Yum Cha KL – Very stupid indeed.

We arrive at Hong Tee’s Tim Sum (Yum Cha/Dim Sum) restaurant – HUNGRY. I’m joined by my cousin Sheba and her family (husband Ian, and 6 year-old daughter Tia), My grandmother (Popo) and Sheba’s friend Camelia arrives 10 minutes later.

I’ve never eaten yum cha with my Malaysian family before but I’m delighted to report that they eat yum cha just like me. Hard, fast, and without regard for anyone else. There was no messing around, and there were no boundaries, especially when it came to something as trivial as quantity. Within seconds there were 12 dishes on our table, then within 15 minutes when Camelia joined us, we had ordered another 12 dishes, and ate these extra plates as if nothing had happened prior to her arrival.

The food was delicious, though I wouldn’t say outstanding or better than yum cha’s I’ve been to in Sydney (go Hung Cheung in Marrickville). Major differences are that there were no western alternatives; like the marinated lamb cutlets that they serve in Crows Nest yum cha, or the mango ice-cream pancake, though they didn’t have my favourite chinese desert either, Tofu fa – a boiled curd (tofu) in sweet syrup. Which I admit doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is.. trust me.

During our yum cha session my Popo was saying something to Camelia about me. Camelia is Chinese and understands Cantonese. I waited patiently and expectantly for them to finish so Camelia could translate into English.

Camelia, sympathetically – ‘My grandmother says the same thing about me in public’

T – ‘Why? What did she say?’

Camelia – ‘Cheong (low tone), it means stupid.’

T – ‘oh (surprised), I heard her say ‘Ho cheong’?

Camelia – ‘Ho means ‘very’, so ‘very stupid’.’

I know my gran would have only called me ‘Ho cheong’ in the most endearing way possible, and for my 84-year-old chinese gran to be able to remember more English words than I could remember Chinese, or even Bahasa, it was pretty embarrassing on my part. Luckily, both my gran and I blame my parents for not keeping a bilingual household in Australia – What a ‘cheong’ decision it was for parents who could speak up to 4 languages to only teach their children english – Ho Cheong!

T’s gastronomic adventure!

There was a perfect plan to Malaysia – Learn my mother tongue, get fit, and skill up on cooking the local delicacies.

Operation Mother Tongue – I was going to learn Mandarin and practice with my grandmother. She doesn’t speak english, and this way I would finally be able to have a conversation with her, and with more than a third of the world’s population (bonus!). But when I proudly told my grandmother that I was going to take Mandarin classes, she replied ‘Mandarin?! I don’t understand Mandarin!! Don’t you know I only speak Cantonese..’ (Nope)

Operation Get Fit – I was going to sign up to a yoga program and use this time in Malaysia to concentrate on getting healthy, as I had failed to do so in the ashram in India. I discovered a yoga studio near where I’m staying and did one hatha class which put my back out for a week. Since then I’ve been too scared to return. And too lazy to go anywhere else.

Operation Culinary Courses – I was going to take formal cooking classes to learn to prepare a couple of my favourite local dishes at an expert level. In reality, formal cooking classes have instead become informal eating lessons. I’ve learnt that I can easily devour more than three yummy meals a day, 7 days a week, with no problems! In fact, every day I become a better, faster, stronger, food disciple, knowing exactly what I feel like hours before meal time.

New plan! Malaysia is my gastronomic adventure, where I will spend quality time with the family eating. And if this leads me to a soft, cushiony, immobile place, then at least I won’t be able to understand my grandmother when she tells me off for getting fat.