Malaysian food is complexly better than French

Responding to her single glance at my plate, as I sat down beside her, she tutted through Chinese teeth: “Western food, hotel food”. She didn’t mind, it’s what she expected of me, but what troubled me was that I knew better. Asian food is better. Lunch of Western lettuce, tomato, cucumber, however well put together, are no match in Asia and most specifically the advanced and complex flavours of Malaysian food. I learned this last time in KL; when I tweeted:

“The French think they have the best food, because they have never tried Malaysian”.

It’s true, but no one in the West will believe you; they read Western stories.

Wanting to repair credibility in front of my Asian class, I quickly went for my next choice from the buffet: sushi with chopsticks. I am quite proud of my chopstick skills, as I had unusual parents who took me and my siblings to Chinese restaurants in 1970s Edinburgh whilst other Scottish families were resolutely sticking to neeps and tatties. Their quest, to broaden my education beyond the brewery swilling norm, paid off. The Indonesian across the table was impressed; “skilful” he acknowledged. I had saved face and the credibility of all Westerners. Be grateful; I can chopstick with Sushi.

A few days later, I was explaining, on Facebook, that French food is no match for the best Asian food; where it has subtle grace, Malaysian food has advanced sophistication. Malaysian history helps its food: it has an immense coast line positioned between India in the West and Japan in the East. The travelers and immigrants have left their influence on the cuisine, but Malaysians have improved them: curries are better, peanuts have been included, fish is frequent.

My new Facebook friend, Madame Marianne, is shocked. She is, by and large French, and brought up with the knowledge that French is best and I dedicate this blog to her. This breakfast is for you Marianne.

What another bloody blog about a breakfast? Food blogs overflow, but this debate has wider implications. Persuade the French that their food is not at the top and they will be stopped in their tracks; European influence will falter.

I shall not attempt to describe ingredients or flavours, but simply present the story in pictures. French breakfasts are based around flour and look a bit like this:

IMG_2982

IMG_2983

Frenchy cheeses

Frenchy cheeses

Jams

Jams (Malaysian style)

Malaysian meals are typically a succession of small portions of different foods taken from the buffet. I chose six little courses starting gently building to the spicy crescendo, then descending back into a fruit calm, as below:

Usual with Guava & Dragon fruit, (yogurt with strawberry puree on side)

Usual with Guava & Dragon fruit, (yogurt with strawberry puree on side)

Roti_Chani

Roti Chani

Stir fried mixed vegetables with Mee Mamak

Stir fried mixed vegetables with Mee Mamak

Melon and fruit cocktail drink

Melon and fruit cocktail drink

I ask you simply: which looks like it has more depth, variety, excitement, subtlety and flavour. The answer is complexly obvious: Malaysian Asian.

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There’s language in the air

Everything is bountiful in South East Asia; food, beauty, language. They are all bewitching, but its the language which entwines them: English. The wonderful thing is, there are no English here, they packed their bags and left long ago. It’s just that, somehow, their language slipped out of their handbag on final embarkation. Like a lost boy, it’s still here, floating, drifting looking for its master, but it has none. An orphan whose lost it’s parent, but knowing that, it’s decided to survive, change, thrive, adapt, forge, live, It links the Malay, Chinese, Indonesians, Thai, Indians, Philippinoes, and in the resorts, Russians, Arabs, Australians, and, OK, me a lone Brit.

I wonder if it gives us hope. This week in Malaysia, I’ve again felt the tension between the races. There’s the Malay, the Chinese Malaysians, the Indians, the indigenous people (I had thought this was the Malay, but Wikipedia separates the Malaysian Indigenous people differently). They combine to make a country, but they rival and mistrust each other, to a degree.

I could tell you some of there differences and gripes, but I would paint a pastiche of the depths and complexity of their relationships. Like all inter tribal rivalries, it is based on historical stories, and these stories are adapted to suit the side of the story teller.

A while ago I was in Southern Ireland, and I heard the same thing sung in the bars of Kerry. Stories with emphasis on persecution, deprivation and extortion at the hands of an adjacent tribe. We could keep living that past, it has a safety to it, or we could look to the future and muddle a way through where we don’t trash each other, or this place we live. To do that we need common understanding, common language and that language, at least for now, is English. Let’s hope so.

You are free to adapt any words here to suit your needs, and the needs of your listeners.

Tropical vine tree

Jungly tropical vine tree