I’m here in Kuala Lumpur International Airport waiting for a flight to Sydney. It’s about 10:30 pm and my flight doesn’t leave until 1:15 am. Then I’m to endure an eight hour plane journey before arriving in Sydney at 9:30 st (stomach time). I think I might have something to tide me over since it’s unlikely that I’ll actually eat before 10:30 st.
The wonderful aroma of East meets East with a hint of West greets me as I approach one of the many eating areas in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It’s intoxicating, if a little confusing to the uninitiated, slightly green, Western traveller. The challenge of making a selection from the endless varieties of food almost has me undone, when I pass a young couple sharing a plate of curry. Their eyes meet as his hand gently brushes against her hair, they whisper and her cheeks flush for the briefest of moments, then a quiet giggle as the couple return their attention to their forgotten meal. I’m a hopeless romantic so the choice is made: Curry it will be. The problem is that since I’m not a curry lover, I don’t have it often, leaving me with the dilemma of what to order.
I narrow the choice by asking for vegetarian. Excellent, only three dishes to choose from. The only one I’ve heard of is dahl (I really am inexperienced in the area of Indian cuisine), so I think to be safe I will indeed go with that. With the agony of meal selection behind me, I begin to relax, when I’m assaulted with an unexpected choice, sending me into a blind panic. Would I prefer red dahl or yellow dahl? I didn’t even know that dahl came in a choice of colour, so with the idea that yellow is a happy colour, thus making it somehow seem safer, I select the yellow. Relax. Suddenly, another unexpected choice . . . would I like rice? Again I have no idea of what is coming and whether I should or shouldn’t have rice. I decide that since it has been offered it’s likely to be the correct choice. Yes please. Relax.
Upon receiving my meal, I insert my spoon into the rice bowl and am completely taken aback by the experience that follows. I’ve never seen rice float before, but that’s what it does. It’s like a soft cloud hovering above the bowl, moving carelessly in a mild breeze before raining gently onto the plate below. With the addition of the dahl, what lay before me is no longer just a meal, it’s a work of art. Muted yellow carelessly spread across the white plumpness of the rice. Colour, texture, aroma and finally the taste. A taste as beautiful and haunting as the art itself. What follows is a joyous initiation into the cuisine of India and a dahl that I shall not forget for a very long time. It is almost wonderful enough to forgive the hideous name of the establishment: “Chutney Mary Indian Fast Food”. What were they thinking!
Co-written by Laurence Stevens and Megan Utters (alias Mega Nutters)
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