Part 10…wow. When I wrote the first one and numbered it, I thought it would be just a fun way to keep track of how many of these specific blog posts during our time here in Malaysia. But now I have to look back every time and see what number I left off at. It is very possible that in one month or two months or three years or 2 weeks I will lose count and the blog will just be call “Screw it, we ate good food, here it is”. But not today, and with that I bring you installment ten of the ongoing investigation into the world of Malaysian food.
As I write this, I am cooking Nasi Lemak for the first time at home. It smells wonderful and that smell, combined with these words and pictures I am about to drop on you all, is making me very hungry. I seem to always write these blog posts when I am cooking something or hungry. Weirdly me cooking something and me being hungry usually occur at roughly the same time. Hmmm….an interesting coincidence that bares looking into later.
Last night Iris and I debated about whether to go out to eat. Usually on Saturdays I will meet her out after work somewhere. The fast few Saturdays because of the haze keeping us from wanting to venture out, or my six day work week making me an even crankier and more tired old man, we have eaten at this trendy little place called Hartamas Kitchen across the street from our building. It wants to be a cool hawker stall but kind of fails. There is some good food there for sure, but there is also a stall selling “Western Food” which includes a chicken chop…what the hell is a chicken chop? But last night we decided we were sick of the haze keeping us from exploring more of our home. Time Out KL -and feel free to get us a subscription any well wishers out there- had an article about the best Northern Indian restaurants in KL. There is a big difference between southern Indian and Northern India in culture, language, religion, and obviously food. Northern Indian food tends to be Muslim Indian food. There is a whole subset of restaurants here called Mamaks. These are Muslim Indian restaurants open 24 hours, or 24 jam to use my new wanna be native tongue, and are identifiable by an outline of a mosque on their signage with 24 jam inside it. Muslim of course means no pork and no alcohol, everything they do serve being halal also.
Jai Hind is the name of the place we checked out on this day. It is in the Masjid Jamek area which is fast becoming one of my favorite and most hated parts of the city. Pros-lots of Indian food, Junk bookstore which is a great used bookstore place, the only good bead store in KL is a few blocks away, and Chinatown with its wonderful cheap knock off watches that I love is close by as well. Last time Iris and I were in Masjid Jamek you might remember we stumbled into a big anti-government protest we had desperately wanted to avoid
Last time I was in Masjid Jamek, which I do go to frequently as it is where I get off the train, after taking the bus and before getting a taxi, on my way home when trying to save money and not get a cab, there was an anti Israel protest. Very loud, and apparently in order to get their point across about how evil Israel is they had to block a lane of traffic, making it very hard for my poor cab driver to find me. Seriously, the guy called me twice and both times I could not hear a word he said because of the speeches being broadcast through a loud speaker right next to me. Well, I did hear him say something about me crossing the street to get in the taxi, but I played dumb because that would have meant a few extra ringgets I would have had to pay him to make a u-turn and end up right where I was waiting for him in the first place.
This time, everything was cool. We got a bit lost, but in doing so ended up walking down a night time market in a little alley way which was certainly fun. Eventually we realized we had literally stopped at one point to get our bearings about 5 feet from the restaurant which, by the time we finally found the place, was 20 minutes before. Not fun walking around in this haze for any amount of time.
The restaurant, as a lot of Indian places are both here and in America, was part buffet and part ordering from a menu. We decided to try the buffet, although neither of us was adventurous enough on this night to try the meat dishes. Probably it was just mutton, but more than a few of them could have easily been fish to my eyes, and I was not up for that tonight. I got two things, not counting the rice: The green stuff is Saag Paneer, one of my favorite dishes in the world. The other stuff is something I just can not think of the name of but I have made a version of it on my own before. It’s peas and potatoes, in a spicy tomato based sauce. Really good stuff. Obviously this being a good Indian restaurant there was a tandoori oven right up front turning out great roti of all kinds.
We went for a garlic na’an, and plain roti chapati. Both excellent, and both piping hot fresh from the tandoori oven.
Seriously, I love Indian food. I love Indian culture. It is bright and colorful and spicey. At the same time it is something I am familiar with, and something completely unknown.
Oh…..the coconut rice for the Nasi Lamek is almost done and it smells so good! Spoiler alert for what part 11 holds for you the reader!
PS-for those who are curious, here is the link to the article that inspired this meal: