Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Local Bread Confection of Kuala Lumpur

After our tour of Kuala Lumpur's Little India, and back at the elegant market, we had ten minutes to get to our bus coach.

Moiya and Wyona had ringgit that was unspent.

Both of them know how to move the last few dollars out of their purses and pockets and into the local economy.

The women pool their money to see how much must be spent.
They buy carbonated beverages to take onto the boat, a soft ice-cream cone for all and with the money left Wyona and Moiya begin to pick pastries out of glass display cabinets, asking the clerk to wrap them separately so they don’t get squished.

Afterall, when we were dropped off we were told to go have lunch, but food was not anywhere on our agenda.

Now there would be a 1 and ½ hour ride back to the boat and time to eat. 
I am hungry and snap pictures of food I wish I could eat.
I don't buy. 
If I take the time to figure out the conversion on the ringgit,
I won't have time to take pictures.

 Two women picking out food is enough.

I idly take my camera and try to catch the look of the small bakery.

Fast lunch ... or would that be fast dessert
Once onboard, Wyona distributes the food among us.

I am a few isles away.

The nicest looking pastry of all is handed to me – one with a popsicle stick in it.

 I am sitting by the boat photographer, since I am always alone on the buses and when the seat is taken, it is often by some of the people who work on the boat and who are allowed to accompany the excursion.

I turn to her and say, please have some.

Which would you like?  One lightly dusted with icing sugar
  Or the chocolate icing with candy sprinkles
"Oh no," she counters.

She is sitting there soaking wet, having been caught in the 4 pm Malaysian downpour.  I brought my umbrella for the occasion, but left it in the bus, so I didn't have to carry it all day. Because I am "old" the bus driver lends me an umbrella so I won't get wet.

"Well, I can hardly eat it all.  Just take a bit.  I haven't touched it and you will get to see what the local pastries taste like."

She takes a piece and we take our first bite together but do not chew.

She turns wide-eyed to look at me and says nothing.

I spotted that fancy stick in the pastry and 
wondered if Wyona and Moiya would buy it.
Note the attractive covering on the bun, upper right corner.
I am horrified and burst out laughing, saying, “I think that this feathery lacy toasted coating is dried translucent fish and not cocoanut. Be my guest and take it back out of your mouth.”

Then I turn to the tour guide who is now handing out key chains of the Petronus Towers to everyone. She has come to give us ours.

“Could you tell me the name of this pastry.”

She gives me the name of the pastry, tells me it is a local trademark of Kuala Lumpur, confirms that the coating is dried fish and continues down the isle.

“Congratulations,” says the young ship photographer to me. “You got me to do something my mother couldn’t get me to do growing up in England. Eat fish.”

She puts her piece in our garbage bag.

 I continue to eat mine.

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it," she says.

I am compelled to. At each bite I am trying to figure out what it is that people like about these 3 flat rings with a stick through them, and finished off with dried fish. The sweetness of the bun reminds me of pork buns in China town. I taste the brown sticky topping that holds the fish flakes to the pastry: soy sauce.

Later that evening I go up to the Photography Studio to pick up some pictures from a prize I won on the boat. She is there arranging the shots: 8 1/2 by 12's  --  one from each of the 3 formal dining nights, taken from the gang plank as people go ashore, from informal sittings – all posted in the open for people to see.

I know she is working.  I go up to her and say quietly behind her back, “Fish breath.”

She turns to me and says in an equally quiet voice, "I told all of my friends about you at dinner and that you continued to eat the bun, even after knowing what it was. They know who you are.”

She is right.  They do know who I am.  That is for another story.


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