Asian Epicurean Quest
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This piece began as part of a prose essay. It struck me that it might have the makings of a ‘prose poem’, although I am not completely clear on what makes such a poem. I edited the original aiming to distill its more poetic content while maintaining the narrative. I also gave in to the temptation to include some rhyming. Here I impudently aspired to emulate the poems of Ogden Nash which made a feature of long rambling couplets tied by witty, telling rhymes. But I dispensed with any attempt at a set metric form.
Asian Epicurean Quest
At the heart of China Town, Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) is Petaling Street.
Domain of hustlers, hucksters, cheap-jacks and diblers; purveyors of street food, rude t-shirts, and rubber sandles to put your feet on;
- genuine imitation Rolex watches and handbags by Gucci, Hermes and Louis Vuitton
Their targets the tourists -
Ageing Brit couples - white legs peeping out from unsuitable shorts; rangy bearded Australians and big Sheilas on the modern grande-tour;
Diverse other Europeans and the nouveau-riche of ex Soviets and China; all wilting in the heat before the post-noon downpour.
But this is not our destination.
Take a quick side-step, George Smiley style, lose the tourists; the corruption of the Street unfurled,
and we find ourselves within another world.
In the warren of half lit alleys that comprise Madras Lane: on either side, honest retailers ply their trade, defining the vicinity
Here: the freshest of meat, vegetables and fruits, a diverse infinity;
There: chickens - some oven or pot ready, and some alive, cheerfully clucking, and blissfully ignorant that their next rite-of-passage is in close proximity.
Turn and follow the path toward the light (as perhaps do some of the chickens near rest)
At a broader space of a food court; we near the ending of our quest
Where the lane spills into open bright space is my designate: Master Stall of the Curry Noodles. Never mind Michelin stars, Swiss Italian chefs and nouvelle cuisine; In its field this is world class food to gratify our bellies.
Overseen by a tall lean Chinaman with surgically attached wellington boots, and his wife, [note: the ‘Oxford comma’ distinguishes the wife from the wellies]
The ingredients piled ready all across the stall: arm long beans, purple brinjals, bean sprouts, fried taufu: fluffy or crisp, all sorts and varieties of noodles and the crowning discrete ingredient: crackling pig skin.
Then at the centre - the fountainhead of the whole ensemble: the pots of curry soup; simmering gold, orange and red liquids, of recipes unique and guarded, that bring everything together and give life, satisfaction within
Add to taste; the juice of three or four marble sized limes (for the Limey), fresh mint leaves and an extra helping of the wonderfully crackling;
if you are brave you may choose
to mingle an extra tingle from chilli (comes on a delayed fuse!)
With every mouthful a varying delight we perceive we have reached a personal alimentary holy grail which the body and soul had cry for
When every part has been savoured and imbibed and a warm glow is felt within, it is still tempting to scoop further spoons of the delectable soup remaining in the bowl, for the pure sensual pleasure of the flavour on the tongue, that will linger as a delectable recall of a meal to die for.
Copyright © Geoffrey Brewer | Year Posted 2018