When Life Hands You a Lemon

Monday, February 9th, 2009

“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”   What about when life hands you rotten meat?   Or rather, what happens when you buy meat and then leave it in the fridge so long that when you take it out to use it, the juices in the sealed plastic package appear rather more green than red?     What’s the adage for rotted meat?

There was nothing we could add to those sad-looking, expensive beef short-ribs that would have made them palatable.    Angrily, Marc threw them away and thus the whining began.   Both of us whining about what to make for dinner on Saturday night when we had planned all week to enjoy beef rendang, when we had made a special trip via bus and walked 10 blocks to the Asian grocery to find the pandan leaves for the accompanying nasi lemak and the kaffir lime leaves to flavour the beef.    A breath away from suggesting we order pizza, Marc found a recipe online that saved us from ourselves, a recipe that called for kumquats, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric and shallots, all of were laying about unfulfilled without the star of their show.   We had randomly purchased chicken thighs that afternoon because we were at the butcher’s, and Marc ran down the street for one chili pepper while I prepped the rest for Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Kumquat-Lemongrass Dressing.   Really, what are the odds that we would have purchased a 1 lb. bag of kumquats because they were on sale?   How often do we have lemongrass poking their scratchy ends out of the vegetable crisper?

And so, an evening that started out by throwing away twelve dollars-worth of meat ended with spicy, citrusy, crispy-skinned chicken on a bed of coconut rice. So far, the Year of the Ox brings us luck!


A Fine Start

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Before we left for Malaysia, I declared that the first thing I wanted to do when we arrived was have an Asian breakfast of hot and spicy soup.  Then I wanted to visit the iconic Petronas Towers of KL.


In reality, we arrived in the afternoon so the spicy soup craving translated into cold Asian beer, and the trip to the towers was less about the view from the 41st floor Skybridge between the towers, and all about our first taste of Malaysian food.   Geoff and Lucinda wisely determined that our introduction to the local cuisine should start with a visit to Little Penang Kafé in the KLCC shopping mall housed at the base of the towers.  Actually, to describe KLCC as a mall is not giving it enough credit;  it is more like The Mall.  Not only is it the base of the city’s most recognizable landmark, it is several floors of tiled, marbled, designer-labeled, brightly-lit haven of cleanliness and air conditioning.   Besides the air-conditioning, Little Penang was the best part.

Still in a bit of a jet-laggy haze, we wove our way through and around traffic (no sidewalks in KL) and found ourselves at a table at the back of the kafe, mouths watering at the welcome suggestions of what we should first eat.   Geoff recommended nasi lemak, which we were to learn is the national dish and can be found everywhere, whether you like it or not:   coconut and pandan flavoured rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Lucinda insisted on whatever it was that turned out to be chicken in sort of long, deep-fried egg rolls.  I’m sure one of us had beef rendang, and wasn’t there a penang rojak to be had?    Geoff shared his char kway teow, flat rice noodles fried over very hot PORK FAT with light and dark soy sauce, chilis, shrimp, sprouts, chives, and fish cake.  Wash this down with more beer and, for Lucinda, a tall glass of freshly-made green apple juice.   Oh Malaysia, no wonder you’re the [self-described] fattest Asian nation-   a country of people who love to eat and who generously lace everything with coconut milk, palm sugar or pork fat;  I will happily aim to fit in!