Last month, a curious bit of terror and mystery landed in my email inbox. The subject line read “Mom’s Malaysian Meals,” and like a Vietnam vet suffering posttraumatic stress disorder, I flashed back to one of the most harrowing meals I ever ate.
During the early days of courting my fiancée, I treated her to a Malaysian feast at Chinatown’s Skyway. The restaurant came recommended by my friend Jason, a man who’s never met a fish head he didn’t suck dry. “Really complex flavors,” he enthused. By complex, I think he meant “rank.” My fiery beef rendang was as subtle as sticking your tongue into a flame and gnawing soggy leather, while my fiancée’s shrimp with eggplant tasted as if it were seasoned with decomposing fish. “This is certainly… interesting,” she said, leaving her food as untouched as a virgin. I do not recall receiving a kiss that night.
From that day forth, I avoided Malaysian food like I do the Jehovah’s Witnesses that ring my doorbell every Saturday morn. Why subject myself to such culinary torture? But out of curiosity and procrastination, I opened the email. Continue reading