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Monday, February 10: Day 294 – Hole in the Wall

Today we went on the Off-the-Rail Food Tour in Kuala Lumpur with Charles. He is taking us to delicious little “hole-in-the-wall” food places that most people don’t know about. Yum!! We can’t wait to get started.

Terima Kasih means thank you in Malay. Of course every place that we visited spoke their own language and thus a different thank you to learn. The bottom line on this sign means “see you soon.”

There is a lot of foreign investment in Kuala Lumpur with much construction. Eighty percent of the people are middle class. Unemployment is four percent. No matter how much money one has, everyone knows how to cook. So when one is poor, they start to earn money by running a street cart. Later one graduates to a street stall.

The government consolidated many people trying to make a living with their food carts and gave them a stall in a building from which to sell. Most people eat out especially on the weekends. Additionally, this location is near an army base.

The vendors usually sell to the morning crowd and then return to sell to the dinner crowd. The Chinese, always the shrewd businessmen, share a stall and one family does am and the other does pm.

Kampaung means neighborhood. So Kampaung Boy means your home boy.

Roti jala shown below is called fisherman’s net and uses tumeric. Tumeric is currently a new fad in specialty lattes. It is used for skin and especially useful for chicken pox and facial scars and might help sleep.

Most of these stalls are run by refugees. A Pakistani man makes chopati. It is a dough that puffs up when it is fried. Chopati is huge. But be careful, when the steam escapes, it can burn.

Drinks are packaged like this. I enjoyed this rose water.

Charles’ family emmigrated to Malaysia from India several generations ago. He took us to have a drink at Mansion Tea Stall. It is a mamak, a 24-hour gathering place run by Indian Muslims.

There are five times to eat in Malaysia: Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, Dinner, and Supper. Supper is any time of night after 10pm out with friends. And everyone has their favorite mamak.

They go there for breakfast. They go there after work before going home like a bar, maybe to avoid traffic and/or meet up with friends.

I had a delicious ginger tea that is made with boiling, foaming milk. We sat across from a man who was eating his meal with his fingers.

Charles taught me how to say thank you in Indian Tamil which is naan dree. My new friend across from me said that you have to say it while bobbing your head from side to side for its meaning to be understood.

What? We have come from countries where you have to keep gender in mind, countries where the same word has different meanings based on time and inflection, and now words have different meanings based on the movement of your head??

Charles took us to the fresh market. We always see unusual items and get a chance to say, “What’s that?”

Any guesses here?

These are eggs. They have been cooked in charcoal.

Malaysian vanilla is used for pandan chicken. It can also be used for mosquito repellent. Hmm.

Goat’s milk is good for newborns with jaundice.

These are piles of fried shrimp in all sizes.

Next we venture into the meat market. All these men seem to be in a jovial mood despite their grimey task of killing and processing chickens.

Trigger warning for our readers: Pictures, videos, and content might be difficult for some readers.

Rob and I had never seen a chicken processed until now. I told Charles that we just buy them in a package at the store. He thought it unusual that we were so fascinated. He was taking pictures of US taking pictures!

First, they slit the throat cutting through the windpipe, esophagus, and artery. If they are Muslim, a quick prayer is said. This makes it Halal.

After a group of chickens have been slaughtered and thrown into a bin, they are placed into a boiling and rolling water bath. They are done when the skin falls off the feet.

Next the chickens go into a type of washing machine that removes the feathers. Go to the web version of this post to see this YouTube video.

The few leftover feathers are taken off by the person displaying the chicken ready to sell. You can’t get any fresher than that.

Rendang, a spicy meat dish, is slow cooked with spices. There are 14 states in Malaysia. Rendang is from a northern state, but every family has its own rendition of this dish.

Kerabu means combinations but must include fried coconut.

All meals in Malaysia are buffet.

All Malays eat with their fingers. They stir the food with their fingers. It tastes different with cutlery. Charles says that food tastes better from your fingers. He claims that there are taste buds in your fingertips. There is more emotion and connectedness with your food when you eat with your fingers. Learn from babies. Malays feel that Colonel Sanders stole the idea of finger-lickin’-good from them.

Malaysia is a mix of people and cultures and religion. Food reflects this and is often a fusion.

Malays live in mixed neighborhoods and have mixed marriages. They help each other and struggle together. They watch out for one another.

A greeting always includes eating and they call a friend, boss.

“Boss, have you eaten?” Kids in your neighborhood are asked, “Have you eaten?” Everyone sits down and talks with everyone.

Also, their language is a fusion of sorts. When Malays say the word “buck”, it refers to one of their monetary units. It is borrowed from American English.

Chili and vinegar kills everything. They love things sweet. Roti is bread. This bread tasted like a crepe. There was hot red chili or “white chili” which was sweetened condensed milk. We liked the latter.

This coffee is a village remedy to boost a man’s mojo manpower. Charles called it a soup torpedo. It is made from longjack which is the root and bark of a plant. The bone marrow is also good for virility. A woman maintains a supple figure by drinking a tea made from kacip fatimah.

Apam balik is an upside down pancake that looks like a taco and tastes like a fortune cookie. They used to be sold in food stalls until they were banned. Now he uses a food truck!!

Our last stop is in Chinatown where we have Curry Laksa. I sat on a little stool and needed to scoot in. The leg of the stool buckled and I fell over backwards. It was slow motion and I landed on my cushy backpack more embarrassed than anything. They were quick to help me up. I learned quickly to say thank you in Chinese. Shei shei ni pronounced shea shea knee.

We learned so much about Kuala Lumpur while eating and spending time with Charles.

Snatch thief is what they call a pickpocket. This term seems more inclusive of women!

Thaipusan, a Hindu festival, starts at midnight. Thousands of people shave their heads and travel with milk to the nearby Batu Caves. It can go on for days and is currently taking place.

The Prime Minister is 94. He was the 4th prime minister who had a vision to modernize. They brought him back as the 7th prime minister to finish his vision. His Vision 2020 was to turn Kuala Lumpur into a modern city like Singapore. I try to imagine my father running a country at this age.

The poor are used to eating one meal per day as they need to feed the children. Rice is a staple. Immigrant workers come from Pakistan, India, and Nepal.

“Your car is your first girlfriend.” The cost of living has gone up due to construction. The people of Malaysia must take care of their parents.

May 13, 1967, is a black mark in Malaysian history. There was a riot right after a general election. Bad politicians will use religon.

Charles is an Indian Christian. Malaysia is a Muslim majority country.

I had read earlier about four Christian leaders who disappeared. Raymond Koh, a Christian pastor, was abducted almost three years ago. There are video tape and foot-dragging investigations by the government which point to these abductions being made by the government. Read more about Raymond Koh online.

I was able to pose in front of this giant Takraw ball.

There was no placard so if I had not already known about the sport, I would have thought that it was just a decorative sphere.

Maybe everyone but me knew this but….we were told about the Korean finger heart sign. This is the act of crossing your thumb and the index finger to form a small heart to express love and fondness towards everyone around you. It is the small one-handed heart as opposed to the big two-handed heart. My dad says that it means give me money. Hmmm.

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