As the better half sleeps off the jet lag, and with the twin towers of Petronas gleaming outside the bedroom window like two enormous silver bullets, getting thoughts down for my first post (no wait, second, thanks to Charles Saunders’s Quaffable blog) seems to make sense. Kuala Lumpur, where we’re now laying our hats thanks to landing a new job, is as I remember it from a visit a few years back.
Roasting peanuts, sweet Char Kuay Teow and the warming stench of durians waft across you every now and then, reminding you that KL is a truly mashed-up city, each of the Indians, Malays and Chinese taking the best of their cuisine and creating their own concoctions. For a foodie, you can’t really get better than Willy Wonka-style living every single day.
A culinary farewell tour in the UK took us from Marlow to Padstow and back to London, our stomachs straining by the time we boarded the plane. I was hoping for some gluttonous respite although in my mind I knew half the decision to move here was about the food…. as a KL emigre said to me on a recent Asian cooking course: “I’m so jealous you’re going, but you’ll come back 3 stone heavier – just look at me!”
Looking down at my pale swollen belly, so far, her prediction is bang on the money. Three days getting our bearings, three days of stodgy hotel pastries and three days of fantastically cheap food take their inevitable toll. The hotel gym sends out a distress signal but so far my radar isn’t picking up.
On the flipside, wine-wise things are looking down. I was prewarned that Malaysia is pretty alcohol-unfriendly by Robyn Eckhardt who moved from KL to Penang and is a food journalist. She’s also on the money. Beer is pricey, spirits more so. Wine in the supermarkets is marked up to dizzying prices, and that’s just the plonk. OK so I exaggerrate a little, but not so much. Who wants Villa Maria at £20 anyway? Robyn sneaks it in to her luggage on visits to Thailand, and I think she’s on to something. Or at the very least bringing us a bottle will be the tax we levy on all those visitors threatening to descend on us.
My cherished asset of a carefully selected cave of wine now lounging in cool air-conditioned luxury… in the UK, not in KL… will have to wait several years before I can be seduced into liquidising it. The bonus is that with alcohol more excluded from the diet, I should shift some of this lard.