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Some Like It Hot

August 2, 2010

I’m back from my fan-tab-u-lous tour of southeast Asia, or at least Penang and Singapore.  The trip was amazing, certainly something that I will remember for a long, long time.  But one of the things that stood out the most was the food. 

First off, the marketers in the Singapore office are just like marketers anywhere – they love to eat and live for their next meal.  It wasn’t unusual to hear them discussing what they were going to eat for dinner while still munching the remainder of their breakfast.  See, just like us!  Bridging cultural divides at the dinner table!  I could be a diplomat too!

Everyone keeps asking me what I ate on the trip.  Most of my friends know that I rarely eat seafood.  I had been diagnosed with an allergy to shellfish and fin fish as a child and since then have avoided it.  While a recent allergy test indicated I wouldn’t die from eating it, certain kinds of fish do put me in intestinal distress, so again, I avoid them.  But on this trip, I ate almost every put in front of me.  A few bites here, a few bites there.  I only had issues once, after our eating spree in Penang, which I will detail in a future post (with pictures!) once my fellow conspirators consent to be blogged about.

The most cool thing about eating in Asia is the heat you can generate in your food.  I love hot and spicy foods.  Chili sauce is my friend.  And you can find some really hot dishes almost anywhere you look.  However, as a fairly Western looking woman, it’s not always that easy to convince people that you like it hot.

Here’ s a great example – I was walking back to my hotel in Singapore when I encountered a Mediterranean food stall.  Intrigued, with images of gyros dancing in my head, I stopped by for a look.  Not only did they have gyros, they had chicken and FALAFEL.  My stomach clock immediately went off and demanded a falafel sandwich for dinner.  I paid at the counter and was told to head to the opposite end of the stall to order my sandwich. 

Here, the conversation was pretty similar to the one I had in other similar operations.

Me:  I want everything but the tomatoes on top.

Chef Man puts everything on except the peppers and tomatoes.

Me: You forgot the peppers. 

Chef: Oh, those are hot.  You don’t want those!

Me: Yeah, I kinda do.

Chef puts a single pepper on.

Me: Seriously?  Can I have some more, please sir? (cue “Consider Yourself”)

Chef puts 2 peppers on.

Me: Dude!  How many would you put on YOUR sandwich?

Chef: (laughing) I put A LOT on.

Me: Ok, put A LOT on!

Then, the sauce question comes.

Me: I usually have tsatsiki and hot sauce…what’s the equivalent?

Chef: We have garlic yoghurt, which is similar. 

Me: Ok, what about the chili sauce?

Chef: Oh no, that’s hot!

Here we go again!

After my begging him for 4 lines of the sauce, he ended up making me sit at the counter so he could see me actually eat it.  Not a problem as I was planning to sit there anyhow.  And I ate almost the whole thing.  It wasn’t too hot, it was just right.  He kept shaking his head, not sure if in surprise or horror.  Whatever, it was delicious. 

Honestly, I’m having withdrawal from all the great food in Asia.  A trip to the local Japanese market helped, but it’s not the same.  At least I can keep my trusty bottle of chili sauce nearby, to bring back the sweet memories of the heat!

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