Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Addition (or Multiplication) of the Mua Chee

I don't know what this incident is supposed to teach me, but I'm sure there's some profound lesson here.

I was having after-dinner dessert at a Taiwanese restaurant behind my house. A few years back, a relative treated my family to lunch there, and I recalled that dessert then had been a huge platter of the best mua chee I'd ever tasted. In about 7 years since of tasting various pasar malam, food court and shopping mall versions, I have not tasted better mua chee. Seven years seems long enough to take before you throw in the towel and conceded that to the best of your tastebuds' knowledge, yes, this is indeed the best mua chee in town.

(Yes, I do take my mua chee seriously. I am less passionate about local food than the rest of my family, but the few things I like, I like with fervour. Incidentally, if you have yet to be initiated to the mua chee fan club because of a sad state of circumstances whereby your country has no such thing, I feel your pain and feel I must describe it so you can see why I love it so. It's a large lump of glutinous rice dough that's light, blotchy grey when cooked. Yum!)

The Instruction
I ordered a single serving, which the menu said cost RM2.50. I did not ask how much was in a single serving. Nowadays, at open air food courts you get a reasonably big box (about the size of those politically incorrect fast food foam boxes from the 1980s) for between RM1.60 and RM2.00. After ordering, my best friend and I continued the sentence we'd started about an hour before at dinner. When we meet up, it's impossible to find a full stop anywhere in the conversation, so it can be said to be one long sentence.

The Production
Anyway. Talk talk talk, and soon an arm appeared before me with a dish of mua chee on it. And the dish contained... six whole pieces.

I gingerly speared one with the pointy bamboo toothpick while telling best friend to dig in. She did. We were both thinking, "What a rip-off!" And I'm quite sure we both said so in an undertone to each other.

The Multiplication
Until now, I'm still squirming at the thought that maybe that undertone was a little over, because after a few minutes, I was completely taken off-guard by another arm appearing with an identical dish containing more than twice as much as the first one had. The first dish now contained two lonely pieces, because over the past 15 minutes the RoMCC (Rate of Mua Chee Consumption) had been rather low in view of the limited supply. Without a word, the waiter took the first dish, tipped the two pieces in to join their new friends, and started to walk off.

An exclamation of surprise from us must have made him turn around, because he did, and explained beautifully why our order had suddenly multiplied. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand a word of his English due to his accent. So we just ate, in the hopes that we hadn't been misunderstood to be ordering two servings each. I did grumble a bit at the possibility of having to pay for more than I ordered, but it was still the best I'd ever had, after all...

The Comprehension
In the end, I found out that the kitchen had spontaneously prepared the second plate "because the first serving was so little". But some mysteries remain. Then why didn't they just prepare a larger serving to start with? Did they wait to see if I kept a straight face or blew a gasket so they could tell how much more to give me? Did my facial contortions really say, "He who charges much but provides little will find himself at risk of boycott from angry mua chee connoiseurs"?

The Application
Anyway. As I said, this must be meant to teach something, but I'm not sure what. It could be any of the following:

  1. It's best to complain audibly to management rather than reflexively make funny faces.
  2. It's wise to ask what the serving size is before you order.
  3. Smile at the manager and service staff a lot so they'll possibly feel bad about serving you too little.
  4. That is a good place to go to for mua chee, after all.

Oh, one last thing. I forgot to add in the description a hundred or so paragraphs back that the chewy, slightly salty boiled dough is then cut into little pieces about 2cm by 3cm by 1cm, and rolled in a mixture of crushed groundnuts and sesame seeds with a touch of sugar, and the final product is delicious beyond description. Think peanut butter with a mixture of textures and a confusion of tastes that leaves you reaching for the next piece before you're really done chewing (only applies with big servings), and you'll have an idea of something 10 times less tasty than this stuff. Think soft and squishy with coarse and crunchy. Think smooth with rough.

When you get to the part about thinking of where in PJ I believe the best mua chee can be found, let me know.

It's already almost a whole day since my last fix...

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