Thursday, November 10, 2005

One or two reservations

We're big fans of Anthony Bourdain, here at Fried Rice Thoughts. Kitchen Confidential is one of my favorites. (The sitcom "inspired" by the book? Eh, not so much.) And I'm (slowly) making my way through A Cook's Tour right now. (Check out Pub of Knowledge's review.) So my mother was excited when I told her that Bourdain's TV show - No Reservations - was filming an episode in her native land, Malaysia. Mama Cass hasn't been back home in six years. And I haven't been there since I was the cutest one-year-old you've ever seen. We were both eager to get a little taste of Malaysia, even if it was through television.

Unfortunately, I botched recording the show the first time it was broadcast (yes, some of us still use VCRs to record TV shows). But the Travel Channel gave me a second chance a few weeks ago, and this time I got the timer right.

The episode began in the jungle, which seemed to confirm the many jokes I've made about my mother's homeland during my lifetime. Bourdain and his companions ate food wrapped in bamboo leaves, cooked over fire, and I asked my mother if she ever had a meal with a fork or spoon. I'll let you imagine her response.

But later in the episode, however, when Bourdain hit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was looking like a place where I could hang. He toured the market district and interviewed one guy who seemed really, really, well... What's the Malaysian word for "gay," Mom? It's what this flamboyant gentleman was selling that made Mama Cass take notice: Lotus seed paste buns, her favorite dim sum dish. Since we have dim sum every other Saturday or so, Mom smacked me for my previous ignorant comments and said, "See? You'll love the food there!"

Mama Cass was right; Kuala Lumpur looked fun. I contemplated whether or not we could make a trip to Malaysia next fall. Bourdain continued his tour of the market, looking for a popular dish that was also daring enough to make his TV show worthwhile. He found what he was looking in a bowl of Torpedo Soup. A big bowl full of rich curry broth? Ooooooh. "See? You'd like that!"

And yes, it looked good. But Bourdain's been eating crazy shit on this show, like porcupine and bone marrow on toast. This didn't look so bad. Then he revealed the secret ingredient of Torpedo Soup: boiled bull penis.

I screamed and covered my mouth. Mama Cass laughed. A thick, long coil of giant bull dick lurked underneath that previously tasty-looking red broth. Apparently, Malaysians believe this dish enhances a male's virility. And I'm sure it's cheaper than a prescription of Viagra. How's that for date food?

Genital soup aside, Bourdain seemed very taken with Malaysia. The serenity of the surroundings, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the kindness of the people compelled him to reconsider the life he would return to in New York. Mama Cass smiled contentedly as Bourdain expressed his love for her homeland. I'm not sure if she was watching the show or reminiscing over her life before she came to America. Me, I was thinking about spending my afternoons stretched out on a hammock in warm temperatures.

So we're talking about it: a vacation in Malaysia next year, probably in the fall. (I'd prefer Christmas, actually. Oh, that's a whole other blog entry...) I'm on board for the trip. The soup, however, I think I might pass on. I wonder how much beef jerky and granola I can take with me?

▪ ▪ The Malaysia episode of No Reservations is being replayed Monday, November 21 at 10 pm.

(Photo by Diane Schutz/ DCI)