Kajang, Malaysia’s Satay City

Whether or not you want to spell it satay, sate, şiş kebap, or шашлы́к, at the end of the day it’s a few pieces of something, often meat, with a skewer poking through the center.

Naturally though, when in Southeast Asia, there’s a timeless argument over who “created” this convenient snack.  Could it have been the Thais?  Sure, according to them.  Malaysia?  If you ask a Malay.  Indonesia?  They’ve got my vote

On one extended layover in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to negotiate a deal with one of the airport touts to check out Kajang, a city relatively near KL that is best known for being Malaysia’s sate (the spelling used in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) hub.  Shucks, I could’ve just splurged at the airport, seeing as there’s good sate throughout the country.

But then what type of food traveler would I be?

Kajang, Malaysia - Malaysia's Sate City (1)

“For the real flavor of Kajang satay”

There’s not much going on in Kajang for visitors beyond its recognition as a sate town, so my driver recommend that after eating at Sate Kajang HJ. Samuri, I might as well take the train back to KL.  I explored the downtown anyway, but the most happening place was a 7-11.

Anyway, onto the show…

Kajang, Malaysia - Malaysia's Sate City (2)

According to the waiter’s shorthand, I ordered 4 chicken (A= ayam), 2 lamb (K=kambing) and 1 beef (D=daging), along with extra bumbu kacang (peanut sauce).  Cucumbers (ketimun) are a common accompaniment, and since I was in Malaysia, I also ordered a teh tarik.

It was good, and they get more credit for only giving me meat, as opposed to adding gristle and fat.  This is in contrast to the lamb kebab vendors in China that really know how to season the skewer itself, as opposed to offering any real meat.

Nevertheless, unless you’re truly into food pilgrimages, you might as well stick to your neighborhood penjaja (hawker).

Five Exceptional Indian Foods

The traditional Indian food has been globally cherished and appreciated for the excellent use of herbs and spices, along with the medley of so many interesting ingredients which reflect its regional and cultural diversity is why the Indian food outranks that of other country. The food in India restores the ethnic and Dharmic believes and is shaped mostly by vegetarianism.

A very large and important role in shaping the Indian cuisine to what it is today is played by the various historical events such as foreign invasion, colonialism and trade relation. For example, the potato, a staple food in India was introduced by the Portuguese who also brought Chillies and breadfruit.

Each region of India has its own manner of cooking and well defined flavors. With Tandoori and Korma dishes from the North, hot and spicy from the south, chilli curries from the east, coconut and sea food from the west here is a list of five exceptional Indian dishes you need to savor and hold on to.

  1. LittiChokha

litti-chokha

Photo by Rahulpandey308, CC BY-SA 3.0

This quintessential cuisine is from Bihar, one of the most fertile place and a region which has hosted three well known religions- Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. LittiChokha can be served for any of the three meals and is even appreciated as a snack. The main ingredients are wheat and sattu (powdered gram or lentil) formed into small oval shapes with spices and filled with ghee (clarified butter). It is usually served with baiganbharta (a dish made from Aubergines and different spices) or alubharta. The littis are baked and flavored mainly with mustard oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Littis blend vibrantly and so they can also be served with different curries, preserving its traditional taste.

 

  1. Rogan Josh

rogan-josh

Photo by stu_spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most aromatic lamb dishes with Persian origins has established itself as one of the signaturedishes from Kashmir. The name holds a very intriguing meaning to it. In the Persian sense roughan means “clarified butter” but it is also known as rogan which means red in color and other half of it is “josh” meaning heat or passion. Rogan Josh has been a part of the Kashmiri multi cuisine “Wazwan” whose preparation is considered to be an art and appoint of pride in Kashmir. It consists of braised lamb pieces which are rinsed in strong aromatic and mouth-watering flavors like garlic, ginger and spices like cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. The fierce red-color is due to the dried Kashmiri leaves which are treated to reduce the original heat. For people who enjoy having spicy flesh in extremely cold places, you are in for a splendid treat.

 

  1. Hyderabadi Biryani

hyderabadi-biryan

Photo by Garrett Ziegler, CC BY 2.0

Hyderabadi Biryani came into existence as Mughlai and Telgu cuisines blended and has been the staple food for the place ever since and is now acknowledged and appreciated worldwide. The main ingredients are Basmati, mutton, onions, spices, lemon, saffron and coriander. Some variations of this dish may include Chicken instead of mutton and is usually accompanied by Dahi chutney(yogurt and onions) and mirchikasalan- a green chili curry.

 

  1. PavBhaji

pav-bhaji

Photo by proccers, CC BY-SA 2.0

A dish whose origin can be traced back to the 1850s, PavBhaji is an Indian street food which originated as a Maharashtra cuisine. “Bhaji” is traditional Marathi name for any vegetable dish while “Pav” got its name from the Portuguese language which means small bread rolls. With a vibrant blend of vegetables, either whole or mashed, lavish dose of fresh tomatoes, a blob of butter and an optional choice of cheese and other toppings like dry fruits, the Bhaji is served with warm bread or pav usually fried in butter. PavBhaji is one of the most versatile meals in itself usually enjoyed in the evenings between lunch and dinner. So if you are looking for something that will keep you going till dinner, get your hands on this and you are good to go.

 

  1. RasMalai

rasmalai

Photo by Tom Ipri, CC BY-SA 2.0

Originating from Odisha this is one of the most famous desserts of the country The name RasMalai is taken from two Hindi words, “Ras” meaning juice and “malai” meaning cream. One of the most appropriate ways to describe this beautiful dessert is “a rich cheesecake without crust”. It surely sounds luscious doesn’t it? The basic ingredients include sugary white, cream or yellow colored balls (flattened) flavored with cardamom, making it almost irresistible. If you are looking for exquisite dessert after a satisfactory meal, RasMalai will be a blessing in disguise.

There are still much more delicacies out there for you to get enthralled by, as almost all Indian cuisines are exclusive and special for their own authenticity and strong cultural background but these dishes mentioned in the list above will give you a glimpse good enough for a trip back to India to explore the widely acknowledged and praised Indian Cuisines.

Author Bio:

Rohit Agarwal is an anthropologist by profession and blogger at www.Transindiatravels.com.He likes toexplore different places and has also done research in the widely distributed cuisines all over the world and writes about food on various blogs.

Asian T-Shirts: New York, a Small New Jersey Suburb

An auspicious walk through a clothing store in Medan, Indonesia briefly left me nostalgic for the New York City subway.   Nostalgic not to take a ride on it, oh no, but to compare the system map with that of a weird t-shirt I found:

Medan, Indonesia - Metro New York T-Shirt
For those of you none too familiar with the NYC-area, I’ll give you a bit of a backgrounder–

Firstly, I don’t know what those stripes are.  It would be great if the subway made it to New Jersey…or is this a game of Rattler Race?

Regarding the place names, did the designers ever look at a map of the area?  Is Hoboken Indonesian slang now?  (I’m going to Jakarta in a month, so I’ll let everyone know in two months.)

To sum up the “points of interest,” Elizabeth, Newwark, Bayonne, Jersey City, and Hoboken are all in New Jersey.  Yes, those cities are part of the metro area, but Elizabeth?  Did they want to sell these shirts at Ikea?

Moreover, New York City barely gets a mention on this shirt. Manhattan is spelled wrong, and I’m really at a loss of words as to why the residential Manhattan neighborhood of Tudor City is mentioned.  To put it another way – and to disprove my being at loss of words – highlighting Tudor City is roughly the same as saying Luton is London’s most recognized airport.

Oh, and in case you wanted to know, someone else has already taken care of the Bronx.

Airline Meals, Part Six: Someone Else Had Too Much to Drink

I was just thinking of how hungry I am not right now.  It’s best that I feel this way when discussing airline meals specifically originating in the US or China.  Here’s an improbable idea for airlines from those two countries: if you’re choosing to feed us, just give us food vouchers for airport vendors with the least offensive odors.  Bonus points if you introduce a device that shocks seatmates when their feet enter your foot compartment.  Unrelated?  Sure.  But not undesirable.

Anyhow, this is one of those unusual moments when I have both a photo of the flight that I took and the meal from said flight.  In mid-2009 after briefly living in Beijing, I decided to visit BusanSouth Korea (부산 busan)–

Air China, Beijing (PEK) Airport (to Busan)

Exciting, isn’t it?

Based on previous experiences flying in/to China, right before boarding I ate bibimbap at a Korean restaurant.  Considering where I was flying to, that might have been a waste, but there was nothing else that looked the least bit approachable, including the “drinking water” machines mainly used to refill thirsty thermoses.

So, did I gamble well?:

Air China, Beijing (PEK) - Busan (PUS) (1)

That roll has an “S.” What’s an S? (Air China, PEK-PUS)

Starting clockwise with the upper-left, we’ve got a soy sauce-stewed (酱卤 jiànglǔ), vacuum-sealed egg, a delicious wet nap, liquid neon sugar posing as fruit juice, a portion of what I mentioned in the title of this post (aka congee), and a roll frozen in time.  Darn, now where’s that donkey sandwich stall when you need it?

In other words…so glad I chose to eat beforehand.


Can your most recent airline meals favorably compare with this?

No Pork, New York

We’ve seen how creatively Chinese restaurantsparticularly those in Manhattan – have been named, but what about in Brooklyn?

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn - No Pork Chinese RestaurantIs there anything you’re not craving right now?  “No Pork,” a take-out place in Boerum Hill, might have what you don’t need.  I didn’t try it, but I’m guessing they did a slightly better job than the “halal” restaurants in China that often stock ample bottles of beer.

Though, seeing as they’re in northern Brooklyn, to what other dietary or conformist needs do they yield?

Fried Mantou with Condensed Milk (China)

When much of the world thinks of Chinese food, do bread, dairy and dessert often come to mind?  I’m not even referring to ingredients or dishes from hundreds or thousands of years ago, or Chinese restaurant kitchens adapted to local tastes.

My introduction to 馒头 (mán​tou), steamed wheat bread originally from northern China, is actually one of my fondest food memories.  In 2004 I visited Singapore with my dad, and a couple of natives invited us to try chili crab.  Not only was it delicious – but it was equally fun to sop up the chili sauce with fried mantou.

It’s easy to satisfy savory cravings in China, but what if wanted to grab me somethin’ sweet?

Due to various jobs and halcyon desires to rapidly fill up my passport, I’ve naturally spent more time getting familiar with Shenzhen menus more than any other in China.  Based on past experiences, what better way to conclude a meal drowned in cooking oil and loaded with MSG (but I’m not actually against it…) than by getting served A) sliced tomatoes covered in granulated sugar, B) caramelized potatoes that will singe your mouth or C) durian anything?

Shenzhen, China- Fried Manotu with Condensed Milk

Thank you kindly, but I’ll go with D) fried (金炸 jīnzhà) mantou with 炼奶 (liàn​nǎi), or sweetened condensed milk.


Have you tried this combo before?  If you’re really looking to overdo it, order it with can of Coke.

Full After One Bite: My Meal in Puerto Rico

Thanks to a combination of an inaugural JetBlue flight last year and a small amount of United award miles that wasn’t going to be added to anytime soon, in booking a brief trip to Caracas and Quito earlier this year I had to be creative with my routing.

Considering the demographics of New York City, I figured that there would be plenty of JetBlue flights to Puerto Rico.  Due to the lack of availability of United partner flights – yes, planning a trip the day of has its cons – and limited time, I scheduled a thirteen hour layover in San Juan.

It was too early to find any local eats in downtown San Juan, so after wandering around for a few hours I indulged in another hobby, checking out the public transit systems.  Being disappointed that San Juan’s fare card was similar to NYC’s, I nevertheless took advantage of the free bus-rail transfer to spontaneously visit a suburb called Bayamón.  The goal – to find a menu without any English – was much easier over there…

Bayamón, Puerto Rico - Pernil, Mofongo and Pique

What’s that healthy stuff doing on the plate? I wanted Puerto Rican food.

I stumbled into a dive bar that also happened to have a decent amount of Puerto Rican staples from which to choose.  Come to think of it, before this meal, I had never tried this cuisine.
So, let’s break down the picture.  The ochre (yellow-orange) monolith next to the lettuce is called mofongo.  That’s the inspiration for the title of this post.  I’ve had that before, but in a Dominican restaurant.  From that one meal, I was full for many, many hours.

Usually it’s just a few, few minutes.

Mofongo generally consists of fried mashed green plantains, garlic, broth, and pork cracklins’, aka chicharrones.   It was likely inspired by fufu, the cassava-based meal from West Africa.

Below the mofongo we have pernil.  Pernil is roasted pork shoulder with garlic.  If the meat comes right off of the bone, then it was a success.  Sure enough, the chef that day got it right.

Lastly, the condiment on the left is called pique.  It’s a sauce made with hot peppers (traditionally, ají caballero, but habaneros and others are alright substitutes), garlic, oregano, and vinegar.  The contents aren’t mixed, but I could still taste each of those four main ingredients.  By the time I left the bar, the bottle of pique was almost empty.  Clearly, I should be making my way to East Harlem to buy a vat of it.

By the way, Puerto Rico, my liver shares your appreciation for garlic, but she does not.


How does this meal sound to you?