Hi there! Welcome to Part 11. Thank you for (re)visiting As it Cooks. 🙂
Long time, no blog. No blog, no fun. But it’s a can’t do it all, can’t have it all world, folks. Truth is I’ve been having a blast since the summer break began. A much needed break for sure. I’m a proponent of work hard, play hard. So far, play’s been great! And you? What have you been up to? I hope it’s going very well for you as well. 🙂
I’ve been traveling. I’ve also been visiting family. In between the two, I’ve been busy foraging and discovering sleepless cities and little towns and harbors–places that slow down my heartbeat and let me breathe. Along the way, we GPS-ed 360. I absorbed fully the joy of finding myself in new locations and the thrill of meeting the locals as they went about their day. That’s always the best part, don’t you think?! Bear in mind, this was my very first trip to the Pacific Northwest. If I sound like a deer caught in the your headlights, so be it.
So this was what Day 2 had in store for me.
First of all, the temps were in the low 40s. Pleasant. Refreshing. That’s nothing like the Great Plains this time of the year. The ever-so powerful rays of sunlight which I had secretly brought along from home were failing to find their way through thick layers of clouds. But here’s the pleasant surprise. The windows of my Fairfield hotel room were all nicely misted up. No kidding. Waking up in Washington was hard to do. I don’t know how you Washingtonians do it but kudos to you! If I were to move here, I’d transform into a Mrs. Owl. I’d sleep all day long and Garmin good chow at night. But strangely enough, at the back of my mind, Vancouver kept calling my name. The BC pull was so strong I dragged myself out of bed and hopped into the shower realizing that my next long shower would be in, well, Vancouver, BC. The much-talked about beautiful,Vancouver BC. After grabbing some protein at the hotel’s hot breakfast, Mr. Chi-Town and I headed out. The hotel was filled with smiling faces.
Next stop? The car rental. Then what? The Malay Satay Hut-lah.
We pulled up hungry at the parking lot earlier than expected. Ten minutes seemed like a long wait for the Hut to open. As if he was waiting for this moment, Mr. Chi-Town pulled his sunglasses down and started messing with the rental car stereo. Scanning the area, I noticed Kiki Bakery a couple of doors away. Light bulbs went off, so I decided to kill a quick ten minutes at Kiki’s. Mr. Chi-Town was quick to sound his “alarm” which I instinctively sensed was coming anytime anyway. “Save room for the Hut, Tee.” I gleefully walked in and walked out of Kiki’s with a cute little coconut bun. Hate to say that I totally forgot to take a shot of the bun nor the bakery. My primal need to eat a bun got the best of me.
Wait. Have I shared with you my secret love story with regard to buns? Not just any buns but Malaysian buns back home. These aromatic, dainty little buttery rolls came with an array of fillings and flavors: Coconut, raisins, egg custard, red bean just to name a few. They were made and baked in local cottage businesses which proudly utilized old school baking techniques and generational recipes. One of the best parts about growing up in Malaysia in the early 70s was that we never really had to venture out to of our homes to grab a snack. Instead, these inexpensive but tasty snacks that we never really knew how to make perfectly at home came venturing to our door steps regularly at predictable times of the day in the form of the “bread man” (aka “roti man” aka “CNN”). As a kid, I was always faced with a predicament. Too many bun options. Not that I was spoilt for choice. With Tiger Mom towering and hovering over me with her little beaded purse bursting with shillings, I was torn. With a dozen different options, I was supposed to pick one out of the lot. I grabbed two on days when Tiger Mom got distracted by the “roti man’s” latest news updates. Of course by the time I became a teen, I had gone through “roti man’s” bun-nery like nobody’s business. Literally. And “roti man’s” soft, buttery bun with real palm-sugar sweetened grated coconut filling was my ultimate favorite of them all.
Anyway, with Kiki Bakery’s permission, I managed to take a shot of these. The colorful ice cream macaroons were not really my focus, folks. It’s the note below that caught my attention.
Decided? Isn’t that a “bad word” to use in a bakery/cakery/ice-creamery context? I know that first-hand, and I’m sure you do, too.
By the time I walked out of Kiki, I was ready to brunch at the Hut. Vancouver was looming, so we decided to make brunch a quickie.
This menu was placed on the table.
As we were seated, I caught a whiff of familiar as well as unfamiliar aromas coming from the kitchen. The busy chef was heard messing around with all kinds of pots, woks, and pans. By now, I was gently rubbing my palms together ready to savor every little drop of “Malaysia.” At least until I saw the menu.
“Crab meat and fish abdomen soup?” I asked Mr. Chi-Town. Feeling a little apprehensive, we settled for the can’t-go-wrong, real “Malaysian” dynamic duo: Chicken satays and roti chanai.
Chicken satays? Good. Peanut sauce? Good. Next, we sampled the roti chanai.
Even though the roti was dense and “heavy”, I went for it. One piece literally filled me up. A side of curry sauce that came with it was a little too mild for true Malaysian cuisine. All said and done, the dynamic duo was not bad.
As soon as we wrapped up our brunch, we hopped on to the road that led to Blaine and then on toward Vancouver BC. As we drove, it started to drizzle every now and then. Being Earthlings from the Great Plains, we were amazed at the “perpetual” cool weather, the lush greenery, and the frequent sprinkles. The 1 1/2 hour drive on this cloudy day was interesting in the sense that we passed by little towns and houses nestled among wooded areas. There wasn’t a need to stop for food. Have bun will travel — thanks to Kiki.
Soon, we arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border. It was time to pinch myself and pull out my passport. Hello, Canada! Hello, BC!:)
Within minutes, we were officially in Canada. What a feeling! We’d made it! (By the way, this was my second trip to Canada. My first was to Toronto in 2015 for a TESOL conference.)
Our next lodging was in Richmond, close to the Vancouver Airport. Daughter #2 had stayed there before and had highly recommended the Hilton. Boy, was she right! Looking out the glassy window of the room on the 14th floor, we could see in the distance planes landing and taking off from the busy Vancouver Airport. A grey day in it’s true sense.
After leaving our luggage in the room, we took a stroll along the street by the hotel and discovered Kirin. Unlike Kiki, Kirin was a full-fledged seafood and dim sum restaurant. 🙂
At the time we walked in, the restaurant was full house. A friendly waiter asked if we had a reservation. You guessed it right 🙁
Vowing to return, we headed back to the hotel and ordered a take-out: Garlic prawns for me and a hamburger for Mr. Chi-Town from CAVU, the hotel restaurant. It was a learning moment for Mr. Chi-Town who requested his hamburger medium rare. The friendly kitchen staff explained that serving medium rare hamburgers is a no-no at CAVU, for it’s illegal to sell less than fully-cooked hamburgers in Canada. Was he happy? No. Was he hungry? YES!
We sat by the lobby window waiting for our order and noting the flurry of activities that was going on outside the Hilton.
Across the street, everything was glassy. In one of the floors, we saw a group of middle school-aged children taking a martial arts class. Watching these kids took me back to the days when athletic daughter #1, a taekwondo yellow-belter at the time, would demonstrate the skills she had learned from her instructor. Scrutinizing her every move, toddler daughter #2 would jump in and mimic her sister’s “fancy kickwork”. (Does it sound like mama bear is missing her all grown-up bambinas?)
The first long shower in Vancouver BC was fantastic. So was the TV. The food shows and local news in Mandarin, English, and French were really fun to watch. The bed was plush and comfy. As it started to drizzle again, the calming sound of rain against the quiet 14th floor hotel window lulled us to sleep. That night, we said “Good night” in a perfectly quiet hotel near an airport that never sleeps.
The pot’s thickening, folks! We’d had two long days back-to-back since we’d arrived in Seattle. Now five shorter-than-short days in Vancouver BC were looking at us in the eye; the itinerary we’d planned was long. We decided to take one day at a time and drive wherever we wished anytime. The mantra was to savor the wondrous Vancouver in a seamless, stressless manner. So far, our little white rental car has been doing very well. Let’s see where it would lead us.
I welcome you to return to Part 111: Tee’s Trip to the Pacific Northwest which will be coming sooner-than-soon. Once again, thank you for visiting As it Cooks.