Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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Malacca is home to a really great coffeeshop called the Geographers Cafe. It's clean and cheap, has decent food and a great view. It even has an electric plug for the laptop! Outside the window, at which I sit on a stool and drink my tea, is a vendor selling tofu fried rice. Normally I'd always figured tofu was a pretty healthy thing, and that fried rice - not that it was particularly healthy, but better than a sharp stick in the eye. Well, all vague thoughts of health have been banished from my mind watching this man prepare his dish. He has this huge wok lit from beneath by a constant flame, and into the wok he pours something like a gallon of cooking oil. It must be at least this, as the entire wok was filled perhaps two-inches deep with the stuff. This he heats to its critical point, when he adds the tofu. Instantly, as if I blinked and he were performing a magic trick, all the oil is gone and he's just cooking tofu. Er... huh? To this he adds even more oil, which is soaked up by the rice he adds a bit later. This whole thing he keeps going for the entire evening, adding more at just beneath the same rate he serves it out.

Malacca isn't the most developed place, and as such it's always strange to see an establishment decorated up to Western standards. Granted, the place was priced so that no locals could ever afford dining there (not that I'm convinced they'd really want to), but it was nice for Joe Tourist like me.
One of the most exciting, and unnerving, parts of traveling is the food. I'll generally stick to that which I recognize more than I like to admit, but sometimes by want or need, it's fun to try something new. Like, unknown. Here I walk into a food court where all I see are Malaysian menus and not a word of English. The game of course is to pretend as your eyes wander aimlessly over the foreign menu you're actually discerning between the various options, weighing each against your mood and hunger. "Well... I think I'll have the Nasi Goreng today," handing back the menu with a casualness that I really don't feel. Did I order fish? Beef? Did I accidentally try to order the name of the restaurant, or a nice dish of "We only use fresh ingredients and never any MSG"? As it turned out, I actually ordered fried rice (Nasi) with chicken and peapods (Goreng, presumably). It's fantastic, as it is usually. I mean, if it's on the menu it's because somebody likes it, and as long as you're not picky it's hard to... [more]

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