the business of breakfast: Malaysia (recipe included!)

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Miss Fats apologizes for neglecting you all.  It’s been a crazy month back in the U.S. that has mostly consisted of overwhelming work nonsense and persistent cravings for Malaysian cuisine followed by acute stints of post-travel depression.  She is not happy that her life is no longer organized around which dirty alleyway or food cart contains her next meal.  #firstworldproblems

But Miss Fats’ spirits have been successfully raised in the last week.  After the slow accumulation of ingredients, she managed to recreate one of her favorite Malaysian dishes: Nasi Lemak.  This weird little bundle of joy is a very traditional morning meal.  Though it varies across the country, Nasi Lemak is typically coconut rice topped with spicy sambal, ikan bilis (fried anchovies), peanuts, an egg, and chopped cucumber, all wrapped up in a banana leaf or butcher paper for your on-the-go convenience. This breakfast prism can be found at most nasi kandar (Mamak buffet-style) stands, Malaysian food cars/trucks/bikes, or hawker centers.  Miss Fats became obsessed with the spicy sambal “crack sauce” that seeped into that coconut rice, hiding the crunchy bites of peanuts just waiting to be unearthed from beneath the fried fish bites and crispy cucumbers.  She cannot convey just how amazing a perfect bite of nasi lemak can be: you get a little egg, little saucy rice, little fish, and a peanut all in your spoon and you’re in crazy mouth explosion territory.  The best part of this bundle?  Going rate was around 1.50 ringgit (that’s less than 50 cents US). Needless to say, the Malaysians have breakfast figured out.

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Miss Fats has been dying to recreate the experience since returning to the US, and finally, last week, she was able to collect all the necessary ingredients (and substitutions) to make it happen. It wasn’t the same—no banana leaf, no crispy whole mini fish bites—but the flavors of that sauce were close enough to briefly transport her back to the sticky plastic tables of a Malaysian roadside stand.  So in celebration of her relatively successful virtual food-cation, Miss Fats will be running down some of her favorite breakfasts she had abroad, and share her America-friendly recipe with you all.  She hopes by the end you are all converts to the proper way of eating: excessive meat and bread breakfasts for all.

Roti Canai or Pratha

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This might be the breakfast.  Or at least wins Miss Fat and T’s “most consumed” contest.  T was essentially obsessed with this bready breakfast from the first time she laid eyes on it in Singapore.  Walking by the local banana leaf shop, she eyed the crispy naan-looking flat bread on everyone’s plate.  She immediately declared that they would have to stop tomorrow morning to investigate.  The next day, after the usual ordering protocol of pointing and asking for “whatever they are having,” they discovered the simple magic of pratha (or roti canai in Malaysia).  This chewy and crispy flat bread may look similar to naan, but is incredibly different.  After some research, Miss Fats discovered it’s made with standard wheat flour and ghee (no leveners here).

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Unlike naan’s place in a tandoori pot, roti canai is made on a scorching hot flat top where it undergoes a process of stretching and folding, giving its crispy, slightly puffed chewy texture.  She wishes she could count the number of time she just stared at the cooks effortlessly pulling the little balls of dough into paper-think sheets and throwing them down on the stove.  Using two flat spatulas, they’d fold and pull, fold and pull, eventually fluffing the bready pocket, only to beat it down at the last minute, allowing for one last crispy layer to develop on the bottom.  Roti canai are typically served up with two spicy bowls of curry business: one is usually a yellow milder daal, alongside a deep red spicy sauce.  Unlike many other Indian-influenced Malaysian dishes, you actually consume this with a fork and spoon.  Tearing the bread apart, you dunk those bites into both sauces and shovel away into your mouth.  Not to mention you can get these buttery pockets stuffed with a whole range of items, the most common being: egg, onion, butter, sardines, cheese (like American cheese, y’all), and banana.  Miss Fats tended to favor the standard roti canai, served up with a milky teh tarik (pulled tea with sweetened condensed milk), but she was a HUGE fan of the roti kaya variation.  This option featured the roti stuffed with a healthy scoop of kaya (coconut egg jam) and was still served up with the two standard dips.  The sweet coconut jam, bread and spicy curry all melded into the most insane sweet, savory mouth time ever.

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Perhaps the strangest, but most exciting variation was the roti tisu.  This was T’s favorite sweet version of the classic, featuring paper-thin bread, stretched and molded into a towering cone.  The whole thing is then drizzled in honey and you’re left to go at with your fingers, cracking off pieces of flaky, honey-soaked bread.  Unfortunately the tisu doesn’t typically come with those spicy dips, but T was always snagging some of Miss Fats to ensure optimal sweet/spicy/savory flavor action.

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Kaya Toast

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Since Miss Fats has already introduced you to kaya, she thought she should talk a little more about a favorite breakfast that essentially revolves around the magic egg jam.  From the limited research Miss Fats has executed, she believes kaya toast comes from Hong Kong.  However it seems to be a favorite in Malaysia, particularly in areas populated by Chinese immigrants.  This simple breakfast features a thick piece of perfectly toasted egg-y Asian bread (no crusts!) topped with a healthy spread of kaya jam and margarine.  The toast is served up alongside two soft-boiled eggs and spoon full of sugar.  After watching many old men eat this dish, Miss Fats and T discovered that you’re supposed to drizzle a little soy sauce into those eggs and mix them up real good.  Then you dip your toast in sugar and then the eggs, sopping up all that yolky goodness, and again, diving right into the sweet savory breakfast party.

It wasn’t until Miss Fats arrived in Penang that she had the chance to try this dish out, and boy was she pissed that she’d wasted so much time without kaya toast in her life.  Determined to try this dish, she researched the best toast in Georgetown (not an easy task: Google hates Malaysia).  She settled on a little café where an old woman spends four hours slowing cooking the jam and even sells jars of it for all the kaya addicts out there.  Naturally Miss Fats bought a ton and proceeded to carry these strange little jars of coconut jam around with her for the next two weeks, dipping any cracker-like object into the sticky sweet tub permanently sitting on her bedside table.  Why kaya doesn’t exist in the US is beyond Miss Fats; and unfortunately her hoarded supply is dwindling.  She is seriously going to have to work on her egg jam skills, because Miss Fats is fairly certain she will die without it.

Dim Sum

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Alright, this is hardly new.  However Malaysia has a huge Chinese immigrant population, so dim sum breakfast is a standard throughout the country.  Miss Fats and T ‘summed it up a couple of times: indulging in as many pork and leek dumplings, sticky rice and bowls of congee as possible.  She’ll save you the detailed descriptions of each and every little dish, and instead allow the beautiful pictures to do the talking.  Some of Miss Fats’ favorites included the fishcake stuffed Japanese eggplant and peppers, BBQ pork stuffed folded rice sheets, and steamed shrimp dumplings.  Miss Fats and I would load up their table with as many little bowls as possible and pop little dumpling bite after bite.  It’s hard to say how different Malaysian dim sum is from giant restaurants stuffed with people every Sunday in the US: Miss Fats is no dim sum expert.  However she will say that she had some of the best BBQ pork of her life, stuffed in a perfectly steamed hum bow in Penang.  Whatever they’re doing to the pork in that city: keep it up.

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Nasi Kandar

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Nasi kandar has come up a couple of times now, and is hardly specific to breakfast.  In fact, it’s really more of a twenty-four hour buffet of Mamak delights.  However, Miss Fats and T frequently began their day at the kandar (and they were hardly the only ones at it).  The basic premise is a you’re given a heaping plate of rice that you top with as many scoops of Malaysian curry, vegetables or meats as you’d like.

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Now it took a long time for Miss Fats and T to figure this shit out.  And she’s not even entirely sure how it works now.  Typically, you’ve got a wide spread of dishes including various meat curries, stewed vegetables and big trays of crispy friend chicken.  You’re then welcome to scoop (or sometimes there’s someone there to serve them up for you) as many of them as you’d like.  Now it’s the payment part that always confused them.  You are typically charged per scoop, or per hunk of meat; vegetables cost less and the chicken is most expensive.  Now this is a problem if you’re like Miss Fats and T who like to sample absolutely everything.  Coming off their experience at the Indian buffet—where they’d perfected the tiny sample scoop technique to ensure optimal testing—this made for some expensive trips to kandar in the beginning (see above: not how you kandar).  They would often get very confused looks as to why they would waste a scoop on such small portion of curry.

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Kandar is incredibly affordable if you work it like a local, and by the end, Miss Fats getting the hang of things.  Essentially you should pick one meat curry—Miss Fats’ favorite was typically mutton—and go for one big hunk.  With the meat curries you’re allowed additional scoops of all the saucy goodness it’s sitting in, so go ahead and dip back in for some of that meaty curry business.  Then you follow with a good scoop or two of vegetables—typically some sort of cabbage, or if you’re lucky, okra. Then just throw down an egg for good measure. Top that all off with some of the free crushed peanuts and cucumber slices sitting at the end.  Boom: the most hearty meat breakfast of your life.  Good fucking morning.

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Now, what Miss Fats and T could never figure out was the extra sauce scoop action she frequently saw locals indulging in.  Apparently one can ask for just a scoop of a meat sauce to top off their meal mound, but whether there was a charge and how much that would be, is beyond Miss Fats.  She eventually succumbed to just being careful about the number of meat pieces and just paid whatever price she was told at the register.  Who knows: maybe she doesn’t understand kandar at all.  Other than it’s worth any cost because frankly, a good day should begin with a hunk of mutton on bed of fragrant rice. Topped with an egg. Obviously.

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All the rest:

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It’s difficult to say whether some of the dishes they had were standard breakfast fair, however Miss Fats and T found that most cities served up all meals, all day (and all night).  Therefore they were often indulging in giant steaming bowls of noodle-y soup first thing in the morning.  Or consuming piles of “dry” wonton noodles and dumplings with a smattering of duck sauce over top.  They operated under the premise that breakfast was important primer step for their day of eating ahead.  Therefore copious amounts of meats and carbs were meant to both fuel and stretch their bloated bodies and allow for optimal consumption and energy throughout the day.

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So in the spirit of beginning your day with a meaty gut-brick meant to power endless consumption and mindless wandering, Miss Fats would like to share her recipe for nasi lemak with all of you.  The traditional dish has been significantly altered due to missing ingredients stateside (not to mention Miss Fats land-locked geographic location), but she found this recipe to produce satisfying flavors of Malaysia that brought her right back to those banana leaf prism bundles of joy.  She hopes you all will give this a try so you can get a little taste of just how goddamn amazing Malaysian flavors can truly be.  For realz: it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

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Nasi Lemak
makes 4 servings
adapted from Rasa Malaysia

2 cups basmati rice
1 can coconut milk
good pinch of salt

4 shallots
1 clove garlic
15 dried chili peppers*
1 tsp jeotgal (Korean salted, fermented shrimp) **
1 small can of anchovies in oil
1 half red onion, sliced into thin half rings
1 cup tamarind juice***
1 tbs sugar
salt to taste
water

1 can sardines in water, drained
4 hard boiled or fried eggs
chopped cucumber
crushed, toasted peanuts

*Miss Fats still has no idea what kind of chilies she was supposed to use.  She went with the dried serano peppers that you can find in big bins in the produce section of the grocery store.  Who know if she was right.  She recommends going for whatever is the most red, or the largest if you’re afraid of it being too spicy.

**She substituted the Korean fermented shrimp because there was no damn way she was going to be able to get her hands on Malaysian belacan (traditional salted shrimp paste).  She’s pretty sure you can also use a Chinese version of shrimp paste.  Both should be available in most Asian grocery store and lasts in the fridge for basically forever.

***Supposedly you can soak that boxed tamarind you find in some produce sections and Indian grocery stores.  Miss Fats has no idea how to do this.  She instead dissolved about 1 tsp of tamarind paste in water.  She found the tamarind paste at Whole Foods (vastly overpriced) and eventually was able to pick up some tamarind concentrate at an Indian grocery store.

1. Cook the rice as you typically would, simply substituting the water with coconut milk.

2. In a food processor, combine the shallots, garlic, chilies and shrimp.  Blend until you get a relatively-smooth paste.

3. Heat a saucepan and cook the paste until fragrant.  Stir in the anchovies, red onion, sugar and tamarind juice.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the onion rings become soft and nearly disinegrate into the sauce and you get a thick, dark red gravy.   Salt and sugar to taste.

4. To serve, lay down a bed of rice, top with a healthy scooping of the sauce.  Top with the fish and garnish with a small pile of cucumbers and a sprinkling of peanuts.  Finish it off with the egg.

Miss Fats highly recommends just mixing all that rice and sauce together and then trying to get spoonfulls that perfectly balance the soaked rice with a crispy cucumber and bite of peanut.  She can’t even describe how good that perfect marriage of egg, sauce, peanut, fish can be.  Just eat it now, because there’s no possible way your brain can try to imagine this flavor/texture combination.  It’s something you have to try for yourself and allow your imagination to implode as your entire flavor palate becomes refigured through the flavors of Malaysian cooking.

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Seattle round up part 2

Alright.  Miss Fats is taking a very short breather from Asia treats to finish up her time in Seattle.  She could have easily moved on with strange Malaysian meals, but looking back at her two weeks in the PNW, she couldn’t resist sharing some of the insanely indulgent foods that kicked off her seven week vacation.  So take a look and make some notes for your next trip to the Northwest: there’s ample face-stuffing to be had.

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1. Korean Tofu House: bulgogi hot pot, seafood hot pot, bbq bulgogi beef, assorted kimchi and taste goods.  This was a new one for Miss Fats.  Even though she spent years living just blocks from this popular Korean joint, she’d never experienced it in all its bubbling, spicy glory.  Big mistake.  She’s sad to say that this place was outrageously good and she essentially wasted her undergrad years fucking around (or blindly shoving as much pho in her mouth as possible. Not necessarily a bad thing.)  Luckily she now knows where to get steaming hot, cheap and tasty Korean when she’s back in Seattle.

2. Oh hell yes.  Miss Fats loves berry season.  As much as the local foods movement can get ridiculously pretentious in Seattle, she seriously appreciates the fact that she can stop on by her local roadside stand and pick up a flat of plump, juicy berries, fresh-picked from a Washington farm.  These blueberries were out. Of. Control.  Eaten with every meal.  Hell, eaten every time the fridge was open.

3. Miss Fats, despite vacation status, could not resist baking for two weeks.  She had a little family BBQ to attend in celebration of a couple birthdays.  Obviously this required cupcakes.  Since apparently Miss Fat’s brother has no idea what carrot cake is (doesn’t it have chunks of carrots?) she served up a platter of simple red velvet and carrot cupcakes.  That cream cheese frosting did double duty.  She even shared a few of her precious berries to pretty them up a bit.

4. Il Corvo.  Week two in Seattle marked Miss Fats’ attempts to see what new (or at least new to her) restaurants were popping up in her hometown.  Top of her list: Il Corvo.  Repeatedly topping Best New Restaurant lists, this Pioneer Square lunch spot promised $9 handmade pasta.  You read right: nine. Fucking. Dollars.  For handmade pasta. Naturally this comes with long lines and hidden menus (Il Corvo posts its pasta selection online when they open).  Miss Fats and her friend J were first in line (10:45 am lunch. Aw yeah.)  and blindly ordered one of each of their specials.  Glancing up at their antipastas, Miss Fats’ eyes zeroed in on “spicy chickpea salad.”  She was all over that.  Added. Done.  It was only after they sat down that Miss Fats investigated what they had ordered.  She craned over the long line at the handwritten chalkboard.  However due to her limited knowledge of pasta and Italian, this wasn’t the biggest help.  Instead, they patiently waited for the kind man to bring out three steaming bowls of noodle goodness. Some investigation revealed a simple burst tomato sauce with garlic and basil (so damn fresh and bright.  Cheers to tomato season), a squid ink pasta tossed a deep tomato and anchovy-based sauce, dotted with red pepper flake and sharp romano cheese, and finally a roasted pork ragu over thin ribbons of perfectly cooked pasta.  Each of these deserve posts in themselves.  Miss Fats favored the squid ink, which was the perfect salty, slightly fishy, spice she’s always dreamed of.

IMG_4433IMG_4502IMG_4469IMG_44685. The weekend sent Miss Fats to Ocean Shores on the Washington Coast.  She spent two days indulging in some serious middle aged vacation.  On their bike ride into town, Miss Fats and her friend K happened upon this little farmers market where they picked up a bountiful crop of local peaches, zucchini, corn and peppers for dinner.  Redic.

6. Apparently it was national s’mores day.  This required K to spend an entire afternoon tending to fire, toasting up marshmallows for excessive s’more consumption.  Miss Fats is sad to report, however, that K did not manage to reach her goal of twenty s’mores.  Maybe next year.

7. And here comes the highlight of Miss Fats’ time in the PNW.  Fresh crab.  Right off the boat.  Killed and cleaned right before her eyes.  Every Saturday and Sunday, you can stop off at the docks in Ocean Shores and pick yourself up some live dungenous crab for a measly $11.  Last summer, Miss Fats had missed out on this delight and had spent an entire 365 days regretting it.  Now, K does not eat seafood, so she was not so into the idea of a crab dinner.  Like that was going to stop her.  Miss Fats rode her bike beach and picked up a two-pound sucker for herself.

8. The kind man in the rubber apron with giant muscles and a huge crab tattoo who killed and sold the beast to her instructed Miss Fats to boil the fresh crab corpse for eight minutes.  Following his instructions produced the following shmorgosborg of shellfish goodness:

IMG_4553IMG_4581IMG_4646IMG_46619. Yep. Miss Fats had all that to herself.  However you may notice that dish of melted butter artfully sitting on the plate.  Not needed.  The crab was that sweet.  No lemon. No butter.  Just pure, flakey, meaty goodness.  This was literally the best crab Miss Fats has had in her entire life and now she’s not sure she can live without dining on a two pound freshly caught and killed crab every night. #firstworldproblems

10. Aftermath.  Mission accomplished.

11. Obviously Miss Fats final dinner in the U.S. for a month had to be Mexican.  Thanks to good fortune, she also discovered that one of her closest friends would be in Seattle at the same time to reunite her favorite dining threesome.  Miss Fats and friends, J & A, frequently ate Seattle during their college years, systematically stuffing themselves with all the sweet and savouries the city has to offer.  This last dinner stateside was a rare opportunity for the three of them to come together and eat like it was their job.  They ended up trying out Mezcaleria Oaxaca, a small plates, slightly upscale place in Queen Anne.  For those of you who know the place or their other Ballard eatery, La Carta de Oaxaca, you’ll know they know what’s up with those crazy good Oaxacan flavors.  In typical style, the three of them ordered a huge chunk of the menu, sampling their tacos, tamales, pozole, meats and fish galore.  The hands down winner of the night was the tamale smothered in an incredible mole sauce.  That plate was licked damn clean.

12. Portage Bay Café.  For her final meal in the U.S., Miss Fats dined with Obachan and her dad at the Seattle brunch spot, Portage Bay Café.  Now she stands by the fact that this place is vastly overrated and over priced, however Miss Fats wasn’t paying and she can admit they make a damn good pancake (though she upholds that their French toast is on the dry side).  Here she indulged in a heaping last American plate of local huckleberry pancakes topped with a mountain of fresh fruit, maple syrup and whip cream, with a side of bacon.  She also instructed her dad to order up the lemon blueberry French toast so she could nom on it as well.  One last bread/pork buffet to remind her of the portion sizes she’d be missing for the next month.

new love of my life

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Miss Fats is devastated.  She writes to you en flight to Taiwan, where she soars away from the new love of her life: peanut pancake.  Miss Fats has been having an affair abroad with this insanely tasty treat.  It’s crack: she looks for it everywhere: hawk eyes constantly in search of her next fix.  But she needs to take a step back and tell you about how they first met, for it came as a serious surprise that hit like lightening on a hot, sticky day in Melaka…

Miss Fats and T had been wandering the streets of this tiny historical town for two days.  They’d been lost more time than they could count and nearly killed trying to bike on the opposite side of the roads.  She’d like to stress the absurdity of their directional problems: 1. Miss Fats has an excellent sense of direction; 2. Melaka is tiny: no more than 3-2 km from one side to the other.  Yet for some reason this town was seriously screwing with any form of navigation.  Finally succumbing to the nonsense of the city’s twisting streets, alleys, and roundabouts, they adopted a slow and circuitous roll through the sleepy town.  Now this was relatively early on in Miss Fats vacation, so T was still seriously whining about the walking.  After baking in the hot sun and being “forced” to walk from one neighborhood to the other (literally 3 blocks), they stopped at a row of street vendors selling fresh fruit, noodles and drinks.  T immediately went for the cendol, a super sweet and creamy coconut jelly drink, while Miss Fats eyed the lone old man with an almost-bare cart sitting right beside them.  Peeling red letters on his hot window announced “Apam Balik, 2 RM.”  It was a standard roadside cart that housed two gas burners and a two-tired window unit with shelves that typically displayed the heaps of ingredients that went into the vendor’s freshly prepared meals.  Instead, Miss Fats spotted a single, folded cake: an unassuming, thick, semi circle that could have easily slipped right past her.  However Miss Fats looked more closely at the cake, the burners and quiet old man sprinkled bits over the two cast iron pans in front of him.  She zeroed in on that cake and it hit her what she’d stumbled upon: mother fucking peanut pancake.

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She’d heard of this peanut pancake before: it had come up in her research into Singapore’s hawker fair, and was flagged as a “must try” for breakfast.  They’d spent their last day in Singapore desperately trying to track down the treat before departing to Malaysia.  Not knowing too much about this morning treat, they were unsure if it would be accessible once leaving the city, moving it to the top of their list.  They’d spotted one stall at Tekka Market, a couple of days before, so they planned to return for one last treat before catching their bus out of town.  Unfortunately when they arrived to the hawkers center they found the stall closed and no other vendors offering the mysterious cake.  Miss Fats was beyond disappointed.  She was pretty damn defeated, feeling that she’d failed Singapore and herself (Miss Fats does not miss out on peanut desserts).

So, when she caught a glimpse of what looked like toasted, crushed peanuts peeking out from in between the golden brown fold of that thick cake in the old man’s cart window, she completely freaked out.  Gesturing for T to come and inspect the mysterious item, she shared her hypothesis. This was it: the illusive peanut pancake.  Miss Fats is pretty sure she literally shook with excitement as she marched up to the old man and ordered one up right away.  Eyeing the cake batter bubbling away at on the burner, she pointed, asking for “that one” instead.  “Fresh! You wait!” the old man responded with a laugh.  Miss Fats eagerly nodded and took a seat at a plastic table beneath a tarp tent on the roadside.  T left in search of cendol, and ended up making friends with the juice man (of course).  In a few minutes, peanut pancake man brought Miss Fats the bundle of goodness, wrapped in newspaper and steaming hot.  Once T returned she carefully opened the precious package, revealing the semi-circle cake cut into snack-size pieces, ready for consumption.  Even though it was a bit too hot to the touch, Miss Fats picked up the fresh cake and took a big bite.  Mouth orgasm.  It was thick, springy, and slightly chewy: somewhere between a damn good pancake and crumpet.  The cake was then perfectly moistened with a center of sweet and salty crunchy peanut goodness (at this point Miss Fats had no idea what form of crack this was).  Then she hit the corn.  So weird.  So good.  She found the cake to be dotted with hits of creamed sweet corn that were like bursts of starchy sweet that managed to bring out just the right amount of sweetness in the cake and provide a bright contrast to the richness of and salt from the peanuts.  Brain gobbledy gook.  She was smitten.  Life/brain explosion beyond repair.

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Nomming hard on this cake, Miss Fats announced about two minutes later that she must order another one.  There were no other options: she had to have the ability to consume this cake at all times.  She marched back up to the small quiet man behind the stall, who continued to work away over those hot pans, sprinkling peanut crack and magic all over bubbling batter goodness.  Miss Fats asked for another with a dopey huge grin on her face.  He seemed rather amused by her enthusiasm as he gestured toward the fresh one cooking up on the second burner.  Miss Fats then brought out her camera, asking to snap a couple of pictures of the treat as it sizzled away.  To her delight, he seemed just as enthusiastic about showing her the process.  With a big smile on his face, in broken English, he showed her each of the magical sprinkles that went down to create perfect pancake sandwich heaven.

Quickly wiping down the scorching hot pan with butter, a big spoon full of batter is thrown down which immediately forms bubbles, creating the fluffy, doughy texture of the cake.  He sprinkled a healthy dose of toasted, crushed peanuts, a little shredded coconut, sugar and honey.  This continued to cook as he added more layers of peanut and sugar, ending with a final flourish: the sweet corn.  Peanut pancake man pulled out a can of sweet creamed corn, and using a spoon he carefully dotted the cake with just a kernel here and there.  With each blot he made a little noise to emphasize the move: Miss Fats realized she was watching pure genius.  She was a goner at that point.  Her heart only belongs to one now: peanut pancake man.

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Miss Fats took her bag containing the treasure wrapped up for consumption in the (near) future.  A few hours later, planning their last day in Melaka, Miss Fats announced that she would need to return to peanut pancake man.  There was just no way around it.  She had to consume as much of his salty sweet goodness while she could.  It was like her damn life source at this point: life sans cake wasn’t really an option at this point.  The only problem was that due to their mindless wandering and complete lack of orientation skills in the town, getting back to that little street would prove problematic.  They had only stumbled upon it after countless turns and hours of walking, so retracing steps wasn’t exactly the best option.  However, the next day, assured by the spiritual bond that now held Miss Fats and Peanut Pancake man together, they set off in search of his nondescript cart.  As they hesitantly took turns and tried to find familiar streets, Miss Fats dreaded the reality that it was a Tuesday and there was a damn good chance he wouldn’t be working.  Stress trickled down her back as they walked through the sweaty streets of Melaka, and she tried to reassure herself that what she and Peanut Pancake man had was forever: she would get that cake.  And she was right: they were connected.

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There was Peanut Pancake man, quietly cooking away, creating those perfect, folded sweet salty treats of joy.  Miss Fats basically skipped up to his cart and ordered two.  She hoped he recognized her from the day before, but honestly she has no idea.  He muttered something and pointed to a fresh one he was in the process of making.  Their secret brain language indicated that he was making a special fresh one just for her.  Needless to say, Miss Fats hoarded that pancake like it was gold.  Let’s get real: it’s basically twenty-four carat crack.

Since that first magical afternoon with Peanut Pancake Man, Miss Fats kept her eye out for them everywhere she went, but found them to be harder to come by than expected.  This was a huge problem.  She craved peanut pancake all day, everyday, and her stash only lasted her about 48 hours.  Kuala Lumpur and Cameron Highlands proved fruitless in the peanut pancake department and it wasn’t until they arrived in Penang that she was able to get her hands on one of those perfectly toasty, peanutty folds of joy.

In an effort to explore the island of Penang, Miss Fats and T rented a couple of mopeds to get outside the city of Georgetown.  While driving along the coast, out to the northern-most tip of the island, aptly named “the end of the world,” Miss Fats spotted a lone stand selling her prized peanut pancake.  She blasted three short honks (their code to pull over) at T, who was in the lead.  However, failing to adhere to their driving language she carried on all the way out to the park about a mile further down the road.  It wasn’t until they’d reached their destination that Miss Fats caught up, yelling at T that she’d broken their code and caused her to miss out on the salty sweet snack.  Naturally she demanded they return to the vendor.

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Upon arriving Miss Fats was introduced to a new form of the pancake.  Instead of the fluffy, slightly chewy cake that had hooked her, she found a crispy fold stuffed with the same goodness.  This version was more taco-like, with a slightly chewy, wafer-like shell that provided a delightful vehicle for all the buttery, peanut corn action.  Not the same, but still totally satisfying.  This version was much less expensive and smaller version that seemed to be the “snack” form of the fluffy pancake to be devoured immediately while still piping hot and crispy.  She likes to think this was the crepe-like version of the original.  She was into it.  Standing on the roadside with her peanut taco, damp from sweat and the light drizzle, bits of filling falling onto her shirt was total sensorial overload: the stuff of magic dream time.

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Now Miss Fats will spare you a detailed account of every pancake consumed in the last month (thought if anyone would like to hear about the delicate differences, she’d be happy to oblige), and she’ll skip right to her last days in Malaysia.  Way north, on the insanely beautiful island of Langkawi, Miss Fats had gone a whole forty-eight hours without a peanut pancake fix.  Their time in Malaysia was ending and she was beginning to fear that she might never get her hands on one ever again.  This island, despite its amazing landscape, lacked in the food department and tended to favor flavors closer to Thai.  She was afraid that their trek north had taken them too far from the cakey goodness of those roadside pancakes and ushered in a new realm painted with yam ice cream (more to come on that).  They’d spent the day riding around the island (again on rented mopeds) and finally found their way to a small night market for dinner.  They were on a serious food mission: they had limited time before they needed to return their bikes for the evening and raging appetites from all that damn nature they’d taken in.  About five stalls in Miss Fats noticed a man perched over a hot grill serving up something remarkably close to her beloved pancake.  Only these little versions were small, oblong crepes that he quickly fried, flipped and finally scraped off the grill, causing them to fold perfectly in half.  He then stuffed them with a mixture of peanut or kaya (the greatest coconut crack jam of all time).  Miss Fats basically ran to him and ordered up.  The excess of emotion at that moment was probably too much for T to handle.  Miss Fats was so damn excited to get one last bite of pancake before she left this magical land.  She probably could have cried.

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They continued their stroll in search of dinner only to find about three stalls later another peanut pancake operation.  Only this time they had all three forms: fluffy, crispy, and bite size.  Despite just having consumed two pancakes Miss Fats ran up with just as much enthusiasm and ordered a big fluffy one.  Joy Joy Joy.  How does it get better?  They discovered they had basically found the peanut pancake market: there seemed to be a vendor offering up at least one form of the perfect treat every three to four stalls, sending Miss Fats into pure salt-sweet heaven overload.  Needless to say all forms were consumed and pancakes were taken to go.

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Now that Miss Fats departs the land of magical peanut she remains loyal to that original pancake.  Peanut Pancake Man and Miss Fats are bonded for life (whether he likes it or not): he changed her mouth-life that day and hooked her on a nut drug that she’ll probably spend the rest of her life trying to find and recreate.  In fact, she’ll probably just quit life, move into a hut and work on her perfect canned corn to peanut sprinkle ratio. If Miss Fats goes missing you know where to find her.  Kind of.

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.