Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Animal, Mineral or Vegetable?

I took a few of the new folks in the office out for lunch today. We went to one of the local hawker centers (huge open air food court) and we each got different things.

I was in the mood to be adventurous, so I tried a new stall today that offered what looked like different Malay dishes. They give you a plate with a banana leaf on it and a big pile of rice on top of that. Then you just point to whichever of about a dozen different things that you'd like to have and they put it on the plate.

First, I chose a chicken leg that was braised in a red chili sauce, then some stewed greens that were very good. I wanted another vegetable, so lastly I pointed at what looked like roasted eggplant with a dark sauce.

The eggplant here is different from the US. It's the small Asian version. It's commonly roasted or grilled and flavored with a sweet black sauce. It's really good. Not as bitter as the big ones inthe US.

I got to my table and took a big bite. Turns out it wasn't eggplant. It was some kind of eel jerky. Not horrible, but not good either.

I've been pretty good about trying new things and I can usually make a pretty good guess about what something will taste like just by looking at it. This has been my biggest miss so far. A horrible miss. If I can't even tell if I'm about to eat an animal or vegetable, how am I supposed to shepherd Melissa and Jack (two notoriously picky eaters) through this melting pot culture of different foods. Imagine if I'd talked Jack into eating something and it turns out to be eel jerky? The kid would never eat anything but peanut butter ever again.

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