In the interest of frugality, I’m going to try and see if I can survive just on noodles this month (until pay day), following the proud history of Coke-addicted undergrads before me.
The rule is to just eat a pack of ramen each day that I am not: (a) asked out for a quick bite, (b) required at gunpoint to cook dinner for guests and (c) suffering from a debilitating illness that requires more substantial nutritious food.
Microwave timer starts now.
Funny enough I get some Indomie in the mail from the sweet and thoughtful Dan Powell, who took note that I missed this lucrative Indonesian export. It’s manufactured by the world’s largest noodle manufacturer (Sukses Makmur), owned by one of Hong Kong’s biggest conglomerates (First Pacific), which actually bought a controlling stake in Philex mines, whose base of operations was in my hometown. Eat your politics.
So I ate a pack of Kaldu Ayam (chicken soup?), which tasted so much like the compendium of spicy and greasy food from my Indonesia days, at my desk that night. Followed by a cup of Nissin beef noodles from the office vending machine because I needed the plastic fork that came with it to eat said Indomie. As delicious as freeze-dried goodies can get!
I wake up to this lovely treat from my landlady Mrs Chiu, who has this mildly discomfiting habit of presenting me with elaborate meals at random. I can trace this back to the day I showed up at their door with a heavy gift-wrapped package (tasteful gold-flecked glass plate) which my favorite “lifestyle and furniture” shop had helped me pick out as a holiday present for my elderly Cantonese landlord and landlady.
Granted, I had been feeling guilty about forcing myself upon them (I was for about two weeks an illegal squatter at this flat, abruptly taking over Justin’s lease without giving them notice), and for their allowing me to stay despite their qualms at Justin’s mysterious disappearance. (I remember their shell-shocked look while they asked, “Where is Scott??!”)
Mrs Chiu looked like she was about to cry when she saw the package and my card. And the next day showed up with Hainan chicken on a bed of noodles and a circlet of broccoli, in a sauce that I think came from a can of Campbell’s potato soup, plus an egg tart and a hot mug of instant coffee. Since then she’s given me countless Mandarin oranges, a few pears. When I had a Chinese-Indonesian friend over, she quickly prepared us a puzzling tofu dessert each. When I paid my rent early, she gave me some bakso-type soup as well.
I’m concerned if I appear to her incapable of feeding myself or somehow undernourished (obviously not), but it’s probably just her doting way. She probably always wanted a daughter figure, or just a female tenant. Or maybe I’ll get a hefty lunch and dinner bill at the end of my lease. But for now I’m just enjoying the prawn soup.
There is a traumatic postscript to that prawn ramen. Basically, moments after she gave this to me, I put it in my (broken) fridge as I wanted to head to the beach that day for some zen and much-needed alone time. But then my iPhone suddenly conked out just as I was about to hit Tseung Kwan O, and so I dejectedly headed back to Central after what was essentially a circuitous tour of Hong Kong’s train system.
I come home and open my fridge to douse my anger with some beer, but find that the bowl of noodles had disappeared. Right on cue, Mrs Chiu knocks on my door, ushers me to their palatial apartment, which is baroque in the way that it’s stuffed with two of every conceivable appliance. She sits me down on their dining table, brings out the bowl of noodles and moves to reheat it, while turning on a soap opera on one of their flatscreens.
At this point, the mix of frustration, rage and puzzlement just leaves me shell-shocked, the air-conditioner Mrs Chiu has just pointed at me failing to dissipate my aggravation, and I’m thinking why is she entering my flat without permission and looking in my fridge? Why is she making me feel discourteous? And as she starts frying some frozen roti in a pan, I have to get out of there, telling her I need to make a call to have my phone fixed. Moments later, she comes into my room with the entire meal, and sets it on my balcony table. It was just short of force-feeding me, because she watched me take pained slurps.
I truly had to marinate in my bathtub, drinking a bottle of red wine and some Heineken, and the confused, knotty inner turmoil just ruined my evening and that of Joe, during a friend’s going-away dinner. I’ve somehow recovered and about to tuck into another pack of Indomie, but I still don’t understand what the hell just happened.
Mrs Chiu catches me eating more IndoMie, clucks at me in Cantonese and after gesturing that this food is bad, runs off and comes back with dumpling soup.
Fish fingers and chips. Bag of prunes to repent.
Forgot to eat.
Nothing except some salad and pan-seared smoked salmon at Joaquim’s.
Nothing except really greasy Indonesian food at Bali Restaurant in Jordan, where Joe rails against instant noodles and Coca-Cola and then lectures me on smarter budget-eating.
Falafel balls from the vegetarian place down Shelley. And spicy ramen from a 7-Eleven.
Indomie is getting better and better!
Confounding soup with egg, two sausages and a number of unknown greens in it from MX, the MSG factory next door, which is the Chinese equivalent of McDonald’s.
Vitamin pill and a side of nationalism. Happy Independence Day!