I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a cozy little one-story house that flooded more often than not during the monsoon seasons. However, my parents liked the quiet neighborhood. So, instead of moving, they took a year to have a second floor installed instead. Now, the second floor view was a boon to my childhood imagination. The tall palm trees surrounding it alone were often a playground for my neighbors pet monkey, and I got to pet him often as the tiny primate scurried around with his long leash tied securely to the belt-loop of an impatient-looking Malay youth.
Not far beyond this tropical oasis however, peeked the silver tips of several metal giants, skyscrapers that glistened in the sun, always abuzz,and always brightly lit, even in the inkiest of nights – a marvel of modern architecture. Up-close on my frequent trips into it’s bustling center, the city reveals a less lustrous interior, but remains home to what every Malaysian, patriot or not, can be rightly proud of – Good food.
The hawker stalls, the hole-in-the-walls, the creme de la creme of restaurant halls, I have yet to see anything in my world travels that can rival the plethora of choices that tempt the taste buds in my home town. No matter how many years I continue to spend my adult life in America, I can never shake off the memory of smoky, sizzling, wok-fried ‘Cha Kuey Teow’ noodles upon my eager lips, or the sweet, soothing notes of ‘Mango Lassi’ as the cold Indian dessert slides down my parched throat. They haunt me still, those tantalizing memories of meals, a stark reminder that while I may not go hungry here in America, my soul continues to starve for a taste of home.