Bonding Over a Claypot

For N’s final graduation lunch, we went to Penang (a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown). Penang is this little gem in Chinatown that no one talks about, but damn the food is heavenly!  Every dish I’ve ever ordered there has been a burst of flavor.  It is a blend of Indian, Chinese, and Thai food-How could it not be heavenly?!  I used to always order the Nasi Lemak which comes with Chicken Curry, coconut rice, a hard boiled egg, pickled veggies, anchovies, and pickled onions.  It is the best plate ever!  It is not my style to stick to one dish, but this plate is so good that it’s hard to resist every time I go there.

So there we were at Penang with N’s parents and thus needed to order a variety of plates to share.  I got my usual, but we also ordered sizzling beef, beef rendang, coconut rice, and clay pot curried prawns.  As everything arrived, we were digging in without conversation and had almost finished all four plates, when we realized the clay pot prawns hadn’t arrived-  “oh, well”, we said and continued to eat.  Then, just as we had finished off 3 plates full of food, came the glorious clay pot prawns.  This curry is a perfect blend of Thai and Indian food!  The sauce was this amazing coconut based sauce reminiscent of red curry, but it also had some serious spice mixed into (I think there was some cinnamon, cumin, and possibly coriander).  I couldn’t get enough of the sauce!  In fact, when there was no more rice left, I picked up a spoon and continued to indulge it like a soup.  It felt a little embarrassing as my future in-laws watched me go crazy for the first time for food.  Just as I was thinking that I may be revealing too much of myself too early, N’s dad looked at me and said, “that’s a great idea” and poured some sauce into a tea cup and drank it!  My kind of man!

For the past few years, N’s Dad has been a frustrating presence in my life because he reminds me of my dad with whom I am still working on a relationship.  He (N’s dad) has an opinion about every decision that I/we make.  I have even watched him tell N to re-park a car to his liking.  Needless to say, anyone who has to have it their way can get annoying fast.  So yes, he has this side to him that irks me to no end.  However, there also this crazy fun and relatable side that I get to see every now and then.  The side that has to sample the local food of any city he is visiting.  I remember the first thing he said to me when he got off the plane in Nashville:  “When can we get barbecue?”  And the first thing he said when he came over to our place in Boston: “Where’s the good seafood here, I want a lobster burger!”  If you climbed inside my mind, these same phrases would be living there.  After all, I visit NYC primarily for the food.  I recently went to Nashville, and didn’t feel right until I went to get some brisket, baked beans, and banana cream pie. 

Any man who can eat a plate food with the same spirit as me is my family.  Forget that he can be controlling and pushy some times.  Forget that I have to set clear boundaries with him.  We have an unconditional, deep-rooted, insurmountable love for food and this is binding!

Also, I have found a new dish that I can’t resist the next time I go to Penang.

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