Here is how I traveled to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia without getting on an airplane!
Toronto, Canada is a melting pot of cultures – heartland of immigrants from around the world. Over 140 languages and dialects are spoken by the citizens of Toronto – so it is no wonder, there is a vast variety of cuisine to be had in this city. No one wants to be homesick and food plays such an important role in all cultures and represent their heritage.
Since my return to Toronto from my 2013 Epic Journey to 14 different countries, various friends have commented on the photos of food I had posted on Facebook while traveling. They wanted to step out of their comfort zone and try other cuisine. However, they couldn’t just jet off to a far away land to get a taste of the Asian or South America cuisine. So a suggestion of a mini travel tour without a 15+ hour flight came about.
The day came about organically – encompassing Food + Culture + Spirituality.
We braved the nasty weather and drove half an hour to the city of Mississauga. For me, it feels like I am leaving the country and require a passport – that explains the severity of my “City Girl” syndrome.
The weather in Toronto has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. A blast of Polar vortex for a few days (high of -15C) and then “balmy” weather (high of +1C) today but mixed in with really wet snow flurries. The roads were a slushy mess!! So it definitely did not feel like we were headed to hot and humid Asia!
Anyhoooo – when we arrived at the restaurant that is owned by Singaporeans, I was happy and so was my friend! Lion city restaurant is named after the original name of Singapore which is Singapura or “kota singa”.
The restaurant had simple decor with table cloths of Batik prints. The menu focused on a sampling of authentic Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian and Thai cuisine. We were both in starvation city mode and was overwhelmed by the menu offerings.
As we waited for the food, I shared a few of my travel stories from Malaysia and Indonesia with Kristine. I explained the cultural significance behind Batik prints and Kristine asked how do I make friends while traveling solo. Even though I am not an extrovert, I am quite comfortable with striking a random conversation with a perfect stranger – when I am in the mood. I guess it just comes with the territory of solo travels.
When the food arrived, it was hard to contain ourselves.
Laksa lemak, also known as Nyonya laksa, is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture. Laksa is a coconut-based curry gravy. Peranakan culture is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. When I tried this dish for the first time in Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia – I was glad that I trained myself to eat spicy food prior to embarking on this journey! Let’s just say, this was far from the mildly spicy food I grew up with.
Tasting this Beef rendang gave me an instant flash back to my first night in Malacca, Malaysia. Sitting at a riverside restaurant, under the bright moon lite sky, watching fellow tourists on small boats pass by on Sungai Melaka. The hot, humid air filling my lungs – I wondered how different this city was back in the 1400s, before the Portuguese and the Dutch explorers arrived.
Considering it’s the middle of winter in Toronto, it was a bit crazy to order this frozen treat. However, I missed the hidden surprises that can be found at the bottom of a bowl of delicious Ais Kachang and I wanted to share the discovery with Kristine. My mouth froze pretty fast and remembered I actually do not have to race to finish this treat. Back in Singapore and Malaysia, I would have to try to eat this dessert as fast as possible to avoid eating a bowl of slush. This time, I had to take sips of hot tea between spoonfuls of flavored Malaysian ice shaving!
The conversation during the late lunch was all encompassing – my current yoga teacher training course, my past travel adventures, my future travel tour creation process and a sprinkling of insightful questions posed by the beautiful Kristine.
After filling our tummies, we traveled to the quaint Port Credit which is located at the mouth of the Credit river and hugs the northern shores of Lake Ontario. It offers marinas and beautiful parks. With the snow storm though, everything was covered in a blanket of white-ness!
We admired the large scale houses in the neighborhood and stopped in the Rhododendron Gardens. The gardens was a perfect location for us to connect with nature on a personal level. I walked around a giant willow tree and made a snow angel while Kristine found answers to her questions. It was a spiritual experience.
It’s been many years since the last time I built a snowman. This time with Kristine, we decided to make a snow woman – with a sexy skirt and willow belt! It was a nice bit of physical exercise to work off some of the delicious food.
We decided to warm up with some hot beverages and some Malaysian cakes at a local coffee shop. Seri muka is composed of steamed glutinous rice, the white bottom layer and the green pudding layer is made from coconut milk and pandang leave. Kek lapis is literally a layered cake, the 2 toned brown cake.
This was such a fun day to experience and share with Kristine. I’m looking forward to more food tours in Toronto and around the world! Would you like to join us?