THE MELTING LAMB AND THE CHAAT BHATURA REVELATION
So my Malaysian colleague at lunch mentioned this place in Bangsar that cooks lamb shoulder over charcoal and that it melts in your mouth.
He had me at charcoal.
In the evening, I found myself at this row of restaurants nestled in a dense residential neighbourhood in Bangsar. I found Bakar and I was the first customer. I knew what I wanted and let the melting begin.
Calamity struck. The lamb shoulder was triple the price of all mains and it was clearly stated “Serves 2”.
I repeatedly asked the server if it was really big and perhaps I could finish it if I ate slowly or perhaps he could persuade the Chef to do a half portion. I puffed up to my maximum size, squaring my shoulders and practising my dominant Alpha male poses. Three times he shook his head, looked at me up and down and shook his head again. The lamb shoulder must be the size of a horse. Or I must have looked like a small Chinese wimp to him.
Bitterness swept over me as I rejected every option he helpfully offered, apologised and decided to leave.
I walked up and down the stretch of restaurants and there was meat everywhere – steak restaurants, ribs joint promising lamb rack and beef brisket slathered with hickory sauce. But I knew if I bit into average lamb, I might get emotional and burst into tears.
So in a tragic Mama Hokkien drama moment, I decided on a hipster mama food place called Ganga Cafe.
It was 100% vegetarian.
This was how morose and suicidal I was.
I ordered a Aloo chaat as a starter to remind myself of the days I used to work in Northern Mumbai and suffered endless food poisoning. A Bhatura was summoned as my mains.
I wanted an Aloo curry and asked if it was spicy. The nice and patient North Indian server told me they cook each dish separately only when it is ordered and asked how spicy I wanted it to be. I told him “Tak Boleh Tahan Spicy” in a gruff tone. He shook his head from side to side in complete agreement without missing a beat.
I then saw nasi lemak on the menu and felt cheated. I got into accusatory litigator mode and interrogated him with eyes flashing. He showed me the delicious looking fish for the nasi lemak. smiled and said it was mock fish, made of soy. Whattt?
I ordered it.
The chaat was finger licking good and the creamy yoghurt binding everything was thick and cold. I couldn’t believe how good a vegetarian meal could be.
And the mock fish ? Awesome . It tasted like the best nasi lemak fish I have ever tasted.
I just couldn’t believe how great the food was. Then I glanced at the walls and was enlightened. I had inadvertently stumbled into Vegetarian Heaven.
On the way back to the hotel, I was pensive and reflective. Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. If the simple vegetable could satiate me, maybe meat, sex and rock roll is just an illusion.
There was only one problem.
There is meat in Imbi.
And the night is young.