The food of Chinese New Year
No-one likes that person who holds up lunch or dinner while elbowing people out of the way trying to get a clear shot of the food in the right light. Really, just one more shot. Ok, one more. Look, could you all just stand up for a few minutes. I know it’s getting cold. Whose tissue is this? Really, people, I’m working here, could I get a little cooperation, please, really? But I spent two weeks in Malaysia for Chinese New Year recently and the food was both delicious and a little unusual, and besides, I had received requests from people to post photographs of the food. An actual request! Finally, I have an adoring public! What’s the singular of public? Unfortunately, the only way to please everyone was to interrupt the eating just long enough to annoy those about the dine but not long enough to take decent photos.
First up, the traditional tomato crabs and lo bak, which is strips of pork cooked in a very thick black sauce that I believe is flavoured with star anis (aniseed) and cinnamon, and looks nothing like this pork braised in soy sauce that claims to be called the same name.
At the same dinner, a vegetable dish that I don’t like due to its sour flavouring – I know it only as ah chat, but I welcome any corrections.
At another dinner, I found a delicious dish I don’t remember encountering before: sweet and sour meatballs, as well as a very soft and delicious boiled chicken.
On one of the days we ventured to Kuala Lumpur for shopping, we had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. The topics of conversation included whether the doors in the walls were fake and the unexpectedly enormous size of the meals we had ordered.
On a pleasantly cool night after two hours of badminton, the hottest and most exotic meal of the trip: frog, pipis in chilli, rice porridge, gai lan and a glass of lime juice with a salted sour dried plum, or “suen moi” (I really can’t pronounce this name, so if you know what I’m talking about, please help me out with a better spelling!).
Finally, a Malaysian classic that I find more and more Australians are aware of: nasi lemak, consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk, served with chicken curry, sambal, cucumber, anchovies and my favourite part, kacang, or roasted peanuts. It’s a great breakfast that comes wrapped in a banana leaf.
I would say that I hope you enjoyed looking at these dishes as much as I enjoyed eating them, but I’m afraid that’s not possible – sorry! My only regret is that I didn’t get any photos of the famous Seremban “pig knuckle” – maybe next time!