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March 9, 2016

Moving and Discovering New Eats

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The move had been devastating. All day Saturday the lorry and van moved about 2 km between our old flat and the new one.


To recap, we left our former abode because the pool was closed for a year, the weight room was in disrepair, the building was leaning at a 10 degree angle and the landlord wanted to raise the rent. We said we would move. He said go ahead. So we did, although I think he was a bit stunned when the trucks arrived.


We relocated to the 20th floor of a large building. The view of Mt Santubong is stunning while the kampungs across the river seem small, but I do have binoculars. We haven't used the air conditioning since we got here as the breezes waft in from the sea, barely visible from here. The three bedrooms, separate kitchen plus a dining room, laundry room and living room provide much more space at about $280 less per month, a fortune here.


The last of the trucks had left and I went looking for food. We were in a Chinese area. All of the restaurants were closed except one. I glanced at the menu and saw mocks beef dishes, all arrayed with beef and sweet sour, beef and spring onions, beef and soya sauce. The next group had mock duck with about the same sauces as well as goose, vegetables and other dishes. I thought to myself this Mr. Mock was a famous Chinese chef, or it was a flavor of Chinese I had never heard of.


The Chinese here come in a variety of customs, food and languages depending on where in China they originated. There were Hawkins, Foo Chow, Haka, Teo Chu, Mandarin and many others. Their cooking is unique and usually very, very good. I particularly like the Foo Chow cooking because it is made with wine. Unfortunately, there are very few eateries here in Kuching.


I brought home three dishes and we were so famished we dug right in. The sweet and sour beef was heavy on the coating, the goose was strange but had a crisp outer layer, while the veggies were the usual young ferns pulled from the roadside, then cooked with garlic and mushrooms. The texture of the meat dishes were strange and I wondered what Chinese group had cooked the meal. Uniquely, I wanted to find out who Mr. Mock was, and why I had missed his cooking over the years.


After a day of unpacking, I took my wife over to the restaurant and I asked a very pretty Bidayu girl what group of people ran the restaurant. She answered it was a vegetarian restaurant; and I said I knew that figuring there was one or two dishes of that variety because there was also the meat dishes. She smiled at me and my wife as we consumed another strange but delicious meal.


Upon finishing the meal, I asked her if Mr. Mock was cooking tonight since every meal was prefaced by his name. She looked at me quizzically and said Mock meant “fake” in Chinese. I said I just wanted to know if he was cooking and she said no, no, it wasn't a name. The word meant “fake.” Then it finally dawned on me and I broke out laughing so hard the soya sauce rocked on the table.


The restaurant was a vegetarian one and the dishes were fake beef and sweet and sour sauce. The goose was fake prepared with vegetarian materials and the goose was made to look and taste like the real thing. All the dishes were the same way.


My wife caught on and began to laugh as the Bidayu girl joined in the jocularity. The Chinese didn't understand English, so they were left out of the merriment.


I said goodbye and wished Chef Mock a happy life.


...Life is good


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