Thursday, August 18, 2016

Malay Day, Malay Day – Erich

Kuala Lumpur, simply called KL by everyone around here, is a strange foreign world in some ways, and a familiar metropolis in others. The flora is reminiscent of Florida with big leafy palms and lots of greenery. But this place is not flat like Florida. It is full of hills and even some cliffs.

But you know me. I like to get into some of the mundane stuff, the everyday stuff, but the totally different than I know from my previous life stuff.

I have received so many emails like this one: “Dear Erich. We are determined followers of your adventures. And like you we share in this bizarre fascination, dare we say obsession, you have with fire hydrants of many nations. Please, please, more hydrant pictures.” If you're one of those, good news. Here is a KL Fire Hydrant
Tall, narrow, and yellow, and t shaped is he. SpongeBob Hydrant!
Malaysia was once an English colony. So English is very commonly used here. Many people, though not all, speak English. But in most restaurants or businesses there is likely to be at least one person who knows English.

In some instances, however, their use of English may differ slightly from ours. Here is a sign we saw in a local shopping center.
They do not have labeled towels in here. They don't even have paper towels. That's what pants are for.
That wasn't the only unusual thing about the shopping center. Check this out:
Have you ever seen such a kiosk in a mall?
Strangely, I haven't seen many people walking around playing ukuleles. We did see and hear bagpipers on our first night in KL. Sadly, my picture of them did not come out.

But here's a strange sight in which my picture is fine.
Um, you're not doing it right
Why? Why didn't they just build the escalator all the way down? Maybe they ordered the escalators from a certain supplier and accidentally built the two floors a bit too far apart?

Many places, including a lot of the shopping centers, have parking garages. But when they don't, that's no problem. That's what the street is for, right?
Only about four of the cars in this picture are in motion in real life
It doesn't matter what angle you are at. It doesn't matter if your car sticks out into traffic. It doesn't matter if you've blocked someone in. You just find a place to leave your car, and you do. It's like a blood vessel being choked off by cholesterol build up. The cars in motion have to weave just to continue down the road.

And this must just be standard practice. So far, we have never seen any Malaysians getting upset about this situation.

But the true treasures of those looking for the same but different are often found in the grocery store. Let's take a tour, shall we?
I can never figure out which aisle to look in for my cuttlefish in the States
Welcome to Aisle 8, where you can get your snacks, your nuts and seeds, and your seaweed and dry cuttlefish. It's such an important product, it's one of the three on the sign!

It's kind of like our Aisle 8 in the U.S., but not quite. And there are several products of that almost but not quite nature.
Mentos in the U.S.? Yes. Lychee flavor? Not so much.
We bought these, and they're good-ish. They taste kind of like lychees in much the same way that grape candies taste kind of like grape, but really much more like that fake grape flavor that we have come to expect of grape flavored anything that isn't an actual grape.
Can full of tuna. And more!
Now this is convenient. You don't even have to buy the mayonnaise to mix with your tuna. Because that's already in the can for you. Why hasn't anyone thought of that in the west? You'd think when the brand name is John West, they would have it... in the west.
These are bell peppers, yellow and red and green (not pictured.) Or are they?
The individual wrapping of vegetables was something we first noticed in Japan. But in addition to that, apparently they don't call bell peppers bell peppers. They are capsicum. And I have no idea if that is singular or plural.
Did someone hit this leprechaun with a de-aging ray?
I haven't purchased Lucky Charms to see if they are the same magically delicious flavor as in the States. But I was struck by how young Lucky the Leprechaun looks here. This must have been from his early days. And check out those thin little stick legs. It is a good thing he has wee folk magic to transport him around, because walking would likely break his bones.

Apparently, when it comes to cereal, youth sells. Check out this familiar or almost familiar brand.
Crispy bubbles, perhaps?
Snap, Crackle, and Pop look like they haven't yet been weaned. And you know one thing that toddlers love? Bubbles! Krispies are so Western Hemisphere!
You want a can of Coke? Will that be import or domestic?
If you want to buy cans of Coke, you have two choices. You can buy 330 mL of Malaysian Coke for 1.48 RM. (RM is Malaysian Ringgits. Each ringgit is about 25 cents in U.S. money.) Or you can buy 375 mL of imported Australian Coke for 4.13 RM. Now, I admit 375 is greater than 330, but this is not a good deal. Yet, I can only assume there are people who want their Coke from abroad, or why would the grocery store continue to carry it?

Let's get into the things that aren't really like items we can buy at home. Here's a good follow up to Coke. Of course, most grocery stores sell toothpaste. But perhaps not in this flavor.
Does it reassure anyone that Food Grade Ingredients are used? Would there ever be a chance that they weren't?
Mmm, cola! Because who doesn't want to think he's drinking pop and cleaning his teeth at the same time?

Here are some canned fruits that we've never seen as options before.
Rambutan are dark pink with these tentacle like hairs sticking out. Well, not when they're canned.
I strongly suspect this is about as related to coconuts as seahorses are related to horses.
Of course, the produce department is a great place to make new discoveries. Let's start with green beans. We all know what green beans are, right? Okay, here's a few varieties I've never experienced before now.
When three angles just don't satisfy
My picture doesn't quite capture the majesty of the four angle bean. But each one looks something like several serrated Swiss Army knife blades clustered around a flat central plate.
Aren't lady fingers like a missing link between cookies and cake?
The full name seems to be Lady Finger – Kacang Beans. I wonder if the Malaysians just call them Kacang Beans, but the English friendly grocery store felt some translation was needed.
I think my favorite part is that these are not from Pakistan
I don't know that I have ever seen a green bean quite like this Pakistan Bean. It is very dark green and wide. Kind of like a dark colored snow pea, which I suspect is to what it is more closely related.
You have to admit, it's an appropriate name
That whole package of Long Bean really is one long bean. It's coiled up like you might coil an extension cord.

Ginger is an important ingredient in the cuisine of many cultures. But exactly what age is the best for a ginger?
It almost feels improper to be shopping for any sort of young ginger
Not sure this is a lot more proper
Apparently unlike wine or cheese, but just like cars and computers and most other things, age does not increase the value of ginger. I don't know why you would use one versus the other in your recipe, nor which one is the ginger we all know and purchase back in the States.

How about some grains? Well, everyone like potatoes, right? We've mentioned before buying sweet potatoes that were not an orange hue, but more like regular potato in color. Well, here we have a new option.
Because really, do we ever get to eat enough purple food?
Yes, purple. And Japanese. Except from Vietnam. (It's my Pakistan Bean humor all over again.)

If that's not enough purple for you in one meal you can also buy this.
Chili and Lime was not the only available flavor, just so you know.
I'm not even sure what the below pictured item is, though I'm guessing it's a spice or an herb.
The name Ubi Kayu sounds like the sequel to the Kobiashi Maru is Star Trek
And let's end with a melon. I don't have a real good reason for that, we're just going with it.

It's about the size of a cantaloupe, but has a rind more reminiscent of a watermelon. But you know what it doesn't have?
Cue the Jaws music
I looked all over this thing, and I could not find a single dorsal fin. Nor teeth, luckily.

So there you go. Some of the unique elements of Malaysia. I hope you enjoyed it. And I know there's that special subset of you who are saying, “Erich, you had me at hydrant.”

1 comment:

  1. Much interest in this one, Erich. Beyond the hydrant, although I've been enjoying that collection, as well.

    The Lady Finger beans look much like a variety of okra. And I've never seen young ginger in a store here at all - we can only buy it 'older' - which is much more fibrous and tough. Young ginger is crisp and juicy and if you want it here, you must grow your own.

    Our thanks to all of you for the blog and FB posts. We love following along your trip!