What it means to me

I have a long day at training tomorrow and should have an early night, but I have been lying awake for the past hour, just thinking, thinking and thinking….

I’ve decided to take the plunge and set up a stall at a Rotary club international food fair held at the end of August. It’s sort of a trial run before the food fairs at the universities in October, which is a bit ironic since the Rotary food fair will be held on a much bigger scale with clowns, pony rides, showbags at all. So far 60 stalls have already signed up but they are looking for Malaysian and Indian food stalls. *Cue the drumroll*  Daitaoha makes her entrance.

So Richard, Gerry and I have been bantering around ideas for the Malaysian themed food stall all night. What should we sell? Should we go mainstream or authentic? The boys were all for the idea of going mainstream and keeping with the Western palate of mee goreng, and nasi goreng, and chicken curry. But I wanted so much more. I was thinking ‘Malaysian chicken cooked 3 ways’ ayam masak merah, ayam pong teh and kari ayam, I wanted to introduce nyonya style cooking, traditional Malay cooking, I didn’t want to be sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, if you know what I mean.

But I knew it wouldn’t work and no one would appreciate it except perhaps for deprived Malaysian students hankering for hometown food. Gerry and Richard said that all the dishes would look the same, just curry and lots of chicken in various shades of orange. I knew they were right but I was devastated.

I don’t know why I am taking this so seriously and I think the guys are secretly perplexed and slightly amused. But it is serious for me. I know, it’s just food and anyone who talks to me probably thinks ‘this girl is just food crazy, it’s just food, it gives you energy and keeps you warm for goodness sake’. But it’s so much more to me. I don’t think I could sell food that I think is just average and below par. I can hardly cook a bowl of instant noodles without thinking that I should add something extra to it or garnish it with some chopped spring onions or coriander.

How do I explain it to people who think I’m crazy? It’s not just about going to 3 star michelin restaurants and marveling at the genius of Gordon Ramsay (even though that’s pretty great), food evokes emotions, memories and wonder for me. There is so much pleasure in trying new recipes and discovering that they’re really tasty, or when your cake comes out from the oven and it’s fluffy and fragrant. Or when your honeycomb cake has the right holes. Or when your friends are really pleased that even though it’s not 100% similar, you can still eat a bowl of Sarawak laksa in faraway Perth.

When my brother arrived home in Kuching after his long plane ride (2 days?) from US, we expected him to want to shower, or rest, or sleep. But he drove the whole family out to this place which he says ‘has the best curry rice’ and honestly, the curry rice was just average. But for him, it was so good, because the curry rice place is near his high school and he used to go there all the time with his schoolmates after school for a plate of the ‘best curry rice’. And after spending a whole year abroad, that’s what he wanted to go home to.

I feel the same way about a lot of Malaysian food and about my mother’s cooking. It’s more than just food to me.

Does anyone get this? Or am I just really and truly food crazy and just plain greedy?


13 Responses to “What it means to me”

  1. 1 slappedbygunk July 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Haha you take food so seriously! Why don’t you just go with your heart and do chicken three ways? Even if it’s just for the deprived Malaysian students, so what? Isn’t that a good thing? If I was a deprived Malaysian student it’d warm the cockles of my heart to find something so extraordinarily authentic at a venue where I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like once years ago when I was walking through Covent Garden and suddenly heard the strains of an er hu, playing “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo Di Xin”. It was so unexpected but so comforting to so randomly come across such a feeling of “home” that I really nearly cried there and then.

    Anyway I think it’s very exciting that you’re setting up a food stall! I wish I was there to help!

  2. 3 mum July 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Haha, i think jo will be the first to grab and buy the ayam masak merah. she is so deprived.

  3. 4 mum July 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    what about nasi lemak?

  4. 6 Jo July 29, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Yalor, I thought the chicken cooked three ways was a good idea wat! I would buy ayam masak merah. look at Chillies (4.20), they are selling chicken everything, from chicken cha siew to steamed chicken rice and countless Curtin uni students flock there to buy the food.

    Go ahead with your chicken dishes. Everyone loves chicken and it is safe to sell to all religions and races. Imagine if you sell beef, then Indians cannot buy and if you sell pork, Malays cannot buy. Hehehe….Cannot wait. remember to save your ayam masak merah for me ah….Too bad no lemang…

  5. 8 J July 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

    With blog entries like that you sound like exactly what a contestant in master chef would say. I’m sorry to repeat myself but those comments are master chef qualities.

    You need to go ahead with what you feel. As you said before, the Rotary fair store is to test the waters. If you never try you will never know right?

    If you are worried, why don’t you sell have of the chicken cooked 3 ways AND the typical malaysian food. Then you can see which one sells better.

    Keep me up-to-date with what happens!

    • 9 daitaoha August 1, 2010 at 10:59 am

      I knew you would say that Jaso! Haha, I will keep experimenting with the dishes, come home soon and you might get to try some (^__^)

  6. 10 linglang July 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Hello, at first i thought you are going to quit your job and finally decide to set up a food business in Perth when i read it. I’m glad to know someone who can cook so well. For me, i’ll avoid doing this stuff.

    Emm. are you going to serve them with rice? or just dish?

    finger food would be easier. or sate style chicken with curry/masak merah/pong teh sauce, i wonder. unless like kuching fest, where d organiser provide tables & chairs for them to have meals.

    Just curious what is ayam pong teh? i think this dish was in the ‘little nyonya’ series. But, i have no idea what is it.

    • 11 daitaoha August 1, 2010 at 10:58 am

      I would serve them with dishes. So happy that you commented by the way!! Ayam pong teh is this nyonya dish of braised chicken and potatoes. Uses soy beans, palm sugar etc., very easy to make and tasty too.

  7. 12 rita July 31, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    wow, di! that sounds good! show off your cooking skills and let these people know what a true malaysian dish should taste like.

    to answer your question – no, you’re not crazy. food not only satisfy the stomach but the soul, as well. we’re the same way. take it from me – you, simply, just have a very discriminating taste. as hubby always say, “we know what’s good!” 😉

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