I wonder how the ancients decided upon such doubtful and highly charged questions?
I suppose they had more pressing issues, like trying not to starve to death.
In the end it boils down to our modern societal structure and first world problems, such as an abundance of choice. Endless choices and options.
In almost everything, we are faced with a multitude of options: what to eat, what to wear, how to construct my multi-faceted, highly-customised Subway sub.
We are a generation of choice, with a world of options, so many places to visit, so many career paths to choose from, so many potential mates, so many events and so little time.
So is really deciding on what to eat a question as old as time? Or are we simply tarrying and trying to delay our inevitable demise as our clock ticks ever onward, counting down toward our doom?
So next time you’re faced with the exquisitely difficult question of what to eat, remember that in the end we are but microscopic tadpoles floating in a cesspool of swirling decay and the illusion of choice.
Yes, you don’t really have a choice. The decision was already made an eon ago. The cake is a lie. It was all a test. Just go with the flow and shovel it down your gullet and be happy like a good little peon.
Enjoying chefing at home? In the mood for good food?
Or you got someone else to do the cooking for you?
Well, now you can show your appreciation for it!
진 – Gin!
짜 – Jar!
맛 – Mas + (means taste in Korean)
있다 – Itda (means exists in Korean)
Jinjja mashitda means very tasty! Now go make your Korean chef happy!
And to be correctly polite, try throwing in some honorifics (especially if you don’t know the person):
Person you are addressing is on the left column, and you are the person on the right two columns. For example, if I’m a male addressing an older sister or friend, I would address her as noona. The easiest one to go with is adding -ssi (pronounced -shii) at the end of their name, like -san in Japanese.
Here’s a random question: do you ever notice that you tend to chew with a favourite part of your mouth? I have a favourite side where I find my food is tastier; for those who are curious, it’s a secret. Okay, it’s the left posterior corner of my mouth. Yes yes, I’m crazy. Welcome to the other side of the world.
Now that you’ve had a chance to ponder the infinite wonders of mastication (huh huh), have you ever tried to consciously chew with a different part of your mouth? I’m sure you use all of mouth to chew, but when you munch on your favourite snack, I’m sure there’s a pocket that you tend to use more often.
I tried it out today, and it was more of a challenge than I’m willing to admit. Actually, when I say that, am I inadvertently admitting it? Or does using that phrase downplay the extent to which…never mind.
So there I am munching away happily, and then I think to myself: “Hey, one side of your jaw is working harder than the other. You’re going to end up with a lopsided face!”
Of course I knew this to be untrue, although I did ponder the possibility of this being a cause of asymmetry in facial features. Nevertheless, I did my best to train my brain to get accustomed to this foreign sensation. I suspect doing it consciously makes it seem a lot harder than it really is.
Hi for those who complete do not relate to any of this! Well, how about brushing your teeth with your other hand? I’ve been practising, and I actually feel like I’m getting better at gripping the brush with my non-dominant opposable thumb! Yay!
So what am I on about? I doubt I came in here with a point, but I believe in the saying: variety is the spice of life. And that is what I’m getting at. Mix it up a little, jar your complacent brain out of autopilot. Even the smallest thing you change gives you a new perspective on life, a whole new grasp on reality.
Not everyone can flip like Walter Mitty and fly around the world on a whim (but these days it’s certainly an option!). But you can start changing your life with the smallest of things. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic musical montage on a magic carpet ride, it just has to begin with you.
No blog about Penang is complete without the quintessential works of art that this proud island is known for: food! And you won’t find anything better than the local home-cooked masterpieces that can be found at these humble hawker stalls flanking traditional Chinese-style coffee shops (known colloquially as kopitiams).
Let’s get straight into the chow, shall we? I hope your stomach isn’t the jealous type, because your eyes are going to feast! Teehee.
First up we swing by a conspicuous kopitiam along one of Penang’s main roads in the bustling district of Pulau Tikus. It’s a famous store and these guys have been going strong for decades. Here is why:
They make some of the best fried noodles in town! We call it “Mee Goreng” which literally translates to fried noodles in Malay. They whip it up fast and furious and fresh for you, and you get to watch them do it too! Feel free to chop and change the ingredients, but usually it’s either with or without squid slices. Also if you’re allergic to peanuts you should definitely let them know beforehand.
In the same premises is a decent Pasembur stall. Pasembur is the Penang version of Rojak Mamak, and typically involves a smorgasbord of bite-sized treats covered in a sweet and spicy hot sauce. Think Asian nachos or poutine, and you’ll still be way off, but that’s the best comparison off the top of my head.
This place is generally open from morning to late afternoon, so don’t go rocking up at night. If you do happen to end up in Pulau Tikus at night, you might have to saunter over to the Pulau Tikus markets one street to the south. They’re known for their Lok Lok, which is basically this mammoth assortment of skewered nibbles that you can select and cook yourself. This is what it looks like:
Now if you hop over into Georgetown, there is an even greater variety of food to choose from! The list is so immense it would be a monumental task trying to list them all, so I’ll give you…one.
Hey, where you going? Okay, it’s actually really more like three, because there are these three kopitiams that are pretty much fused at the hips and happily operating together along Presgrave Street. And you should know that when it comes to hawker stalls, when I say three I mean there are about eight different stalls lining the exterior of the shop. I’ve always wondered about this arrangement of Asian food stores, where the cooking and preparation happens at the entrances to the restaurant, but now is not the time to be questioning interior design. It is time for more food!
Here is a bowl of some Penang famous Hokkien Mee, also commonly known as Prawn Mee. A big favourite with the locals.
It is generally on the spicy side, but you can easily control the level by choosing how much of the spicy sauce you mix into the soup. They let you do this by pouring a healthy dollop of spicy sauce into your eating spoon, and you can choose to incorporate or discard any amount whatsoever. No one will look at you funny if you let most of it slide. So don’t go putting that spoonful of chilli sauce in your mouth in one go unless you’re feeling up for the challenge!
Another stall you’ll find guarding the entrance to these kopitiams is the Satay stall. Another Penang favourite, these unassuming skewers will pack a punch! The options you have are based on the type of meat they use (sorry vegetarians). There’s typically chicken, beef, mutton and pork, and this stall even has fancy tomyam ones!
Again you can behold the chefs in action, although for Satay you may want to avoid standing downwind unless you’re a big fan of the smoky charcoal flavour.
After you’re finished with your main course, hop on over to the desserts stall and get yourself some of Penang’s world famous cold desserts: Ais Kacang or Chendol. The one above with the green noodly things (fear not, they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them – I mean, they’re not alive) is the Chendol. As you can see it has the aforementioned green noodly things and a nice mixture of beans and grass jelly in a lovely sweet soup.
Ais Kacang is this towering monstrosity of shaved ice topped with ice cream, floating serenely in a bed of grass jelly, sweet corn, beans, and attap chee (soft palm seeds). Splendid after a hot day in the sun!
This place is only a short walk up from the Kwong Wah Yit Poh Chinese newspaper headquarters. If you pass by after opening hours, you can even take a peek into the newspaper printing factory since it’s only barred off by steel grills. Presgrave Street is one of Penang’s many historical boulevards and is neatly lined with ancient Chinese shop lots. On occasion it may even be intricately adorned.
That’s it, I’m kind of starving so I’ll leave it here. Oh, one final thing to note when attempting to order at kopitiams with hawker stalls: there is a special way about it. First, you find a table and sit down. If there is more than one of you, then you can either take turns ordering at the stalls you want or you can appoint a designated runner to summon the foods.
This is because there are so many different hawker stalls and they are all separately run and owned. So when it comes to placing orders, you have to go to them. But don’t worry, once you place your order, simply indicate where you are seated (usually with copious pointing and gestures) and they will bring the tasty food to you! Certain stalls such as the drinks stalls will approach your table for orders. So no need to panic, act like you’re at home, and enjoy your food! Bon appetit!