The last ditch

Little India Market, Kuala Lumpur
Saturday night market in Little India, Kuala Lumpur

If you could choose your last meal in a country, what would it be?

It’s a much more concrete question than some imagined last supper: unless you’re on death row or about to commit suicide then chances are you’ll have no power over the menu for your last meal, making it a question barely worth mooting as often as it is mooted. Most people who are executed don’t get any choice (contrary to the American myth) and being on your death bed also tends not to elevate the appetite. What the “last supper” question is really asking is “what is the best that you’ve already eaten?” from which the questioner is meant to discern the palate of the questioned or at least receive an answer pre-fried in nostalgia.

As for a last meal in Malaysia, what I’d do is bury myself neck-deep in a crowd and eat whatever the locals are chowing down upon, preferably in an open air environment.

Which is what I did.

The Saturday night market in ’s Little India could not be more packed without the crowd trampling each other to death ensuring that some in their midst had died whilst consuming their last meal. The food draws ecumenically from ’s faiths making it a great destination to either bone up on your knowledge of regional specialties or revisit the greatest hits of your time in Malaysia. There is also a great deal of street food that seems to be of questionable provenance, by far the most dangerous of meals.

Roti tarbus

Witness roti tarbus, a spicy Sloppy Joe made from a sweet white bun stuffed with minced, chilli-infused meat and wrapped entirely in a thin layer of fried egg.

Roti Tarbus

Once again, Asia seems to be at the forefront of perfecting variations on American classics. The mix of chilli and fried egg is one of the world’s great flavour combinations in a one handed food.

roti kebab

Roti kebab is kebab meat fresh from the rotating pole, served up in a sweet bun topped with a squirt of commercial mayonnaise and a dose of barbecue sauce. Saccharine and squishy.

Kuala Lumpur Fried Chicken

Fried chicken gets the stringy-looking outer coating from shreds of galangal, that lesser, woodier cousin of ginger; and is served in Styrofoam clamshells to be eaten elsewhere.

laksa assam

On the more traditional front, this stall is among the handful of street vendors outside of Penang to be serving Penang-style assam laksa, doling out both bowls and thin plastic bags. This version was tartly sour and thin but judging from the crowd and the near impossibility of procuring a seat on the communal tables behind the stall, this is the way that Kuala Lumpurites like it.

With a full stomach, I left Malaysia on the bus to Singapore, then onto Tiger Airways redeye to Melbourne, Australia via Darwin.

After almost three years, I’m home and it’s weird.

7 Comments The last ditch

  1. Maytel

    I know its weird huh I feel like you guys, me and Hock and Anth and Andrew are like ‘the class of ’07’ in the ‘school of hard Cambodia knocks’…I can imagine the plot to a really bad teenage movie based in Cambodia where its all about our own salvation rather than anyone elses….

    I don’t find it weird to be back, just a tad boring, expensive and tasteless…except for the beer that is…mind you I am in Canberra

  2. mouselovesrice

    here here.

    although, i don’t remember the knocks being all that hard, quite frankly. the 9-5 bump and grind on the nyc subway is a lot rougher than my moto ride to work. if only there was a way to rationalize development work not being a total and complete waste of my time and other people’s money.

    ps: i thought the lesson of emergency sex was, you do more good by having sex with the locals than by teaching them human rights, because then you get to know them, really know them.

  3. Maytel

    wow, looks like you guys are into some pretty classy literature

    mouselovesrice….i think that perhaps Thailand still subscribes to that idea as a development strategy

    “sex with locals as a development strategy”, forget PRSPs “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” . From my time in Cambodia I can positively attest that a number of the old white expat development specialists incorporated this policy into their overall development work too….what a wonderful industry, pay old white men a thousand times the local wage to live in expat ghettos and have sex with the locals…..a recipe for development if ever there was one!


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