There are no food pictures here
”Why don’t you take pictures of your food?” he (I don’t remember his name, so let’s just call him John) asks me as he happily snaps some pictures of his dish with his Nikon camera. I shrug my shoulders as I devour my plate of delicious dry curried noodles, camera safely stored in my bag under the table. “I always take pictures of what I eat, at least when I eat out”, he continues before packing up his camera and starting on his meal.
When I decided to visit Amy – a girl I first met in Auckland, New Zealand a few months earlier, and who happened to be one of my first travel clowns – in her hometown Ipoh, I didn’t know what to expect. After the hearty greeting at the bus station late in the evening she took me to some noodles and Malaysian shaved ice at a street stall. Even though the shaved ice – covered in bright colored syrup and put on top on some beans and jelly noodle stuff – wasn’t quite to my taste, the tone was set for my visit; it was going to be all about food.
In the following days she took me all over town. To simple restaurants in old town colonial townhouses with peeling paint and plastic chairs, to street vendors, outdoor food courts with canvas roof, and to fancy new cafés with slick interior. I shared a wonderful spicy Chinese fish meal (one of the best in my life, the sauce was delicioso) with her family in a small local restaurant – in a backstreet near their house – with only Chinese menus. While heavy rain pounded against our car, a lanky guy (with a rainbow-colored umbrella) delivered sweet soy bean pudding with ginger syrup – complimented with a chilled glass of soy milk – through small slips in the window.
In-between visits to temples built into limestone hills – and car tourings of the richer parts of Ipoh (with commentary of which of the expensive few-storyed houses had elevators) – we’d eat sour Ipoh laksa (a fish-based soup), sushi with a ton of mayonnaise (why? Why dear Malaysians would you want to put mayo on the sushi?) and get our hands greasy with filling Indian food.
“Have you tried fried bananas?” ”Have you tried durian fruit (which by the way doesn’t smell as bad as the rumor has it – doesn’t taste too bad either – but personally I just can’t handle the extremely soft, mashed banana texture of it)?” Stomachs already filled to the brim, she’d remember something else I just had to try, and drag me to the closest stall selling it. What about some cendol (shaved ice, brown palm syrup, green wormlike jelly and kidney beans in coconut milk)?
Yes, my visit to Ipoh really had been all about food. Wonderful, delicious and weird food. Amy had made me try so many things I never would have tried, or even heard of, without her. All this food, and not a single picture. I look down at my plate of curried noodles again, it’s all gone. Maybe I should have taken a picture, of this and everything else. But it’s too late for that.
As we leave I snap some pictures of the place, well at least that’s something…!