16 April 2010

Family-Style Feasting

Deep-fried prawns and a round of Tiger Beer. It seems as if our menu orders arrive before we can even sit down on the plastic chairs in the restaurant. The cheery man, presumably the owner, serving us moves hastily to deliver the Heineken-crafted Singapore beers and a plate of sizzling hot seafood onto the plastic sheet covering the lawn table at which we’re seated. There are three of these tables; one of them serves as a cash register where the owner sits behind a box of bills, pretending to read his newspaper, but actually peering over its edge to see that any empty plates are quickly cleared and any dwindling beers are replaced. He never asks us if we need another 32 ounces; he just keeps them coming.

Much like the beers, the heaping plates of food that we order seem to come out of nowhere. We’re dining in a long, skinny concrete room with high ceilings and what looks like open garage doors on either side. There are no windows, the closest bathroom is probably two blocks away and there isn’t a back room or a food prep area. We don’t even smell food from where we’re sitting.

We don’t hesitate, though, to order a large meal from the mystery kitchen, and we certainly don’t mind all the beer on this burning hot day. After a few days in Malaysia, we’ve realized that tiny concrete hole-in-the-wall lawn chair parties are a Pangkor Island local treat not to be missed.

The owner doesn’t hesitate in bringing out our feast: shrimp cabbage salad with orange slices, thick black rice in lemongrass curry, bamboo shoots and chicken, green bean noodle soup, and spicy scallops swimming in coconut water. The once-oversized table is now laden with carefully arranged fresh ingredients that we transfer to our plates family-style with a drizzle of chili paste that we wash down with Tiger swigs. Food coma is inevitable.

A violent burst of island rainstorm begins outside the warehouse-esk tunnel. We can see steam rising from the hot streets. Another round of Tiger please. And some coconut ice cream with durian fruit to top it all off.

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