Tag Archives: food

The End

Our top story tonight: Ryan and Katie prepare to return to the United States of America after screwing around overseas for two and a half years!

But first, one last half-assed travel post.

Chinatown(s)

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Strangely enough, I think we enjoyed our time in the Chinatowns of Bangkok, Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur more than our time in China, itself.  With all the alleyways, junk shops, Buddhist supply stores and street food, there was just more olde-timey flavor in these neighborhoods than in most of Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou (admitting this gives me a squirmy, first-world-problems feeling: Am I saying I begrudge China’s middle class its apartment complexes and shopping malls?  Would I rather these places stop developing, so that I can experience more “local flavor” when I travel?  I guess not; it’s just that Chinese suburbia is not my ideal vacation destination).  At one point, Ryan and I were sitting in a taxi in Bangkok’s Chinatown, going down one of the more colorful streets with all its red-gold signs and dragons and sharks-fin restaurants and charismatic oldsters and whatnot.  As we looked out the windows a Motown song came on the radio, and suddenly, strangely, the feeling of traveling back in time was complete.

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The other reason I have a soft spot for these expat neighborhoods is that they have yielded up some of the choicest souvenirs of the trip.  Behold, the jewel in my Crown of Crap:

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Lord, yes.  I love this big creepy head more than I love most people.   We had to buy another bag just to tote it around but I don’t care.  I don’t care.

The day I found it,  I brought it back to the room and we took turns putting it on and capering around ghoulishly; both times, the person watching would laugh nervously and say, “That’s weird.  That’s enough.  Take…take it off please.”  Then the person wearing it would say “What?” and look in the mirror and whisper in horror, “Oh my god.”

Such is the power of The Head!  Oh man, I can’t wait to have this weird, nightmarish thing sitting around our home for the rest of our lives.

Also: I show you this picture to give you an idea of just how gross some of the hotels have been on this trip.  Land of clean sheets and mold-free bathrooms, here we come!

Foody food food

Let’s cut the crap.  We came to Malaysia for one thing, and one thing only.  I believe you know what this one thing is.

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So you can imagine what a bummer it was when we found Malaysian street food — fabled, renowned Malaysian street food, haunter of our dreams, activator of our drool glands lo these many months — to be kind of disappointing.  This was mostly my fault.  I had built it up too much ahead of time.  “It’s supposed to be amazing,” I would blabber to anybody who would listen.  “Like the best things about Thai food and Indian food and Chinese food, all put together to create an explosion of new flavors unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before!”

As it turns out, that is not what Malaysian street food is like, and I’m not sure where I got that idea from, anyway.  You can get Chinese food here, and you can get Indian food, and you can get Malay food, but it’s all pretty mellow.  The plate of mee goreng up there is a good example: Stir fried and cheap, it’s got a little bit of spice it’s but basically a close cousin to tsuivan, another bland noodle dish (sorry, Mongolia).   I mean, look at it.  It’s garnished with lettuce.   Lettuce!

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But once we got over our outlandish expectations, we started to enjoy the food here just fine.  Above, we have a delightful bowl of beef ball soup, which had a surprisingly spaghetti-like flavor profile.  Below is the only photo I managed to take of the many Indian meals we had, because I would always scarf things down immediately after they were served:

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And last but not least, my two favorites: Chicken rice and won ton mee.

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I could eat these things every day until the end of time.   I also came up with a jingle for chicken rice, using nice and price, but my pride prevents me from sharing it with you here.

Malaysia…and stuff

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It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that we have been ready for this trip to be over for, oh, some time now.  We slipped out of vacation mode a few weeks ago; instead, we’ve been in unemployment mode.  In unemployment mode, we don’t spend a whole lot of time sightseeing or trekking or trying to experience the culture or writing down observations for posterity (obviously!  HA).  Instead, we stay in our air-conditioned rooms, finalizing grad school applications, taking the first, agonizing steps towards finding jobs, researching cell phone plans.  Every once in a while, in a spasm of guilt and a vague sense of obligation, we rouse ourselves!  And we go see a thing!  But mostly we don’t do this.

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So, basically, if anybody ever asks me how Malaysia was I will only be able to shrug.  Oh, like, that place that was outside our door whenever we got hungry?  Pretty good!  It was pretty good, I think?

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It has been pretty good, though, and I’m glad we came.  I’m glad we came to Malaysia.  I’m glad we took this trip, that we took this time for ourselves.  I’m glad we decided, three years ago, to go away for a while, and I’m glad we went away to Mongolia.  Sometimes it’s felt like forever and sometimes it’s felt like just a moment, but either way all this time has been a gift, and I am grateful that we had it.

But in a few hours we’ll get on a plane, and it will bring us home.  So can we hang out soon?  It’s been a while, and we’ve missed you.

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This is my jam

A bowl of oatmeal: It is my jam.

Savory oatmeal, that is!  All day every day.  Drizzle some soy sauce and some sesame oil on that bad boy.  Add some canned tuna.  Sprinkle on some green onions.  Take away the mushrooms if you’re going to be a big baby about it, I mean, that’s fine, listen, I don’t care what exactly you do to it as long as you FUCKING EAT IT.

I tried this for the first time recently, and I’ve been going crazy on it ever since.  I had it for dinner two nights ago.  I had it for breakfast yesterday.  I had it for breakfast today.  At noonish I rolled myself off the couch and mumbled, “more oatmeal.”   “You can’t seriously be eating that again,” Ryan said.  Ha!  That’s rich! This from the man who has toast with jam for breakfast roughly 349 days out of the year!  Ugh, god, savory oatmeal; I can’t wait to go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow and eat it again.

I realize I sound insane; it’s just so rare for me to find something I can make here that a) I intensely enjoy, b) is not time-consuming to prepare, and c) requires only ingredients that are cheap and readily available at any old shop (as opposed to ingredients that are only available at the pricey supermarkets in the Russian district, or at that Shangri-La of produce and cheese and sauces, Mercury Market in UB).  Speaking of availability, I love how the epicurious blog post I linked to up there has a cheery list of “other oatmeal variations to try,” all of which are useless to me:

* Chopped ham (no) and shredded cheddar  (no)

* Wilted arugula (hahaha) and extra virgin olive oil (okay)

* Marinara sauce (yes) and grated Parmigiano Reggiano (actually, yes!  But for a price)

* Sauteed mushrooms (yes) and Gruyere cheese (what)

* Sauteed sausage (not the kind you’re thinking of, sister) and onions  (yes)

* Shredded roast chicken  (sure) and roasted or sauteed leeks (pfft)

* Diced avocado (please don’t) and salsa verde (I said stop)

* Diced tomatoes (sure!) and feta (see Parmesan comment)

Am I whining again? Sorry.

It’s weird that I’ve never blogged about this, because I think about it all the time: I am, in fact, grateful for the way Mongolia has curbed certain appetites that were just making me fatter and fatter back home.

I lost 20 pounds my first summer here, see, and through some miracle it’s stayed off.  And while I have a lot of theories about the initial, mysterious weight loss (stress; a couple bouts of Chinggis’ Revenge; the abandonment of my  stupid hunger-inducing exercise routine; my host family’s food, which was fine in the grand scheme of things, but still, I never wanted to eat any more than the absolute minimum required to make Eej happy; and let’s be real I was kinda tubby to begin with), I’m pretty sure the maintenance of the weight loss comes down to two things: Cheese and beer. I used to consume these things daily.  Now I can’t afford to.  And so I don’t.  The end.

Hahahaha that’s hilarious, like it was that simple, just kidding.  It’s late now and I don’t really have time to go into this anymore, which is too bad.  Because I love — I love — talking and reading about willpower, and how we have a finite amount of it, and how even just making decisions makes us tired. But all is not lost!  Because our willpower is like a muscle, and if we exercise it we can build up our capacity to resist temptation over time.  Fascinating, right, just go ahead and forward me any article you ever come across about self-control research, thank you.

So, basically, my willpower muscle was atrophied and flabby when we got here.  And Mongolia has forced me to use it.  And there were times, O, there were times of pain and struggle.  Lo, I spent many nights gnashing my teeth and rending my garments and howling “I JUST WANT TO HAVE A GODDAMNED BEER AFTER WORK” with Ryan replying “Well, we can’t afford it, so why don’t you just stop thinking about it,” which was never annoying at all.  God it’s so hard sometimes, being the child in this relationship.

For some reason, kicking my daily cheese habit was not such a mental struggle (“some reason” = the fact that cheese doesn’t have alcohol in it?). A while back I came across this hilarious early 90s anti-cheese rant by Courtney Love  (“Orientals”!), and on the rare occasion that I have a leftover hunk of cheese in the fridge these days, I find myself kind of agreeing with her.  Living in Mongolia, you get up close and personal with the whole range of possibilities on the Dairy Product Spectrum, and not all of it is pretty. I don’t know.  I’ve seen cheese’s cousins.  Cheese is…kind of gross?  Now?  To me?

So, there we are.  It has taken me a year and a half to build up this tiny willpower muscle, but build it up I have, and this is my reward: All I want at the end of the day is a bowl of oatmeal and a mug of green tea.  And my fiber supplements, and my reruns of Matlock, and my memories of youth.

But seriously try the oatmeal.

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