My friend Sharon, a Malaysian lady who also lives in Seattle with her family, said something the other day when we went trekking together, that struck me as irrefutably true, and I was surprised I'd never realised it before although it's something most Malaysians would already know: that Malaysian Chinese will travel anywhere, just to eat.
From the famous Klang Bak Kut Teh to Penang's Jelutong Asam Laksa to Ipoh's Cowan Street Chicken Kuay Teow soup to Sabah (or was it Sarawak?) for its Ko Lor Mee, we pride ourselves as being the most travelled food lovers in the world. And that is because we are blessed in Malaysia to have a diverse array of multicultural cuisines, all within driving distance. Well, one has to take a plane to Sabah/Sarawak, but even that has not stopped us.
In the US, we are still trying to find our way through the many gastronomical delights the beautiful city of Seattle has to offer. Arby's Reubens are good. The Malay Satay Hut is not. We found a Chinese eatery called Joy's Wok just ten minutes walk from the house, that serves tasty and cheap standard fare like Sweet and Sour Pork and Chow Mein.
Still, after three months, the food trek has been pretty tame. We've not found something that keeps us going back for more, so much so that if a friend from Malaysia is visiting, we would not be able to take him or her anywhere that's uniquely Northwest American. Mostly also because we don't know what THAT is. Yet.
Anyway, back to this whole travelling to eat business.
Yesterday, for their last night in Seattle, we decided to bring Lokes' parents to Red Lobster in Lynnwood, a town about 15 miles from Redmond, to enjoy their LobsterFest, because their ads on TV just made it look too good to pass (yea, we're much too gullible when it comes to food). Since we couldn't make a reservation, we decided to throw all caution to the wind and drive that many miles to see if the seafood was really as good as it looked.
30 minutes of uneventful driving later, we arrived at the bustling town of Lynnwood, which seemed like a small metropolis of restaurants, eateries and delis. I mean, never have we seen so many places to eat crammed into two, three strip malls side by side like that. Every American restaurant brand was there, including of course, our destination, the Red Lobster. Lokes dropped us at the entrance, we wrapped up the kids and proceeded to enter the establishment, our appetites ready to take on as many grilled crustaceans as we are willing to pay for.
Only to be faced by a wall of people waiting to be let in.
"How does it look?" I asked the hostess, a young, attractive girl who seemed very stressed out by her stressed out would-be customers. I mean, the waiting lobby was PACKED with hungry people. Who wouldn't be a little worried?
"How many?" she asked.
"Four adults and two kids," I answered.
She flipped her pages and pages of people's names, and came to an empty one, scribbled a "four" on it, and looked at me.
"30 to 40 minutes?"
In the best Malaysian food travelling tradition, we chose not to wait. I mean, driving 15 miles for lobster we don't know is good or not, is already giving it face. To have to wait what could be an hour to eat? No way.
We ended up at Applebee's, just down the road, and ended up having a scrumptious shrimp dinner that my in-laws thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, we spent 30 minutes on the road, but it wasn't wasted. We discovered a food lovers' paradise here just waiting to be explored.
One outlet at a time.