just accept the jelly

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Never in a million years would Miss Fats think she’d be ok with jelly dessert.  Asian jelly desserts have been a long time problem for her.  Since she was little, the excess of bean and jelly in Asian sweets has created haunting nightmares: you know, the kind where all you want is an excessive amount of chocolate and all you get are wiggly “puddings” stuffed with canned fruit.  Terrifying.  As you all know, Miss Fats has an insane sweet tooth and has gotten used to a certain-standard-of-living that involves a sweet treat post meal.  Always.  It’s damn reflex.

Since she’s been professionally nomming in Singapore and Malaysia, the sweet treat reflex is constantly out of control.  Food here is often super savory and demands a little sugar to clean up the crazy spicy/savory/umami/sweet flavor mouth party.  Typically that means Miss Fats and T will pick up a cold piece of fruit, served up on the roadside, beautifully laid out in an ice-filled case and individually packaged in little bags.  However, sometimes a particularly hot night or especially rich dish demands proper dessert.  At the beginning of her travels, Miss Fats’ taste buds were still in chocolate town, which was problematic in a world of coconut and fruit.  Not to mention chocolate costs a pretty penny in Singapore, and stores seemed to only carry US and British brands like Nestle and Cadbury (and that shit ain’t cheap).  Not to mention, if you buy chocolate in Southeast Asia it basically melts instantly.  That’s recipe for messy purse bottom (believe Miss Fats: she’s made that mistake more times than she’d like to admit).

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Unfortunately this meant that Miss Fats made some pretty critical dessert mistakes in the first week.  Her brain and stomach were still craving the buttery, bready, cakey confections of the U.S.  Nothing sounded better than a cookie, a big ‘ol scoop of chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone, or flaky Danish.  So, if she’d see some sort of “puff” or cake that resembled her favorite baked goods, she’d snatch one up immediately.  Never a wise choice.  None of them were that good.  Not to mention they were often significantly more expensive than the local delights.  Most of her cake, pasty and ice cream endeavors resulted in massive disappointment and waste.  She’d take a bite into a dense croissant, flavorless gelato or spongy cake and throw that shit away.  The reality is that here real butter is damn expensive, so most baked items are in fact made with margarine, producing the fluffy sponge cakes with whipped topping filling and fruit that I’m sure most readers have tried at some point.  These Asian cakes have haunted Miss Fats’ family birthday parties for years.  She just never understood why there wasn’t a damn chocolate ganache ice cream cake.  Miss Fats cannot stand these synthetic oil cakes.  They leave a slippery trail of transfat on the roof of her mouth. Not acceptable.  So, after shelling out S$4 for a flat and oily chocolate almond croissant, Miss Fats made a resolution: she would only eat local dessert specialties.  No matter how good something looked.

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So how does one satisfy a sweet tooth here?  The answer is weird jelly, fruit, sweetened condensed milk and ice.  Most drinks either come standard with some sort of jelly business or condensed milk and they give you real weird looks if you ask for either to be omitted.  She can’t even tell you how many times her “black coffee” has been served up with creamy sweet milk.  Now you’re probably thinking: why not just skip the drink?  Certainly not that big of a deal, right?  Well you just try walking around the sticky streets of Singapore all day and not indulge in the magical drink cart.  These little metal pushcarts just taunt you with their colorful vats of cold cold drink, ladled into plastic baggies (preferred to-go cup) and served up roadside.  Miss Fats dares you to resist that when you’re drenched in sweat and sitting over a hot and spicy bowl of laksa.

At first this problem resulted in Miss Fats ordering drinks, filling her mouth with sweet creamy jelly business, making a face, and handing it over to T.  She was just not into those chunks of tapioca or grass jelly worms swirling around in her mouth.  She just doesn’t believe in chewing one’s drink.  And she’s still a pretty firm believer.  Though the heat has taught her that a cold cube of grass jelly can be a good little temperature break for your mouth in a pinch.  So why the foray into jelly drink versus dessert?  She wanted to contextualize the omnipresence of jelly that exists here, and just how damn tempting the sparkling gelatinous cubes of gelled seaweed and grass can be.  No matter how disgusting you find jelly, the stuff is everywhere and the oppressive heat can breakdown even the most reluctant travelers.

The fact that jelly is always around, taunting her, is what has created a major breakthrough in Miss Fats’ dessert palate.  She’d like to introduce you all to one of the strangest desserts out there: Ais Kacang.

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The name and combination of ingredients varies from place to place: ABC special is probably the most common.  This towering pile of ice starts with a base of jellies: grass cubes, green wormy-looking ones, clear, bright pink little chunks.  Then comes a freshly shaved pile of ice, topped with super-sweet, synthetic strawberry syrup, brown rice syrup, sweetened condensed milk, red beans and canned creamed corn.  Yep.  You read right.  And, if you’re real special, you’ll get a big scoop of cheap imitation vanilla ice cream.  Sounds pretty gross, right?  Yeah, that’s what Miss Fats thought too when she was served up this incredibly weird frozen treat on her first day in Singapore.

As Miss Fats and T sat in the sweaty seats of East Coast Lagoon Food Centre, after stuffing their faces with duck, satay and noodle as they could, they noticed everyone around them had a crazy looking dessert.  Ais Kacang.  It looks just as crazy as it sounds.  Therefore it had to be ordered.  Soaked in sweat, T and Miss Fats were so excited for their cold treat, completely unaware of what exactly went into this thing.  Each scoop unearthed a new ingredient: hmmm jelly; oh weird, bean; ummm, corn?  They found it real weird.  They agreed upon the assessment: “not bad. Just not sure I’m into it.”  The corn had set them a little over.  So Ais Kacang ended up on the back burner for a bit, having been ticked off the “to do list” of food items.  They felt they had bigger and badder things to eat (true, but at the same time naive).

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It should also be clarified that T absolutely does not share Miss Fats’ distaste for jelly.  In fact she loves all things jelly, coconut and tropical.  Perhaps the ultimate concoction being the coconut that is jellified and served up ice cold with a straw and spoon.  So Miss Fats has now had ample opportunity to try a number of jelly drink items via T’s wiggly obsession.  A turning point occurred when T ordered up a milky matcha green tea one day, filled with a soft grass jelly to be broken up and slurped through you straw.  “Actually, not that bad” was Miss Fats reaction, surprising T and herself.  Somehow, this drink’s not-too-sweet tea and springy black jelly business were the perfect combo in that moment: a slippery mouth delight of fun and flavorful textures.

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It wasn’t until Melaka, however that Miss Fats finally dove into the jelly dessert on her own.  Seeing hope after the grass jelly situation, she ordered up a strawberry ice one night following all-out binge fest on peanut sauce satay (more to come).  Full of fish cake, Miss Fats hesitantly ordered the safest looking item on their menu: what looked like a delightful pile of ice topped with syrup and fresh cut strawberries.  Little did she know the jelly that lurked beneath.  Diving into her ice mountain, she unearthed the kaleidoscope of wiggly bits at the bottom: clear chunks, springy tapioca, and delightful boba balls that popped like fish roe when you bit into them: a surprisingly fun array of treats for mouth playtime.   It was like unearthing a colorful and strange nest of jelly monsters for you to destroy with your face hole.

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After this life changing experience (literally.  You have no idea how much Miss Fats complains about jelly and bean.  Just ask T.), she was down on jelly desserts.  The heat and humidity in Asia has required Miss Fats to throw out her very short and flexible list standards (mostly related to sticky skin and hygiene), so out went jelly problems and in came the embrace of all things cold.  The climax of the weird ice jelly dessert came on the second day in Penang.  In a city without much public transportation and a heck of a lot of scooter traffic, Miss Fats and T found themselves walking all over the city, nomming on whatever street food took their fancy.  They had just indulged in the most incredible Nasi Kandar (Malay buffet-like eatery found all over every city) at Line Clear where they had stuffed their faces with mutton, biryani, okra, chicken, etc in an alley way filled with hot burners and hungry cats.  Having had their fill of savory, sweet was obviously required.  So they walked their way to the park located at the northeastern tip of Georgetown.  There, one can find Esplanade Food Centre that houses some of the best food in town.  Looking around, they saw almost everyone with an icy treat from this one stand.  They marched on up and ordered the ABC special, taking a spot at a table facing the water.  The mountain of ice and ice cream came served up looking all crazy as usual.  This variation boasted the usual array of jellies, with the addition of some white bean action, fresh bananas, and a healthy sprinkling of peanuts on top (Miss Fats cannot get over the addition of peanut to everything.  She might adopt this as her religion).  The ABC special provided layer upon layer of strange, cold delights as T and Miss Fats watched the water and sun set over Georgetown.  Unreal.  She was a huge fan of the little cubes of green jelly business as they mixed with the creamy cheap ice cream and crunch toasted peanut bits.  Pure food nonsense.  She was into it.

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With only about ten days left in Asia, Miss Fats is already missing her bizarre ice desserts and sorely regretting not indulging in them daily from the beginning.  She knows this shit is stuff you cannot really get stateside, and certainly not in the heart of Chicago.  However, today, with the beach stretched out in front of her, and Taiwan just hours away, she’s sure she can make up for lost time.

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serious biryani business

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Miss Fats apologizes for the radio silence in the last week or so.  She feels like she left you all hungry and hanging with that last post.  The good news is that she is alive, well, and most importantly, full in Malaysia.  She’d like to say more about her time in Seattle, but figures you all deserve a little taste of what’s been happening in Asia. She promises a proper instagram round up of her second week in the PNW in the coming week (there were many new tasty adventures had).

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But first Miss Fats needs to introduce you to the biryani pot.  The first four days of her trip were spent running around Singapore like a crazy person.  T and Miss Fats have never been more sweaty and disgusting in their lives as they ate their way across the city’s mix of Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian cuisines.  All long food stand lines were joined, all types of animal consumed, almost always with their hands (much more to come on this).  However on their last day, dripping in sweat from carrying their bags a whole eight blocks from the hotel to the MRT, they stopped for a breakfast at a banana curry shop just outside the Kallang rail station.  This wasn’t the first time T and Miss Fats had found themselves in this particular spot.  Just two days prior, T, always peering onto plates of unsuspecting restaurant patrons, had insisted they stop for a particularly tasty looking steaming flat bread with mysterious small bowl of sauce.  The bread resembled naan, but appeared flatter and bit chewier, as patrons pulled stretchy hunks apart using a spoon and fork (what they’ve deduced as the utensils of choice in this part of Asia). T immediately triggered her food alarm, piping up: “mmmm (two chop-licking hunger noises) I want that.”  Miss Fats was down with mysterious bread-sauce, naturally, so the two quickly sat themselves down on some weathered plastic chairs at the edge of a long communal table.  Banana Leaf curry (they actually have no idea what real name of this place is: only that it has “banana leaf” in it) resembles many of the cheap eateries that line the streets of Singapore.  Long, narrow, open air shops that house rows of plastic tables and chairs where ancient ceiling fans swish hot air around diners who mysteriously sip on hot milky tea and coffee.  Pictures of menu options line the walls with posted prices.  T eagerly pointed to another diner and went right ahead and ordered, “what they’re eating.”  It was mid-morning and the restaurant was fairly full of people: all had the same plate of bread and sauce with a coffee.  They learned that this unleavened Indian bread was called prata (also spelled pratha) and was served with a thick “gravy” which appeared to be a spicy meat-based curry-like sauce.  For S$ 1.80, you could get a fresh serving of this steaming bread business and a hot, sweet, milky coffee from the friendliest old Indian man ever (obviously he and T are now friends for life).  Miss Fats will take this over toast any day. 

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Ok, but enough on the bread.  Though she could honestly talk about that crispy, chewy taste good till the ends of time.  But she’s here to talk about the biryani pot.  Anyway, T, absolutely obsessed with both coffee man and prata from the moment she steps into this place, requested that their final breakfast in Singapore MUST be there.  Which landed the two of them soaked in sweat with all their belongings in those sticky plastic chairs.  However the two of them had a serious stretch of time without food access ahead of them (a whole three hours), so they needed a big meal to prepare them for the day.  Banana leaf also offered a wide array of curries, all displayed in a glass hot case, where one simply points at whatever steaming red, brown or yellow dish of their liking as its spooned onto a huge leaf-plate.  T told Miss Fats that she “trusted her” instructed her to order whatever. With prata, of course.  Miss Fats walked up to the window and happily perused the mysterious vats of bubbling spicy goodness and a waiter quickly walked up to take her order.  She makes some lame inquiries about what specific dishes are, not completely caring because she’d rather just eat away.  Probably sensing her indecision, he asks her: “you want biryani?” gesturing toward a giant pot perched on a rickety cart next to the case.  Miss Fats, eyes popping out of her head, peering over the side of the massive metal pot saw one of the most beautiful sights of her life: a steaming heap of fragrant, rice, dotted with patches of brown and yellow from the array of colorful spices, soaking up the juices of huge chunks of bone-in mutton.  The sheer quantity and realization that a whole lamb just might be in that pot, was enough to make Miss Fats giddy.  She got real excited and ordered 2 serving of biryani and prata for them both.

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This might be her favorite part.  In order to serve up with dish, the cook simply whips out a small bowl and scoops a huge pile of the spicy rice onto a banana leaf.  He makes a second dip for a huge chunk of mutton that is nestled down into greatest rice bed of all time.  This is then topped off with a big ‘ol spoon full of mutton curry to sauce it up real good. When these meat piles arrived along side their prata and crispy papadums, T and Miss Fats’ eyes basically just fell out of their faces.  T skeptically eyed the size of her platter and chastised Miss Fats for ordering too much.  Miss Fats simply shook with excitement, basically jumping up and down in her seat like a small child.  They formulated an attack on this meat/carb excess by carefully sorting through the ingredients in front of them: rich rice, soaked in meat sauce and slightly caramelized by the ancient metal pot and still somehow perfectly cooked.  Mutton curry provided a glorious layer of meaty, dark, spicy sauce that melded with the anis and cardamom flavors of the rice, creating endless layers of savory goodness.  The hunk of bone-in mutton lay on top like the greatest “cherry-on-top” you’ll ever see: a glorious piece of slow cooked meat just barely holding on to its skeletal support.

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T and Miss Fats went right for it, ripping off pieces of fresh prata to pinch up as much curry/rice/meat action as they could.  T ended up being less of a fan of the biryani rice flavors: for some cray reason she doesn’t seem to be into cardamom.  Whatever. Miss Fats doesn’t even know how she can be friends with this person sometimes.  However, T managed to prove herself by making some serious headway through that meat party pile (this is likely do to her new obsession with all things mutton).  As the two of them took their time to nom on their banana leaf laden with all good things, they watched as person after person came in to take part in the communal biryani pot.  The small restaurant was a busy cycle of customers all ordering the same thing: the best damn plate scoop/meat heap anyone could ever ask for.  And you know that shit had been cooking for hours: just one giant pot where all the meat magic anyone could ever wish for transformed a heap of ingredients into a spicy, sacred, communal “well.”

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The pot’s status as a holy object demanded that pictures be taken in front of it.  For scale purposes: duh.  The employees at Banana Leaf mystery name curry place thought she was pretty strange but gladly humored her.  IMG_5491

Stuffed to the brim and ready for their day ahead, Miss Fats and T moved on to a hawker center in Little India for one last attempt at a sweet peanut pancake (more to come. Holy god so much more to come).  They found that in fact everyone in the whole city of Singapore (slight exaggeration), was in fact partaking in the communal pot of biryani goodness.  Huge lines of people patiently waited in winding, hot, sticky crowded lines for a big scoop of the day’s batch of biryani.  All the Indian and Muslim stands posted a single-item menu, offering up massive portions of their day’s rice/meat blend for around S$5.  The most flavorful boasted long lines that would easily have you waiting the better part of an hour: serious business.  Apparently Sunday be biryani day.  Who knew?  Well… everyone.  Regardless, Miss Fats learned a real important custom that day: every Sunday should probably involve a giant communal pot of carbs and meat.  She may finally understand why the hell Sunday is the “holy day.”  Any day that honors a vat-like cooking container dedicated to the slow development of spiced meat flavor is sacred in her book.

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extended seattle layover

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So Miss Fats is going to indulge in a bit of a cop-out post for you all.  Here comes the first “instagram round-up.”  She’s not the biggest fan of this form of blogging, but is beginning to see the benefits of round-up post.  After all, Miss Fats is incredibly aware of the fact that not everyone is an avid follower of her ‘grams.  Why is beyond her. (Probably because she doesn’t actually provide you with any way to do so on this blog…oops. She’ll fix these things…)

So for those of you who don’t know, half of Miss Fats is about to embark on the most insane food vacation of her life.  For five weeks, she’ll be eating her way through Singapore, up the West Coast of Malaysia and Taiwan.  Absolute nonsense.  Instead of perpetually being covered in flour, she’s ready to be covered in sweat and smell of rich fish broth and spices as she consumes all meals with her hands on banana leaves.  Next week, Miss Fats will take on Asia with one of her oldest and most glutenous of friends, T.  Both are going to try real hard to not murder each other, but no guarantees.  No, for real: many childish battles will ensue.  Luckily, their mutual obsession with eating and all things weird and food related is what bonds them together for life.  Just wait for the fight over the fish eye. So Sunday Sundaes is going to Southeast Asia for August: readers should prep themselves to get real hungry as the mountain of food pornography actually breaks the interweb.

However before Miss Fats gets to eat Asia, she been killing time in Seattle.  Uninterested in paying rent in August, she chose to spend two weeks in the Pacific Northwest, dining on sushi with Obachan, smelling of B.O. after a big bowl of pho (folks know what I’m talking about) and enjoying a little break from the heat and humidity.  Eating has the been activity of choice for the last week as she made her way through many of her favorite spots.  And for the sake of time and energy, she’s giving you guys the abbreviated version of her activities in ‘gram form.  However she’d like you to consider this a visual travel guide for all future Seattle visits: take religious notes.

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moving from left to right, top to bottom
1. Day one, Miss Fats had to immediately consume Veggie pho at Pho Than Brothers. Seattlites will know this is a bit of a controversial statement to make.  Most hardcore pho lovers have their designated spot for the ultimate steaming bowl of soup and will fight tooth and nail to defend favorite joint.  Miss Fats holds fast with Than brother on the Ave. She’ll refrain from backing her choice here, because her love of that veggie pho on the Ave could fill at least ten separate posts (so much poetry could be written).  But for those of you who want a shouting match, feel free to call Miss Fats up and get ready for a fight.

2. The next day Miss Fats met her food friend J in Pioneer Square for some of the best cured meat of your life at Salumi.  Pictured above is the spicy spicy smoked paprika salami with fresh, house-made mozzarella, onions, peppers and garlic spread on their chewy, fresh loaf of bread.  This sandwich is perfect.  J ended up doubling perfection by grabbing the same as Miss Fats to go and then indulging in the grilled lamb with roasted red pepper business.  Meaty goodness.

3. Friday night brought Miss Fats friend, A into town from Portland.  It’s been over a year since she’s seen A, but whenever she and Miss Fats do get together, they do the food scene right.  (A is the ultimate city tour guide: she knows Portland and Seattle fun times like no other.)  This night was no exception.  They ended up at Little Uncle on Capitol Hill, which is just a little walk up front with a register, and exposed kitchen where you can see them get their wok-on as they fry up some fresh and tasty Thai goodness.  The menu is short and sweet (Miss Fats is a big fan of that) and features one or two daily specials.  Miss Fats went with the special: Dungeness Crab Fried Rice.  She’d like you to now just image giant hunks of sweet, fresh crab in your mouth.  Yep.  That’s what it was like.

4. A ended up going with the Kao Soi Gai, or chicken curry egg noodles, simmering in a crazy flavorful coconut broth and topped with a beautiful mound of crispy noodles and bean sprouts.  Squeeze that lime over top and enjoy.

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5. No line on a Friday night?  Miss Fats had to just do it: big ‘ol scoop of Molly Moon’s Strawberry Balsamic ice cream.

6. This may look like shitty food porn.  FALSE.  It’s the most crazy delicious Caribbean Pork Roast sandwich you could possible consume.  Miss Fats waited for forty-five minutes post hot yoga workout (if you know hot yoga hunger, you get just how dire circumstances were.  It was worth it.)  She can’t even begin to explain the mound of spiced pork shoulder, grilled onions, pickled jalapenos, all mounded on a chewy baguette.  Meat face mess. Pure bliss.

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7. What’s better than all this epic Seattle dining?  A big ‘ol pot of Obachan’s sukiyaki.  She’s gettin’ real with that giant pan of Japanese goodness.  You can’t really tell from Miss Fat’s ‘gram, but her preferred mode of cooking is seated on a step stool with the longest pair of chopsticks ever made.

8. Sukiyaki heaven.

9. Here’s T consuming the leftovers from Miss Fats and Obachan’s dinner.  This is pretty typical: T shows up at around 10 pm, mounds up a plate of food and demolishes it.  It’s like she’s a tiny magic elf that sneaks in the middle of the night and delivers gifts or cleans the kitchen.  Only she in fact steals all the food and never does dishes. Please also take note of the size of that helping.  Cleaned her plate, obviously.

10.  Miss Fats kept the Japanese feast going with a Chirashi lunch special over at Kisaku. Fish fest deal of the century.  Best part of this fresh meal, however, was the food conversation with her taciturn brother, K.  After offering her leftover miso soup, K garbled, “I made a sandwich out of a pizza this morning, so that kind of limits how much I can eat.”  No exactly sure how to respond, Miss Fats inquired what was on this “sandwich” and why there wasn’t proper documentation of it.  Apparently it was pepperoni “bread,” mayo, cheese and meatballs.  Kudos to K’s heart for not just giving out then and there.  Miss Fats isn’t sure if she doubts whether their related, or has never felt more certain that they are.

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11. This was Miss Fats failed attempt to “work” at her favorite donut shop, Mighty-O Donuts.  On the bright side, look at that crazy good lemon poppy seed donut.  (Not pictured: the cinnamon sugar one she immediately shoved in her mouth.)

12. This was the even more pathetic attempt at a “planning meeting” with T at Swirl Frozen Yogurt.  They thought it would be a good idea to meet for some fro yo and trip planning.  Only fro yo was consumed.

13. It’s beyond Miss Fats, but somehow she ended up at a Mariners game.  She has VERY strict rules about baseball: she only attends once a year if it’s free.  This was not free.  Miss Fats doesn’t understand what happened.  However, this trip to the ballpark was not actually motivated by the game (naturally).  Instead, Miss Fats friends’ T and K were more interested in the chicken and waffle sandwich.  Rather than shelling out a load of cash on stadium food, Miss Fats opted for sneaking in her favorite fish burrito from Rancho Bravo (sorry, not pictured).

14. After all the eating was done, Miss Fats got real bored.  Luckily that just meant it was time for dessert.

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15-17. Miss Fats had some serious bento box lunch special with Obachan at Fuji Sushi. For $10 she got sashimi, saba shioyaki, california rolls (obviously not eaten), miso soup, salad and rice.  Boom. Obachan demolished her bento (as per usual) and followed up the feast with an epic food coma.  Miss Fats sat down to check email and she looked over to see Obachan snoring in a blissful state of post-bento consumption.  Gurl knows how to live.

Thus concludes week one of Seattle images.  Miss Fats has many more pictures to share, but is currently headed out to Ocean Shores for some middle-aged vacation time.  She intends to do some serious grilling, paddle boating, biking and clamming.  Three slow days of lounging around with a book, rousing games of Yahtzee and binging on s’mores.  More ‘grams to come.