Once again I went to a local vegetarian eatery, Blue Boy Vegetarian Center, to try a different dish. This morning I had “curry laksa,” a bowl of noodles in a spicy coconut milk-based broth.
Toppings included bean sprouts, faux fishcake, char siu, fried tofu, and something resembling an omelette, made from yuba, sheets of soybean milk, like the skin that forms on top of pudding.
While I was eating, a stout Chinese woman in a black t-shirt and leggings walked in and loudly said something to me, looking at my food. “Curry laksa,” I responded, trying to remember what it was called.
She asked me something else which I didn’t understand. As I sat there silently, thinking, what was that word? Don’t I know that word?, she exhaled, “Aaah,” and walked away saying something else, which was probably, “She doesn’t understand.”
She went to inspect the food, then ordered the young women who were cooking. The stalls in this hawker center face outward, so as they cook, their backs are to the customers, seated in the center section. Customers can go right up to where the food is and take things. In fact, I have seen someone grab another piece of stuffed fried tofu, or another ladle of soup on their noodles.
The woman sat at a table about 15 feet away from me. After she had finished eating, she leaned back in her chair, Buddha belly protruding, took a swig from her bottle of water, then stared at me as I ate, with her eyes wide apart on her flabby face. A woman who must have been her sister, since she shared the same fish-like face, and a man, ate with her, saying nothing. The woman barked orders to the young cook across the room.
Two minutes later, she and her sister stood next to the cook, who was dwarfed in comparison to their bulk, while she talked to her in chopped orders, breathing over her shoulder. She poked at the package of hamburger buns. From the back, the bulges of her cheeks were visible past her short ponytail, which stuck out behind her head, adding to her balloon fish-like appearance.
Her sister went to the car to wait. She turned to watch me eat and pursed her plump lips in response to me pursing mine in a fake smile. The cook had walked away, so she left to bark at her some more. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying, nor could I even tell what language they were speaking. It was likely Malasian with a Chinese accent, because I’ve noticed that Indians will say things in Malaysian with an Indian accent, and I’ve recognized a few Malaysian words spoken by Chinese with a Chinese accent. As if understanding people were not difficult enough already! Then she took her take-out meal and they drove away.
I certainly wouldn’t like to be one of the cooks here. Not only do you have Cinderella’s stepsisters barking at you, but you also have to work with the customers literally in your face and your food. No like, lah!