A day trip to Asia
As much as I appreciate Oklahoma’s food and culture, I, a hidden immigrant from Southeast Asia, miss the smells and sights and tastes of where I grew up, a country so foreign that I would almost relegate it to the machinations of an imagination with too much free time. Though I would gladly spend hours serenading any bystander who had the misfortune of crossing paths with me with the wonders of home, I have realized that many will never understand what Southeast Asia is like and more just don’t care; so I’ve learned to let bystanders pass unimpeded by my passionate speeches. While many don’t care, in my wanderings across OBU’s wind-assaulted campus, I’ve discovered a group who can, to some extent, understand: international students, specifically those from my neck of the tropical palm trees.
Last Saturday, I emerged from my rock and ventured out into the scary world on a quest to an East Asian food market. With little cash to spend and without a kitchen to prepare any food, I went because I wanted to spend time with my friends, leaving the windy world of the midwest for a few brief hours. Living in Oklahoma, it’s difficult to imagine that such places of East Asian refuge exist; but as I was more than happy to find out, several such stores not only exist but thrive in the city.
As we drove up to the first market, a new world awaited. Along the perimeter of the parking lot, fake palm trees casually swayed with the wind. On banners across the walls, Chinese characters spelled out a foreign but reminiscent welcome. Beside the main entrance, a giant tea pot formed a water fountain. Inside the store, I realized that I was no longer in Oklahoma. A vast array of exotic tropical fruits lined boxes in the fresh section of the store. My mouth watered for familiar fruits from home–mangos, rambutan, longan. At other, less appetizing fruits–in particular, durian and jackfruit–I walked quickly away. I strolled up and down every aisle, soaking in the sights and smells. At the tea aisle, I was greeted by several dozen different varieties of tea with side-effects that included improving kidney function and burning off fat. Yes, this was not Oklahoma.
I would be lying if I painted a picture of perfect pleasure. To my horror, I found a product claiming to be Malaysian, but like a St. Greg’s student wearing a freshmen beanie, it was merely trying to pass itself off as something it clearly was not. The product in question, lime tea, featured a picture of a refreshing carbonated cola with lime on the top. Like the mosquito in a nudist colony, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, lime tea is not carbonated. Second, it’s not a cola but a water-based drink. Third, the lime is not some flying, splashing thrill thrown on the top. I will commend them, however, for actually including a lime and some form of liquid, but I digress . . .
Despite browsing two different Asian markets, I returned empty-handed but brimming with ideas for different dishes that I would attempt some day in the much-too-distant future.
Whereas I returned to OBU empty-handed, one of my friends came back prepared to make a famous Thai dish called mango sticky rice. In essence, mango sticky rice is a dessert that features a clumpy, long-grained rice bathed in a thin, sweet coconut glaze along with long strips of mango to counterbalance the sweet rice with its tangy flavor. Needless to mention that I was more than a little over-joyed when I heard that my friend planned on making some (which he ended up doing the following day. It was delicious and proved to me that Asian food is, indeed, a viable past-time in the States).
My time in the Asian market made me realize three things: first, I look forward to the day when I have my own kitchen; second, I look forward to having the money to furnish a kitchen with all the spices, utensils, pots, pans, and assorted equipment necessary to properly prepare good food; and third, I may one day be able to enjoy a good plate of fried rice in the States.