Penang Factor!

A coworker and I had dinner this evening with someone we placed in a permanent job a while back. He took us to Penang in Bethesda.

I’m not going to write a detailed review, seeing as how I don’t remember the name of anything I ate, and I stopped asking what was in it after the incident I am about to relate- neither my coworker nor I had Malaysian food before, and so we allowed our Burmese dinner companion to order some dishes for the table. This didn’t concern me at all- I’m pretty adventurous about ethnic food and will try anything once.

The food was great- the lamb dish we had was my particular favorite- but I did have an Indiana Jones moment early on (remember the banquet scene in Temple of Doom with the monkey brains?) when the appetizers were brought to the table.

Most of the food on the platter looked tasty, but there were these brownish-black, translucent, wobbly crescents with cloudy black goo dribbled over the concave part- not at all appetizing. There were two of them and three of us, so I figured that discretion was the better part of valor and would let the boys eat them.

But my friend spooned one up and put it on my plate. “You have to try this,” he said, grinning. I wondered if he was having a laugh at my expense.

“What is it?”

“It’s an egg!” I had always assumed that thousand-year-old eggs were myths that ignorant white people came up with about Asian cuisine. Apparently I was wrong.

I blinked at the wobbly, gooey thing on my plate and pondered the limits of my adventurous spirit. My friend chuckled at me. Okay Tiff, other people eat this stuff all the time and do just fine, they even like it, so don’t be a wuss. I screwed up my courage, put the egg on my fork, and ate it.

It wasn’t completely revolting. But I wouldn’t call it tasty, either. Mostly I tried not to think too hard about what it looked like while I was chewing it. It felt like an episode of Fear Factor.

But I swallowed it. My initiation complete, the meal continued. Great food, great conversation. And then our friend insisted that we get a dessert he called “the ABC’s.” The description in the menu seemed harmless enough- shaved ice, sweet syrup, jelly, corn. Sort of a Malaysian snow cone.

And it actually was pretty good- it was in layers, so as you ate it, you’d find new layers of something else- all things I couldn’t identify and didn’t ask about, having learned my lesson.

But then I got to the bottom. On my spoon was this translucent, dark-colored, wobbly chunk. Surely not another egg? It sort of looked like Jell-O, maybe it was the jelly mentioned on the menu?

I took a bite and chewed, but I couldn’t purge the thought of that egg from my mind, so I gagged. Hoping my friend hadn’t heard me, I protested that I was full and that although the ABC’s were very good, I couldn’t finish. I tried not to stare as he ate his slowly melting dessert, with all those multi-colored bits of… whatever it was floating in it.

Overall? Great food, try the lamb, but avoid the eggs. *shudder*
(crossposted to

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