'Should have just gone with the beef tepanyaki'...my mind wanders.
I enjoy taking a punt on foods and eating things that I don't recognise (as long as they are Halal!). It keeps life interesting and I've had some great experiences and well, some not so good ones.
This was shaping up to be a 'not-so-bad-but-should-have-gone-with-something-else' category.
I'm sitting at an 'authentic' tepanyaki house, if by authentic it means frequented by locals and staffed by people who look like they know what they're doing.
It is in a mall in Kuala Lampur though, so I am not sure how 'authentic' it can be called really, in the grand scheme of things. 10 meters away from this step into another world is a Burger King. The magic of globalisation...
It was the first non-franchised chain I had come across in the mall and seeing
I was running out of Rinngets in cash and didn't want to exchange any more money the prices were relatively reasonable I stopped and looked at the menu.
Beef Tepanyaki - something I'd never had but was always curious about, 12.90 RM. Sukiyaki, a dish I had never heard of with an interesting looking picture in a pot, 10.90 RM.
Ah, the bottom-line wins! Sukiyaki it is!
I mumbled to the man standing at the entrance, he nodded, ticked a box on a paper and handed me the slip.
I stood there, waiting and looked expectantly.
He gestured again, slightly impatiently. I ventured into the restaurant, bumped into a lady holding hot tea - sorry! ah, terimakasi! - and sat on an empty stool, one of the many at the large oval table surrounding the cooking surface in the middle. I placed my paper in front of me, hoping that was the right thing to do. Do I talk to someone? Who knows. Let's just look at what everyone else does...
Eventually a chef walks into center of the oval, looks at my sheet of paper, looks at the paper of those sitting next to me, yells a few things at the kitchen behind the counter, and begins cooking.
Ah! The fluidity of the movement! The gestured flippancy in the applications of herbs and spices as if he was merely miming how to put a dish together. I am mesmerised.
He isn't cooking for me though. My pot comes out after a wait, steaming, and definitely not what I expected. It is a bowl, hotter than hot, with at least three servings of broth, random eggs and bits of protein and full of thin, clear noddles that prove to have a very low friction factor.
I struggle slightly, sure that all the staff are secretly sniggering at my
balancing attempting to balance a ladle with chopsticks, eating with the right hand and attempting not to splash myself. Such self indulgence, to think everyone is paying enough attention to be laughing at you.
So vain! I mentally kick myself and return my attention to tackling the enormous portion.
A family comes in; mother , father and son, and sit near me on the oval table. They stare at my pot; perhaps I have ordered a family size my accident? I suddenly feel self conscious and clumsy.
Having gotten the hang of the noodles and tackled the bits of chicken in the soup, I am left with copious noodles and...a prawn. With the head, tail and shell intact.
This was something I hadn't prepared for. I am yet to see anyone use their hands to peel a prawn, and I don't want to make a mess.
How do you peel a prawn with chopsticks?
I try to spear it with my chopsticks unsuccessfully.
Attempting to remove the head with my ladle isn't successful either.
I end up with a chopstick in each hand, attempting to leverage the shell off. The father sitting opposite me observes me with a strange expression. The wife and son then begin watching the battle in turn...
For the first time in my life, I have a question that I am too embarrassed to ask. How was I expected to eat this prawn?
I arrange the chopsticks and ladle neatly next to the half finished pot and scurried to the counter to pay.
The prawn lies in the black pot, its head slightly peeking above the surface of the broth.
Prawn, you may have won this battle...
On the taxi ride to airport I ask the driver what he would do.
"No idea! I would probably use my hands. I am not very good with chopsticks..."