11. Wok-Breath

Kpop and a Portland Food Cart

The Tan family loves to eat but we do not necessarily seek out fine-dining experiences.  When we go “home” to Singapore & Malaysia it’s not the multi-course meal extravaganzas we look forward to, it’s the street food – you know, the kind where you have to be aware of the stray animals wandering around the hawker center and the guy making the oyster-fry is 2nd or 3rd generation, but the spoon he’s using to stir the wok is 1st generation judging by the wear.  I love sipping teh tarik from a straw sticking out of a plastic bag and unwrapping my lunch from a banana leaf.

Translated to America, I think the Tans should love food carts, although I think my brother and I carry the torch on this one.  I was crestfallen after Mommy made me promise not to eat any more tacos from the truck outside of Big Lots but I consoled myself with a giant falafel at the Saturday market when J came to visit Portland.  It was so cold and rainy we couldn’t feel our fingers but we zeroed in on the Lebanese food cart and there’s a picture of me looking very happy on the “About” page that proves we braved the weather and ate our lunch.

The whole family got in on the food cart action when I got sick and ERKE came to visit while I was still in the 1st Hospital.  They had a sick daughter/sister/aunt, but they still needed to eat so they stumbled on a street full of Food Carts and discovered some delicious banh mi (those Vietnamese sandwiches with pickles, jalapeños and cilantro, served on baguettes).  When I was awake and allowed a “community pass” outside the hospital (by this time I was at #3) my parents took me back to this street after my follow-up appointment with my surgeon during which I thanked him rather half-heartedly for saving my life.  (I’ve thought about it and I offer my very whole-hearted thanks now!)  I was still reeling from the shock of meeting the man who I had assumed  was a myth but had walked into the exam room on two legs like a normal flesh-and-blood human, so I’m not sure, but I think we got some seafood chow fun.

I had requested this noodle dish as soon as I was cleared to eat normally and Dad had gone to some different restaurants as well as this (or another) food cart to sample the seafood chow fun Portland had to offer.  I’m a little hazy on the details, but I’m sure I was craving those wide rice noodles, slippery with seafood gravy and oozing yummy wok-breath.  Wok-breath is that charred scent you smell when something has been fried in a searingly hot wok.  It’s like the difference between smelling a burger fried in a pan vs. one hot off of the grill.  You know it when you smell it, and I was hungry for it.    Happily, holding a pair of chopsticks still came naturally to me, although using them to get food into my mouth and then chewing/swallowing it was a little tricky.

Mom, Dad and I lunched at a favorite Italian place a couple days ago.  We all got some fabulous fish as our entree, but Mom was a good girl and got a plate of veggies as her side while Dad and I downed plates of pasta.  I speared a potato off of Mom’s plate and as it approached my nose and mouth the smell made me comment to Mom, “Good wok-breath.”

“Well, if the pan’s hot enough you get good results,” she explained.

I immediately applied that notion to my morning PT session where I met PT37 and in the grand tradition of the PTs who have gone before her she is one of those people who does not play around.  I know because she told me point blank that I would be working hard.  I told her I was used to PTs like that (Happy October, PT6!) and we’d get along just fine.  That was right after she had informed me we were going to practice stair climbing without holding on.  To anything. I asked her if she was quite serious, and she said “‘Yes.”  So yeah, I think the pan is hot enough.