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chicken, entrees, fish, Malacca, Malaysia, mysterious ingredients, out and about, restaurants, travel

Visceral Overcrowding

04.12.10 | 5 Comments

My college we’re-practically-married roommate Emily liked to regale me with stories of her endearingly eccentric music librarian father. A few times she told me about family trips, in which her father would permit his family breakfast, and then insist on sight-seeing (I have a feeling it included a lot of museums) straight though until dinnertime with no lunch in between. I always chuckled at the thought that if I traveled with them, her father would have a major hungry bitch on his hands, since I can get pretty cranky when I’ve gone more than three or four hours without food.

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Luckily the lads on my Malaysia trip didn’t have the occasion to meet the hungry bitch. I was too stuffed.

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Obviously, Emily’s father and I have different travel styles, because when I travel, a lot of activities are just fillers until the next meal. Traveling with the lads, or the Singa-lads or the Singagang, whichever cheesy moniker you prefer, we went the route espoused by many to be healthy for digestion and weight-loss: frequent meals throughout the day.

Actually, meals all day. Friday morning we drove in search of a roti stand so that I could carbo load on only the finest rotis. The lads deemed this small roadside, presumably family-run, roti place okay for breakfast.

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I’m not really familiar with roti intricacies, but this gent patiently put up with my snapping as he rolled out the dough very thin, folded it, and threw it on the griddle.

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He spread some of them with egg and sprinkled over red onions and green chilies.

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And onto the glistening griddle.

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I thought they looked rather like tissues, but perhaps that’s not the best way to conceive of one’s breakfast.

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The lads also ordered some noodles.

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And coffees with a lip-smacking layer of sweetened condensed milk on the bottom.

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I ordered a second coffee. I pretended I needed the caffeine but really, I just wanted more sweetened condensed milk. If I let a precious drop spill on my shirt, you can be sure I’d be licking my shirt momentarily. Sweetened condensed milk trumps etiquette.

After eating this roti:

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I could better understand Clinton’s disgust with the previous day’s rotten roti. This one was flaky and cruchy, but soft and chewy at the same time. The outside had been delicately crisped in oil, but it still tasted like bread. Jason compared it to China’s 煎饼 jian bing, or panfried breads that come with chicken or eggs, but jianbing are not delicate foods like the roti. Jianbing are generally heavy oil-soaked grease pillows.

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After breakfast, we needed to kill an hour or so before we could consider lunch, so we headed into the old part of the city, where there are remnants from Portuguese and Dutch colonization in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.

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This is Stadthuy’s Square, aka Red Square (not that kind of Red), built by the Dutch in 1650.

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This is basically the extent of my very vague knowledge. We all went into the Melaka Museum, which was filled with silly dioramas, but we were too hot, sweaty, and weighted by carbs to look closely. (Emily’s dad would probably not approve.)

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In fact, we found the ice cream truck outside far more interesting.

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Since we were planning to have a fabulous dinner that night at a place Eddie highly recommended, we decided to skip lunch and instead had some iced coffee at a traditional Chinese coffee house.

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In order to really get the digestion moving, we got foot and body massages. I got some cupping done, which looks far worse than it felt.

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Cupping doesn’t hurt so much as it pinches. The woman who did it lit a match, stuck it inside a glass suction ball, and then really quickly stuck it to my back. I don’t know the physics, but it grabs onto your skin and essentially gives one’s back a long, pinching hickey. All told I had about ten cups on my back at once. I looked battered afterward.

But the massages really took it out of us, so we decided to have a pre-dinner snack at the fish cake stand for those in the know.

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For fish cake soup, one chooses from the many accoutrements, such as fish-cake stuffed tofu, fish-cake stuffed okra, fish-cake stuffed fried eggplant, and fish-cake stuffed fried wontons. Are you sensing a pattern?

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Then you pick your noodles, and if you want soup or curry (I, of course, chose curry), and they’ll stick in some fish-cake balls. And then you wait and drink a Kickapoo soda, which reminds Clinton of his youth.

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It tastes kind of like Mountain Dew. Ew.

One can also sample the fish-cakes pan-fried and un-adultered by soup or vegetables.

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The snack was definitely needed, just to give our metabolisms a wee boost before dinner. Like I said, frequent meals throughout the day!

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We returned to the hotel to rest up a bit and look at the sunset.

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And then we ventured out again around 8 to head to Bei Zhan, a Cantonese-style restaurant that is fairly popular and well-known in those parts.

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We weren’t hungry for dinner in the strictest biological sense of the word. But what kind of foodies would we be if we let biology get in the way of fabulous Cantonese cuisine?

Right, we’d be thin ones. But that’s not the point.

We started off with a very interesting beverage: lime juice with sour preserved plums.

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Sweet/sour/salty…a little weird. I didn’t finish mine.

After an agonizing ten minutes or so, the food started arriving. An omelet with cockles.

z_bz omelet

Black Pepper Ostrich.

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This was my first venture into ostrich, and it was okay, but far too tender and not very…special.

The steaming bowl of prawn curry was barely notable. I usually expect my curries to have a lot of flavor but this one was a little flat.

z_bz prawn curry

Also hardly notable was the Yu Xiang Eggplant, which is generally one of my favorite dishes.

z_bz yxqz

This had the soft silky texture I love, but didn’t have much flavor beyond ‘oily.’

There were three winners, however. First: some crispy fried chicken with a subtle citrus-y, orange-y flavor.

z_bz citrusy fried chicken

Then there was this huge platter of Egg Sauce Rice Noodles.

z_bz egg sauce noodles

There had to be at least a cup of cornstarch in that thing, it was so thick. I would say like snot, but like roti tissues, not the best of comparisons.

And finally, what Eddie had been promising us the whole time: The Fish.

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Half of it was steamed, half was fried. It sat in this wonderful sauce, some unknown mixture of soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, ginger and garlic. Magical!

I was painfully full as we waddled out of Bei Zhan, but the lads had one more activity planned a walk and snack down Jonker Street.

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Jonker Street is a night walk, night street, whatever you want to call it. At 10:30 on Friday, it was packed with people.

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There are all sorts of souvenirs and trinkets for sale, as well as tons of pastries and candies and delicacies. The lads were stuffed, but insisted on my trying all sorts of sweets. First I had some Dondol, a jelly-like candy made from palm sugar. And then we moved on to chewy niangao (rice cake) coated in sweet peanuts.

z_jonker niangao

z_jonker sesame niangao

And kueh, a glutinous rice coconut treat.

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I really wanted some of that radish cake, but I literally could not find space among my viscera.

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Pregnancy jokes aside, sleeping was a little uncomfortable that night. So maybe frequent meals throughout the day is NOT the magical weight-loss bullet?

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