Vanessa Champagne '13: From Hands to Chopsticks
Vanessa Champagne was the 2015-2017 Shansi Fellow at Lady Doak College. This is her second year narrative.
It was a difficult goodbye. After two years living in India, it was hard to think that in a few days I will no longer be able to hop on my scooter and zoom through the streets of Madurai to my favorite restaurants. Savory dosas, biryanis, and idiyapums would soon be distant memories. Flash-forwards of me struggling to make sambars in my US home were accompanied by long sighs.
Outside of the window in the taxi to the airport, tiffin vendors and men preparing parotta dough for the night lined the street, as if to say farewell.
In a few hours, I would be in Malaysia. The thought of visiting another new country for a few days before returning to the United States was exciting.
To my surprise, when I arrived to Kuala Lumpur the downtown area looked just like Times Square or Michigan Avenue. Georgetown, a smaller city with colonial architecture and fewer high rises, was very pedestrian friendly. The food in both places was more thrilling than anything I had could have imagined. With a mission to taste all the soups I could stomach, I set on to explore restaurants, night markets and fish markets.
At the Jalan Alore Night Market in Kuala Lumpur, fresh tender coconut ice cream, grilled meats and steamed veggies were a few favorites. The Red Market in Georgetown was like a mini East Asian food festival. I had my fill of Vietnamese beef pho, Japanese spicy miso ramen, and Chinese mixian soup while listening to live renditions of American Pop Classics.
Pork Meatball Soup
While having a quick lunch at My Own Cafe I learned that asam laksa, what seemed like to national soup of Malaysia, was ranked 7th in CNN Travel’s 50 Best Foods in the World. I also realized then to what extent the eating etiquettes of India were ingrained in me. Going from eating with my hands to using chopsticks took some effort, but being able to adjust so quickly was gratifying.
In my memory India is a place of vibrant colors, busy roads, and delicious food. And Malaysia, a place of lush landscapes, bustling new city developments, and savory soups.