One thing that any true blue Malaysian must have when they are having their plain white rice for breakfast, lunch or dinner is gravy.
Rice unfortunately is the staple food in this part of the world and gravy have been a “close partner” when it comes to have a rice based dish. This is why you will see a Malaysian’ face glowing with anticipation when he order Nasi Kandar at our local mamak restaurants – the guy handling the dishes will wipe 2-3 gravy from the various curries into your plate.
Any types of gravy will do starting from the famed curries (chicken, fish, mutton, etc) to spicy sambals (even sambal kosong will do) to the fresh cuts of raw chilly in soy sauce. And when there is nothing else, one just adds water and make plain congee (using yogurt is another crude but effective method).
(There’s chicken under the gravy and button mushrooms – it suppose to be taken on it’s own or we can order plain white rice as the side dish. The taste of the gravy although seems to be spicy – in actual fact is only had a mild spiciness. There are fries as well but there are not chilly sauce to go with the fries)
The fact is no one eats plain white rice on their own – even with non-gravy type side dishes – without any gravy, eating plain rice feels like eating shreds of paper. It is difficult to swallow unless you take a sip of water every time you take a spoonful of rice. Any restaurants in Malaysia that serves rice without any gravy will not have customers.
Same goes if one is having bread – many opt for curries instead of just plain butter and jam. Those who have taken roti canai banjir would know what I mean by this – there will be more gravy than the roti itself.
(Another chicken based gravy dish served with hard cold plain white rice – the good thing was the chicken been well cooked so much so the meat comes off the bones easily)
When we were in Cape Verde, we had this dilemma when presented with plain rice without any gravy and the side dish limited to boiled or washed up fresh vegetables. Talking about fresh vegetables, I seriously doubted the level of cleanliness of the fresh vegetables as one day we found a “dead” worm on it.
We would often use olive oils, ketchups or chilly sauce on the rice so that it does not feel too dry. Sometimes the problem is communication – some of the restaurant staff don’t grasp the concept of having curries or some form of gravy for the rice. Sometimes when they do understand us, they usually wipe out a simple gravy consist of olive oil with chopped up onions & cabbages.
(One of our favourite for the level of gravy on the plate but it still tasted bland – we had expected some fiery peppers or chillies in between the chicken but there was none. This was served without any bones)
At the hotel, we are a bit more lucky in sense that they will always provide a small bowl of gravy comprising of kidney beans and chilly oil. Sometimes if we order the fried fish based dishes, the chef will make a form of gravy that looks exactly like onion sambal back in Malaysia but without the sense of spiciness.
So we would often celebrate when we do get dishes during lunch that comes with proper gravy – perhaps we miss the food back home especially one like Nasi Kandar.
To be continued…