Malaysian Eatertainment – Eating & Karaoke

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

I love eating. I know to some of my friends that I am even known for my eating abilities. I take extreme pleasure in eating, in fact an ex boyfriend of mine use to take a picture of me eating when we travelled. I think it gave him as much pleasure to take my photo as it did for me to eat. With all I have eaten I should be 500lbs and it has recently come to light that I am in fact an emotional eater.  If it wasn’t for my fast metabolism I would be much heavier. It may also help me that 99% of the time I don’t like sweets, I find one bite satisfying and sometime even over saturating. However, all to say that I think I may come home 10 lbs heavier. I love the food here; it reminds me of my favourite Chinese restaurant in Toronto, New Sky on Spadina.

Malaysia is a mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cultures and the food also reflects this mixture of ethnic groups. Although the latter has very little influence these days as there are few Indians remaining. I have yet to encounter anything too strange, meaning out of the ordinary from what I am used to seeing hanging in restaurant windows in Chinatown. Not that I’m going to eat chicken’s feet or anything I deem out of the norm but nothing has yet to scare me; I’m reminded of the fried grasshoppers and huge juicy beetles in northern Thailand.

I can guarantee I will never be an adventurous eater, my infamous gag reflex won’t even allow me to think in depth about such things.

The first evening in Kuching I requested we eat at a restaurant my brother had recommended – Top Spot, a made to order seafood extravaganza on top of a parking garage. Did she know the spot? Yes, she did, in fact it was two minutes from her B&B.

Off we went and it was exactly what I needed after travelling for 31 hours. Franky told me it’s where tourists go but I didn’t see any but us and we all loved the food. She ordered so much food and Franky, Anthony and I ploughed through it. Total per person tally for the meal, RM 45 / CAD $15, unbelievable. The highlights:

▪ Monkey Penis. Lol, it’s called that by the locals but it’s basically long neck clams cooked inside of bamboo shoots and then cooked in a curry sauce. The clams are found in mangroves.

▪ Midin – jungle ferns in garlic – think snow pea greens but jungle ferns instead. My favourite. Andrew (my brother), you called it!

▪ Fried rice. Simply divine, light and fluffy and without fish heads this time.

▪ Shrimp in coconut – This one dish brings a smile to my face because when it came to the shrimp Franky asked me whether it was important that I taste the shrimp. “Ummm, yes, thank you.” The other alternative was to have it cooked in a ton of butter and garlic and not really taste the shrimp themselves. “Well, they both sound good.” Let’s go with the former.

▪ Crab with sweet chilies. Overrated. The shells were very hard to crack and the sweet chilies sauce made them slippery. Too much work and not enough reward.

▪ Snapper with ginger and soy. By this time we were so stuffed and the fish come in its entirety, no half assing this one. Still, it was delicious.

It has been recommended to me by many to try cendol – a shaved ice dessert with coconut, sugar, and jelly made from pandin leaves. It’s on my list but I haven’t had a chance yet.

My favourite lesson that evening was with regards to how a person holds their chopsticks. Evidently, the distance of your life mate from you is directly correlated to how close you hold your chopsticks to the tips. With that being said my life partner lives close to me in Toronto. Since that hasn’t rung true I have decided to hold my chopsticks at a higher point and I blame my finger placement on poor instruction; it has obviously screwed with my destiny. How come I am only learning this now? Things do happen for a reason…lol. Actually, I do find it easier to manouevre them when I hold them higher up.

I few food observations I have made.

▪ Occasionally when you order fried rice to go (ta pao) you’ll receive it in bag without a container. You may eat it out of the bag or transfer it to a plate.

▪ Napkins are rarely included with your meals and if you ask for them you’ll be given a box of tissues. It got to the point where I wasn’t sure if napkins existed until I saw them in a store. From what I’ve seen licking fingers is the method of choice for most.

▪ The cost of food is cheap. Most meals/dishes are RM 6 / CAD $ 2 or less. Beers run RM 6-8. Wine is not readily available and the cost of a bottle is more than at home. Spirits are pretty much the same price as at home and are considered expensive. I have begun to gauge the value of things by considering how many meals I can buy. For example, a bottle of rum (Bacardi white) is RM60 / CAD $20. That buys 10 meals. Worth it?

▪ What is served for breakfast here is what we would consider lunch. My favourite is Nasi Lemak, rice served with coconut milk and pandan leaves, peanuts, spicy chili paste and chicken. Cucumber served on the side. I’ve never really been a huge fan of North American breakfasts, largely do to an egg allergy but I’ve always been that person who wakes up and could have a full dinner like meal first thing in the morning. Bring on the surf and turf. Malaysian breakfasts make the carnivore in me very happy!

▪ Knives are not used. Spoons are used as knives. I asked Franky, “why do knives exist?” She laughed. I pointed out the ever-useful serration on knives, she agreed. Still no answer.

▪ My favourite drink here is coconut water, preferably fresh from a coconut in the market. I have already downed three cans of it today, with pieces of coconut swirling in the liquid. It has always been a favourite of mine in the Caribbean and I have heard that it’s very good for you. Anyone at home seen the commercials for coconut water with Donovan Bailey? He’s onto something, or at least getting paid for it.

My last meal in Kuching was at Steamboat, an open-air restaurant. There were two restaurants close together and we walked to one of them and were seated by our waiter. Unfortunately for me he had about ten, two inch long gray hairs coming out of a black mole on his face. I understand it is a cultural thing but I don’t get it and I lost my appetite. We had to leave. We walked over to the other Steamboat and ran into some people from Franky’s B&B so I refocused my efforts and we were good to go.

In the middle of the table is a sizzling hot grill with a soup pot in the middle, much like Korean BBQ I think (yes, I can’t believe I still haven’t tried it). For RM 18 / CAD $ 6 you go up to the “buffet” where you’ll find many different types of raw meat – chicken, beef and lamb. Some marinated, some plain. Shrimp, crab, clams, and who knows what else. I didn’t venture there. The food is cooked on the grill and in the pot and all in all the food was fabulous and a fantastic value. Two things did concern me though. It was already 35C out with 90% humidity. Add that to a hot grill and people standing up to cook their food and that results in a frightening chance of sweat with your meal. My other concern had my companions laughing. Many of you know I was an airline auditor for KLM, Air Canada and Northwest Airlines back in 1998-1999. Food safety compliance was a large part of that. Now transfer that to chopsticks, placing raw meat on the grill, flipping it as it cooks and then eating it with the same chopsticks. I went through about ten pairs, each time I’d mix them up and had to go up and get more. If you’re in Kuching, head to Steamboat, I would definitely eat there again!

One of the evenings I was asked to go to karaoke with Franky and her friends. It was 10pm by the time we left and I was incredibly tired but thought it might provide a great story for my blog. The Sapphire Lounge hosts the well-known annual Elvis impersonator karaoke competition. It was right around the corner from us so I thought “why not?” A lady boy who knew the words to all the songs served us and I was amazed that she is so readily accepted for who she is. There are no stares, no whispers, in their eyes she is just like them. Love it. I swear all Malaysians are fantastic singers and it actually took me a few minutes to realize I was not listening to recordings. The songs are hilarious, the videos even worse and I’m not even sure you can categorize them by decade. The one that stuck out in my mind featured a Malaysian Crocodile Dundee scenario. We all took turns, it was my first time doing karaoke and I sang Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack but The Fugees version. I received a standing ovation from the five people already standing. Thank you very much.

Anyone try out the karaoke van taxi in Toronto? Haven’t yet, looks hilarious but I imagine it might be extremely annoying after one song.

What Was Spent Today (In This Post): RM 123 / CAD $ 41 – Meal at Top Spot, meal at Steamboat, 2 lunches of fried rice in a bag and noodles. Four beers and one Sprite.

Question: Where do you hold your chopsticks? Did it ring true vis-à-vis your partner?

For those who have visited Malaysia, do you have any food favourites to recommend?

4 Responses to Malaysian Eatertainment – Eating & Karaoke

  1. Inspiring as always! xoxox

    Nahad October 12, 2011 at 12:20 PM Reply
    • You and the magazine editor were my first inspirations so, thank you!! Can’t write fast enough for all I have to say. Xo

      juliemunsch October 13, 2011 at 6:29 AM Reply
  2. “Since that hasn’t rung true I have decided to hold my chopsticks at a higher point and I blame my finger placement on poor instruction; it has obviously screwed with my destiny.”


    tanaz October 12, 2011 at 2:04 PM Reply
    • Have you changed the way your holding your chopsticks? 😉

      juliemunsch October 13, 2011 at 6:27 AM Reply

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