anywhere above 14th Street? Ok, I take that
back—according to Menupages 12 other restaurants that fit that criteria.

Qi thai grill delivery

Qi Thai Grill is on Seamless, which tickles me, if
only because it means beef tendon salad and pork belly (not so crisp,
admittedly, after the journey) arriving at my door. Read more here.

Pok pok duo

Pok Pok And sometimes Brooklyn Thai needs to be
experienced in person. Reports of smaller post-hype crowds may be true, but
there is still likely to be a wait. In my case 45 minutes at 9:30pm on a Wednesday.
Kaeng kradang, a chalkboard special described a cold weather curry, turned out
to be a highly jellied pork terrine, feeling a little more French-Vietnamese
than Thai (though I know it's not). I would eat this on a baguette rather than
with finger-fulls of sticky rice. A duck salad and ribs with a pair of dipping
sauces rounded out the meal, just right for two, despite the server’s warning
that we had under-ordered. Keep your eye out for Columbia Street on a future
episode of The Americans (you’re watching it, right?). Film crews had taken
over a number of blocks near the waterfront. I did not see Keri Russell (who
apparently owns a Brooklyn brownstone, as all celebrities big and small, minus
Pat Kiernan, seem to).

Diner and Dumont While distinct restaurants,
obviously, these two that I hadn't patronized since the early '00s may end up
being Williamsburg old-timers as places like La Villita Bakery and La
Borinquena get pushed out. In the days before 20-somethings regularly dined on
entrees costing roughly their ages, $12 mussels and fries felt fancy (it was
the mayonnaise in lieu of ketchup that clinched it). That was the only thing I
ever ordered at Diner. Dumont still makes a nice burger. Supposedly, so does
Diner but I’ve never tried it (nor the steaks). Because I may be a decade older
but still not free-spending, I didn’t bother ordering any of the specials with
no prices mentioned. I will admit that a squid salad with lentils and fennel and
duck breast with farro and kumquats were definitely a step up from the bowl of

Walter food duo

Walter Foods Pretty much the newer but not that new
version of the mid-20s people and prices place. Chicken, steak, pork chops–the
standards–are all ok, but nothing that would explain why the restaurant is
always so packed. While eating steak frites and deviled eggs, I realized that a
Shazam for faces would be a valuable invention. Right before closing, a dude
being filmed showed up and everyone seemed to know who he was. Then again, the
room also appeared to be morphing into a private after-hours space, so perhaps
the room was just filled with his friends celebrating his Kickstarter campaign.

Lodge I would lump Lodge right in with the above or
not even mention it at all. It's always been a non-entity to me, a place with
no appeal. But it was open relatively late on St. Patrick's Day (a blessedly
low-key, non barfy holiday in these parts) and so I stopped in and had my
frequent semi-boring office lunch, steak salad, but jazzed up with pears,
walnuts and goat cheese for dinner. It was certainly better than Flavors and I
give Lodge a leg up for playing My Bloody Valentine’s Ecstasy and Wine and Up For a Bit With the Pastels (neither on Spotify, annoyingly) both my driving to school in the
morning music, taped from record to cassette, of course.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cold-Fighting

Taste good malaysian trio

Taste Good Malaysian There are many directions you
can go if you're a spicy soup to ward off a cold type: soondubu jjigae, hotpot,
menudo (for some reason tom yum doesn't appeal) or Singapore laksa, a.k.a.
laksa lemak, the rich coconutty style. Somehow the combination of heat and
creaminess just makes sense for a sore throat. Elmhurst's Taste Good Malaysian
is as good as anywhere to get a fix. Their version filled with bean curd puffs,
half a hardboiled egg, chicken shreds, a few small shrimp, fish cakes, bean
sprouts and fat, round translucent noodles is a meal in itself (always a
problem because it's too filling to allow for any rendang, nasi lemak or sambal
shrimp) though a shared roti canai and popiah won't hurt. I only regret having waved off the scrappy gentleman trying to sell a
bottle of Robitussin in front of the Queens Adult Care Center on the walk to
the restaurant because I'm still sick (the laksa didn't work, but it was tasty)
and too beat to walk the eight blocks to the nearest drug store.

Die kolner bierhalle bratwurstDie Koelner Bierhalle The Park Slope beer hall with
a surprising amount of seating (communal, of course) is more for drinking and
sporting, though a simple bratwurst and big plate of spaetzle and speck (not
pictured) are fitting winter accompaniments. Just don't try to order the bauernwurst
or you'll be steered away with "Nobody orders it. We're removing it from
the menu." What's wrong with the bauernwurst?

Blaue Gans You could also get a bratwurst here (no
bauernwurst, sorry) but it will be $7 more than in Park Slope. While relatively
casual, Blaue Gans is still more of a sit-down affair. If you order the blood
sausage, you might be asked if you've had it before. (Do you see a trend
forming? During three recent meals–including Qi Grill, not mentioned here–I
was essentially told that I didn't really want what I said I wanted, which
makes me testy.) Or maybe the server just meant it's not presented in cased
sausage form, but loose and molded into a circle. No one warned me away from
the calves liver with apples and bacon, thankfully.

Cafecito bogota cartegena arepaCafecito Bogota If you find yourself in upper
Greenpoint on Sunday during dreaded brunch time, you could do worse than an a
la carte arepa (though feel free to order the $16.99 three-drink with food special
if you're into mucho mimosas, sangria or refajo, an unseemly blend of Colombian
beer and cream soda–they weren't able to make a bloody mary). The Cartegena
comes with a big mound of scrambled eggs, shrimp and cilantro.

Hudson Yards Cafe This might be the most inoffensive lunch place closest
to the Javits Center. Never mind that all the
other badge-wearers (you've taken yours off, of course) are drinking iced tea
and Diet Coke. Stick to your guns and down two pints of Stella with your
fontina (spelled fontana) and prosciutto panini; it'll endear the older bartender who's also midday tippling to you. If you're a certain age being referred to as a "good girl" isn't offensive.

Taco chulo rajas hashTaco Chulo I don't normally eat restaurant
breakfasts (despite contrary evidence above) especially not on weekdays, but I
had time to kill before looking at a nearby apartment (I didn't realize how
many area restaurants are dinner-only) and rajas hash with chorizo was right on,
greasy and yolky with a bit of heat. Of course when I showed up to the
apartment on time, a twentysomething couple was also waiting even though their
appointment was a half-hour after mine and so I was forced to look at their
out-of-my-budget apartments with them (and vice versa). Why kill time, waiting
your turn when you can just be a twentysomething in Williamsburg?




Kek Seng

As much as I love the malls of Asia and organized hawker centers, there is something to be said for the weak breezes of an electric fan while sitting on hard wooden booth in a well-worn shophouse. Cooling off with an ais kacang, of course.

Kek seng interior

Kek seng ais kacang

Kek Seng is perfect for a traditional Penang experience…like putting vegetables and legumes in desserts. This bed of shaved ice came smothered in creamed corn, rose syrup, red beans, a layered agar-agar jelly and best of all two scoops of durian ice cream.

Kek seng durian ice cream

The durian ice cream, which does have a distinct natural taste unlike some duller durian-flavored sweets, is optional. You shouldn't pass it up, though.

Kek seng ais kacang aftermath

The shockingly bright aftermath.

Kek seng exterior

Cooked food is available from the stands out front.

Kek Seng * 382-384 Penang Rd, Penang, Malaysia

New World Park

Having started with the Gurney Drive hawkers, then moving onto more modern Northam Beach Café, New World Park was the next logical step. Only a little over two years old, this complex is home to casual upscale restaurants like Shanghainese Rou Gu Cha King and Sri Batik Nyonya Café, as well as this tidy hawker center, all signage homogenized into one distinct style.

New world park stand

New world park popiah

The popiah stand was popular and I hadn't tried any on this vacation. I'm not sure if it's the nature of popiah or just this version, which were freshly made on the spot, but I found the rolls kind of bland. I think it was the jicama-heavy filling.

New world park roti canai

We ordered roti canai from the Indian Muslim stall. The sauce was redder than anything I've encountered in the US, and I think vegetarian. Then again, roti canai here isn't the same since most Malaysian restaurants are run by Chinese.

New world park shrimp fritter

And a shrimp fritter too.

New world park char kway teow

James ordered char kway teow because…he usually did in Penang.

New world park hawker center-1

New World Park * Burmah Rd., Penang, Malaysia

Fatty ‘Cue

I knew I would like the food at Fatty 'Cue even if it was my third choice. Friday night I went looking for fried brains and bone marrow poppers at St. Anselm but they didn't appear to be in business yet. Foie gras pierogies will have to wait. I put my name on the list at Pies & Thighs, then before even sinking into the 15-person-crowd out front, gave up. At 8pm, a table for two at Fatty 'Cue down the street, was no problem.

My hesitation, why Fatty ‘Cue wasn’t destination one or two, stemmed from the spate of early online criticism. And after eating there myself, I am torn. I love the concept. And I love funky Southeast Asian flavors made American without being dumbed down. Pok Pok, the wildly popular Thai restaurant in Portland, is a stellar example of a restaurant doing this right.

Fatty 'cue pork ribs

Lightly spicy, fish saucey, palm sugared pork ribs used the flavor combination of my dreams. But $4.67 per rib ($14 for an order of three—everything is served in threes, which makes splitting between two awkward and impossible among four) did seem a bit much.

Everything comes as it pleases, which is to say mostly all at once. Fun and festive or disorderly, depending on your perspective. Four dishes plus plates for eating won’t fit on a table for two.

Fatty 'cue coriander bacon with yellow curry custard

I didn't get a distinct coriander taste from the thick, meaty bacon, as was advertised, but definitely got the smokiness. The little cup contained steamed custard flavored with yellow curry, like a savory flan. It’s meant to be spread on the toast points and topped with the bacon slices.
Fatty 'cue eggplant nam prik

The smoked eggplant and anchovy nam prik is one of those dishes that would stymie a diner expecting more traditional barbecue menu, Asian-inflected or not. Nearby customers seemed confused by tamarind in the ice tea, so I imagine that this Thai-esque platter would be more challenging than baked beans for some. Sour green mango is one of my favorite vehicles for chile hot, fishy nam priks. This dip was more earthy-salty, nice with grilled garlic, blander radishes and crisp bok choy. Kind of healthy if you gloss over the chicharrones.

Fatty 'cue clams

Smoky was the theme, also with the clams, rife with bacon and sitting in a pork bone broth. Texas toast was the most American part of the meal whether or not they call it dragon pullman toast.

Fatty chocolate

Shoofly or s’mores pie just seemed weird, but I still wanted something sweet. The dark chocolate bar seasoned with Aleppo pepper, almonds and sea salt did the trick even if it felt more like you were eating a souvenir than a dessert proper.

Fatty 'Cue * 91 S. Sixth St., Brooklyn, NY

Bali Hai Seafood

1/2 Our last night in Penang, I went back to Gurney Drive to try the pasembur that I missed the first time. Sadly, the stall wasn’t open and on this weeknight, only half the seating was out creating a madhouse, scrambling for tables effect. What else was nearby? We walked down to Bali Hai, a sprawling outdoor seafood restaurant with a flashy neon sign and a wall of choose-your-own-creature fish tanks.

Bali hai sign

Also, popular in Hong Kong and Singapore, I’d always shied away from this style of dining because quickly calculating grams to ounces while simultaneously doing currency conversions makes me nervous and I’m paranoid that I will end up with a massive bill. This did end up being our most expensive meal in Penang but even with three large sharable Calsbergs (the territorial aspect of SE Asian dining always throws me. When approached by the Indian woman dressed in a green miniskirt ensemble we asked for Tiger beer, but she was the Carlsberg server. You had to order from the Chinese Tiger beer girl if you wanted Tiger. Meanwhile, there was a rogue satay guy who didn’t seem to have any affiliation with the restaurant) it was under $50.

Bali hai interior

The covered open space, sticky despite fans blowing water, was filled with large round tables, many occupied by groups of men, coworkers, showing a Westerner, maybe a boss, maybe a peer, a good time. The primo spots were thatched hut booths in the front. We had a roomy picnic-type table on the outer perimeter.

Bali hai mantis prawns

Mantis prawns. I’ve always wanted to try these giant crustaceans, despite their creepy name and buggy, armored appearance. Not inexpensive, these were about $10 apiece. The impenetrable shells come scored, diners are brought scissors. I copied the guy at a table near ours and scraped out the meat with a spoon. It turned out to be a lot of work for not a lot of payoff, like blue crabs. The chili sauce was barely touched because I couldn’t wrangle any tidbits substantial enough for dipping.
Bali hai live mantis prawns & geoducks

Here are some live mantis prawns in action. As you can see, they also had quite a selection of geoduck. The prehistoric-looking animals are often touted as a Northwest delicacy but I never encountered them in Portland and have still yet to try them. I’m not sure how they are served in Malaysia.

Bali hai kang kong

Kang kong, a.k.a. water spinach, prepared with shrimp paste and chile is a typical Malaysian vegetable. Accents are very subtle. Our waiter, who had to be sent over to our table because he was the only fluent English-speaker, had no idea what I was asking for when I said kang like in kangaroo. A’s are softer like in almond; his pronunciation was more like kong kong, the A barely different from the O. My pronunciation of pandan was corrected on my last visit to Malaysia, so you think I would’ve remembered. Normally, I hate stems and try to avoid them raw. This style of water spinach is so savory and hearty that I forgot about being scared of the hollow stems.

Bali hai sea bass

I picked out a sea bass that would be good for two, like I said, grams don’t mean anything to me visually. This fish, fried to a crisp, was amazing and almost Thai in flavor. It was served with a very spicy green mango slaw and lots of shallots and mint leaves.

Despite a substantial amount of blog posts and having their own website, I have no idea what Bali Hai’s address might be of if they even have one. Such details seem superfluous in much of Southeast Asia.

Bali Hai Seafood * Gurney Dr., Penang, Malaysia

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.

Line clear nasi kandar serving

“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.

Line clear nasi kandar plate

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.

Nasi kandar kitten

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.

Line clear nasi kandar entrance

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

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.

Lorong seratus tahun curry mee

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.

Lorong seratus tahun

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