Stuff I Ate In Malaysia And Cambodia

More trip stuff. January is almost over and you have no idea of any of the other things I’ve been doing—don’t lie to me, I know you have been staring off into the distance when you should have been working, wondering if I’d been wine camping this month or if I’d been back to yoga or if I’d been to a gig or six in the last couple weeks—because I still have more pictures of my Malaysia and Cambodia trip to show you. That’s just the way it is.

I am having a lazy Sunday at home today and am not in the mood to do much beside drink a variety of herbal teas and lay on the floor, so I think I will just show you some pictures of one of my full-on favorite things about the trip: the food! I wish I had taken as many pictures of food as I did of temples—I thought and talked about eating pretty much the whole time I was there. I guess my hands were too full of noodles or iced coffee or curry to properly hold the camera?

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First day in Melaka with Ed, about to eat a delightful banana leaf breakfast. Look at the glow of anticipation on my wee face! That’s a thin pancake there on the banana leaf, with three different kinds of curry.

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And here’s Ed himself, introducing me to (freaking delicious) cendol, which is an amazing sort of slurpy drink made of pandan leave noodles (stay with me), shaved ice, coconut milk, special local palm sugar, and red beans. I was a little dubious about this when Ed suggested we stop at a little sidewalk stall, but since one of my main goals for this trip was to Eat Everything I had a go, and man am I glad I did. Cendol is the best.

Well, but, yeah, but now that I think about it, you know what is really the best, and which I never got a picture of? Te Tarik, aka pulled tea. Oh girl. Girl, te tarik is the yummiest. I had it the very first day I rolled into Malaysia, when Ed introduced me to his family in the village and where I met his delightful auntie who was so nice to me the whole time I was there. She made it for me–I think this was after the first gigantic lunch I had that day, right before she started preparations for the second gigantic lunch of the day—and I had one sip and became a devotee for life. It’s a lot like Indian chai, so very sweet and delicate and sort of rich and just all around nummy. In Kota Kinabalu I mentioned to various people how much I liked it and they all went “You like te tarik? ISN’T IT THE BEST?” and we would talk happily for minutes at a time about how good it was and where we might be able to get some soon. I was staying across from the night market there and got some at the night market and I decided it is the best post-dive drink ever in the world. If you get it for takeaway they give it to you in a plastic baggie with a straw, just like getting Cokes in the Dominican Republic in the early 90s.

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This is at Ed’s parents’ café, where his dad made me some very nice Chinese-style noodles, which I am blurrily attempting to eat with a fork in my right hand and a spoon in my left. Not easy! I don’t have a picture of it, but I also tried to learn to eat the gorgeous nasi ayam, or chicken rice, that Ed’s auntie made me, with my bare hands. Of course I could have used a fork and made less of a mess but it was interesting to try to eat that way—it was funny how like a little kid I felt, getting everything all over everything. I suspended my general practice of not eating much meat while I was on this trip and ate nasi ayam with much gusto, I assure you. The best part is that the rice is cooked with ginger and lemongrass and it is sooooooo gooooood. I am not much of a rice person, being much more comfortable with pasta, but now I think I should maybe learn to make rice for real because rice is great. Anyway.

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Roti pisang (banana pancake) during my and Ed’s trip to the central market for me to buy presents and get a fish pedicure.

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Eating satay in Ed’s neighbourhood in KL—note the oil slick on the satay sauce in the red bowl—even more delicious! I love cucumbers so I was very happy to eat them a lot on this trip, and to dip them into the sauce in this particular excuse for a photo. The smaller red dish is of compressed rice, where glutinous rice is sort of packed into a tube-shaped mold until it forms a sort of cake, which can be cut into pieces and dipped into the sauce.

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Here’s Ed’s auntie and the little dinner she threw together—after telling me that this was nothing special, no big deal, just family dinner—my last night in KL before my journey home. We have rice and two kinds of curry that I attempted again to eat with my hands (I liked the red one best but I forget what it’s called) and an omelette with onions (yay!) and ‘chicken floss’ which is very finely shredded roast chicken you put on your rice like a condiment. I made the long beans at Auntie’s request—“cook them Italian style!” she said, so I just did some onions in the pan and put the beans in with them. I don’t know how Italian that is but they were yummy, and a lot easier to eat with my hands than curry, I assure you.

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Moving from Malaysia to Cambodia, here is a one of the places we stopped on the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, with lots of yummy fruit for sale. I wish I’d thought to get a picture of the awesome fish bread—about which I was very dubious when Katherine described it, I was all, “Fish? In bread?” but again I was glad that I had the Eat Everything policy because fish bread was so good. I guess I didn’t take a picture because it didn’t last very long—in fact that’s my excuse for everything I didn’t record photographically: it’s well-nigh impossible to take a picture of food that is already in my stomach.

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Eating rice noodle soup my first morning in Phnom Penh. You can get a sort of deep fried donut to rip up and drop in the soup but I was not quite hardcore enough for that. I don’t exactly know how you would spell this in Roman letters but it was pronounced gu tio and I had it several times, always with excellent results. Ooh, and speaking of breakfast, too bad I didn’t get a picture of the French crepes with lime juice and palm sugar we had every morning at the guesthouse in Kep because those were good.

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Since te tarik wasn’t available in Cambodia I immediately and with no regrets plighted my troth to delicious iced coffees instead. This is one of the many I had at the guesthouse in Kep—you see by this point I have given up having it with sweetened condensed milk, as I found the sensation of enamel actually rotting off my teeth as I drank a little concerning—and have switched over to fresh milk. Also I have the choice between white sugar and local Cambodian palm sugar, which was not as sweet so it allowed me to have many more coffees a day than I might have otherwise. This was a very good thing. You probably couldn’t pay me to drink a flat white or a long black, but coffee with any sort of gimmick? (Where ice = a gimmick) and I’m IN.

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This amok curry tasted way better than it looks in this picture, I promise. The combination of fish and coconut milk reminded me a lot of Tonga—when I was in Siem Reap I had it again (with chicken this time) and it came in a bowl made of banana leaves so that was pretty exciting too.

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Crab with pepper sauce, a specialty of the Kep/Kampot region. I am not so into shellfish—at least not shellfish that still have, like, legs and eyes and everything, but the sauce on this was amazing and I almost think I should have just ordered a bowl of that and poured it over rice and subsequently died happy.

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This is a plate of cucumber (yay!) and guava with some chili-garlic salt Katherine’s cook Sochiet made for us to take with us to the beach. It was the perfect beach snack and also the perfect bus snack.

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This sandwich honestly was one of my favourite things I ate on the entire trip, again at the beach at Rabbit Island, and again courtesy of the fantastic Sochiet. It’s spicy beef with ginger in a French-style baguette and was soooooooo goooood. Again, I usually don’t eat beef at all—when I eat meat it’s usually chicken or some sort of preserved Italian pork product—but YUM. I wish I were eating this sandwich right now, like I wish it were in my mouth right this minute.

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Sochiet made me a glorious feast for my last night in Cambodia—here we see the makings of a curry, just waiting for the curry part to be poured on. More cucumbers! Man I love cucumber. I realize that’s rather a prosaic thing to like, but I don’t care. Cucumbers, man.

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Sour soup with this awesome…dip doesn’t seem quite the right word but it’s not a sauce either, it’s made of ground beef and is the consistency of a really well-made ragu. I dipped cucumbers in it and was happy.

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Mangosteens and dragonfruit for dessert.

Some of the flavours were familiar to me, as you’d imagine—I mean I’ve had Malaysian food before and there is actually a Cambodian restaurant in Wellington that now I totally want to try (but will they have fish bread?) but so much else—the combinations, the variation, the presentation were completely new and I had such a good time trying so many different things. I felt so lucky to be with people who knew what they were doing and could introduce me such awesome yummy things, though, because I would have had no idea about most of this stuff and would have been completely lost in terms of feeding myself. As it was, my belly was always full and my mouth was always happy, and what more can you ask than that?

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5 comments

  1. Your blog looks dinferent! Also, rice is great!

  2. I still smile when I think of nasi ayam, or in my case mee goreng ayam. I like the thought that I am mee goreng.

  3. “plighted my troth,” hehe. I love this food, and I can’t wait to try some of it when I go to Borneo in July. I’m going to go share this post with a friend now so we can plan on what to eat when we’re there…

  4. Overwhelmed with drool in Seattle. What a fantastic trip!

  5. I’ve enjoyed your blog for-EVER but, I have to say, this “trip report” is especially significant to me: I’m old enough to remember when the US was busy destroying Cambodia and seeing picturesa and words about the beauty that is there just makes me feel a tiny bit better. Thank you for the gift, and for being there.)