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Published: October 18th 2011
The Ron Jeremy of Jackfruits
This big momma has got my Greek friend Jeremy on his knees!!
There just might be something pornographic in discovering new foods even if inciting lust is not their intent. Nevertheless, the desires new delicious foods inspire can provide a near sexually explicit rush.
Excitement builds on first glimpse, inhaling the aroma intensifies anticipation, the first taste allows pleasure but unleashes the craving for more. Although hardly the same, the differences between good sex and good food are often blurred.
During my recent trip to Malaysia, I could certainly be described as aroused and on the prowl......a foodie in heat. However, I can hardly say lusty pornographic desire applies to all Malaysian foods or locales. Snacks and soft drinks from 7-Eleven, a staple in Malaysia, hardly apply. However, take one look at the big fruit in the picture to the right and you might begin to see the meat of my inspirations here.
But it is not always the exotic that does it. A simple tin full of roti in Kuala Lumpur with Dal and curry dips-commented on as looking like prison food by one of my Facebook pals-provided a unique period of arousal on my first night in the city.
The seeming simplicity of roti (difficult to shape
Roti Canai in KL
The bread of Malaysia's tea shops. Great for dipping accompanied by a hot cup of tea.
the dough) was familiar and satisfying yet it was also new and revealing. It was like dipping a good Italian bread with thick crust into a basic homemade sauce.
Could trying new foods be similar to trying a new sexual position or a new partner? Well....the streets of Georgetown were the place where I first 'sowed my oats', but the back alleys, food stalls and walking streets of Kuala Lumpur are where my culinary libido for Malaysian food was first awakened. It began several years ago on my first trip to KL and arose on several visits this year.
It is hard to put a finger on exactly what Malaysian food is; never mind what it does to the libido. Chinese, Portugese, Indonesians, the British, and even Americans can be seen in the fusionary food environs of Malaysia. The inter-borrowing between the Chinese, Indians and Malays is quite creative.
Such borrowing is especially true of larger Malaysian cities where many ethnic groups have historically resided in large numbers and have had work forces needing cheap nourishing food. Although hardly suffering under hard labor, my razor thin budget ($15 per day-all expenses) allowed me to nostalgically relate to
The staple rice of Malaysia usually comes in a banana leaf. The rice is marinated in coconut milk and usually topped with sambal (a spicy salsa/chili sauce mixture). It is combined with chicken, eggs, etc.....my favorite....sardines!!
such a diet.
If the Indian influence, found in roti, gives rise to basic instincts, then nasi lemak, with sambal, adds some spiciness and sweetness. It can be eaten with almost anything or by itself. My particular fetish for it includes sardines.
A spoonful of good nasi lemak lathered with a little sambal and mixed with sardine bits fortifies my most fundamental hunger and some of my most fetishized wishes. Nasi lemak is probably my favorite regular dinner partner in Malaysia.
Though there are some stunningly beautiful Chinese Malaysian women in KL, it is the Chinese-Malaysian Peranakan women, called Nyonya, of Malacca that enraptured me. Imagine ethnic grandmothers who cook all day and you have a romantic but not entirely inaccurate idea of their food traditions.
Noodles, like roti for Indian Malaysians and rice for Malaysian Malaysians, might be considered the steady girl of many Chinese Malaysian's diet.
But it was a new dish native to Malacca that I found most erotic and exotic, Ayam Buah Keluak.
Black nuts, filled with a bitter nutty cream inside that you spoon out, just might push you into uncontrollable kinky spasms. You put a little bit on
Ayam Buah Keluak
A unique taste from Malacca. Black nuts from Indonesia are the key ingredient.
your rice with some of the sauce it is stewed in with a chunk of chicken and then mix it all together so the balance of flavors is just right.
Ayam Buah Keluak is a little like that wild but surprisingly good secret lover you never tell anyone about.
To be fair to Chinese noodles, there are more than a few attractive and tasty choices out there. My favorite is the curry and coconut milk infused laksa which kept my appetite going on many days. You can find it everywhere in little restaurants and food stalls in the cities I visited.
Sometimes spicy, sometimes mild, sometimes oily.....it comes in many variations. There is no quit in this dish and it will keep your gastric engine running on high until you reach your next meal.
It is one of those meals, like spaghetti, that often fills me up and meets my needs. Perhaps like someone you are married with. Not that I would know anything about being married.
A few years ago, the first Malaysian dish I tasted shocked me because it was surprisingly good.....despite the way it looked. The soup with pork ribs is
Ayam Buah Keluak about to race through my veins.
called ba kuh teh and I ate it when I was stranded at the bus depot in Singapore waiting to check-in to my hostel.
There I met a young and colorful guy named Ryan who had just opened a shop making his own special recipe. It was the first time I remember being attracted to Malaysian cuisine.
I later nearly burned down my apartment building in Boston trying to replicate Ryan's creation.
Ryan also invited my aunt and her girlfriend for a local crab dish that he made for us. Ryan was a great cook and Singapore is another amazing place to sample Malaysian food, especially at the many food hawker centers all over the city. But Singapore is for another blog.
This time in Malaysia I had ba ku teh a few times but was quite disappointed. It never matched Ryan's creations. Still, I have no doubt I will continue searching for the near erotic sentimentality I have for this dish.
Ironically, I ate it near Geylang in Singapore, an infamous red light district not far from the bus depot. The ba ku teh was served to me just outside a number of pubs
Laksa: Attractive but not sexy
Curry and spaghetti like noodles remind me of eating a spaghetti with clam sauce
and discos filled with scantily clad Thai, Chinese, and other Asian women on the make. But it was this dish that provided my libido with the nourishment it needed.
My experience of the girls at that time was voyeuristic but my experience of the dish was down and dirty. It is only now that these images in my mind have become near pornographic almost like a form of nostalgia for a porn movie that has been running in my head.
On this journey new insatiable pleasures carried me along for a delicious ride. Among them, are the exotic and not so exotic fruit drinks you can find nearly everywhere in Malaysia. Cold drinks made with fresh fruit and (on request) low amounts of sugar are no small thing in a country that is close to 90 degrees fahrenheit during the afternoons on most days.
Near the homestay where I shared a room with four others in Johor Bahru there was a small local place, Malaysian style food, with pictures of the city in yesteryears that mixed incredible fresh juice in old jam jars.
For the exotic, the starfruit or the soursop are very smooth and not
Ba Ku Teh
Loosely translated as herbal soup with pork. Ryan's had a creamier consistency then anything I tried on this trip.
too sweet. They go nicely with some of the soups and rice dishes you can get there.
For the more mundane, carrot and watermelon juices had restorative powers. Perhaps they were a little like viagra. This after a day of wandering around looking for good foods in the stultifying heat. Temperatures like this could render anyone impotent at least temporarily.
My new lover on this trip was really cendol. I am not sure where it originated. Indonesian friends claim it as well. Personally, I don't give a damn where it came from. On my travels in Malaysia, cendol often provided the turbo charge for my testosterone inspired stomach's daily exploits. I remember sampling three different ones back-to-back-to-back one afternoon (regular, durian and then jackfruit).
Like good coffee, a good machine is often necessary to produce the finely crushed ice that serves as a base for the cendol. In this case a ice machine that shaves large blocks of ice and drops them into the serving dish.
The other fundamental sources of good cendol are coconut cream and liquid palm sugar both of which are important local cash crops. Palm sugar adds a rich caramel like taste
Fresh Juice in Johor Bahru
I found my favorite place in Malaysia for juice at a local restaurant .....but I love Singapore juice centers even more!!!
that robustly underlies but rarely overpowers the other ingredients. It sweetens up the coconut milk that makes the ice less watery. Forget death by chocolate! Palm sugar is where it's at. I'm anxiously awaiting the Laura Esquivel of palm sugar to write a novel eroticizing this irresistible elixir. More than that, I'm looking for my next fix.
On perhaps the only overtly sexual escapade of my entire trip, I met four paunchy but spunky and explicitly gay guys, all working at fancy restaurant in KL, who picked me up the beach in Malacca as we started talking about food. I told them I was looking to try some of the local grilled fish called Ikan bakar. They offered to take me to the best local place so I couldn't resist.
About three variations of local fish were grilled with sambal which we ate with cockles and otak-otak (a delicious fish paste encased in hard bamboo leaves). The fish was quite good and the guys were fun. They even stopped along the way to shop for drag clothes in a local shop.
On the other hand, despite what I thought were clear signals that I am not really
Shaved ice, coconut milk and liquid palm sugar are the key ingredients. The palm sugar tastes like caramel when mixed with the coconut cream. I ate this nearly everyday in the heat of Malacca......better than ice cream!!
sexually interested in men (ie I am straight....let's be friends), one of the guys took a special liking to me. I got my hand fondled and a kiss on the way back to dropping me off at my hostel. As an English girl at my hostel told me,"Sometimes it is just nice to be desired." This after relating some uncomfortable run-ins with some local guys in Cambodia.
Perhaps the young man's lust, much like mine for the food, was full of naivety but it was clearly genuine and unflappably persistent. In eating Malaysia, I was about to be eaten. Lust there was......erotic, romantic, and pornographic....I am not sure which suited my escapades the best.
Is this a jumbled work of erotica, food porn, or just a plain travel blog? These are the thoughts that have been hubbly, bubbly jostling through my mind as I have written this blog.
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