I’m having a hard time thinking of what to write today. I guess I’ll take the easy way out by answering a persistent question that many friends who have dined with me in restaurants before like to ask.
“You don’t eat beef?”
Usually this question would be followed up with the obvious follow up question.
“Why don’t you eat beef?”
And then, usually these questions would be followed up with attempts to answer the questions themselves.
- Religion – You Buddhist/Taoist?
- Health – You avoiding red meat?
- Taste – You don’t like the smell and taste of Malaysian beef?
All right, I’ll tell you more…
First, to clarify, the statement “I don’t eat beef” needs to be added with these three words: “when in Malaysia”. I don’t eat beef when in Malaysia. I would not resist beef when I am in the US or Japan. I am not able to provide a specific reason as to why I have this strange behavior. I guess it is a mixture of a few things.
You see, my family is a Buddhist family. Mom and dad are (quite) devoted Buddhists. Me? I suppose I am a hybrid between Buddhist and atheist. I like to call myself an Intellect Buddhist. I study the teachings of Buddhism, I believe in the laws of karma and the powers of meditation. I don’t quite like going to the temples to partake in hours of mass prayers and scripture recitals. I don’t quite embrace the idea of praying for good fortune. The Buddha teachings that I read tells me that one should do good but not to expect something good in return. Not quite tally with praying for good fortune if you ask me.
Right, I am talking about beef. Do not get distracted.
So, when I was a kid, mom prohibits us from taking beef. If you are a Buddhist or Taoist then I’m sure you know the story of how when Guan Yin Bodhisattva 观音菩萨 was still human, he cut off a piece of his own flesh to offer to a cow and managed to convert the cow from meat eating carnivore to grass eating herbivore. So a Guan Yin believer (which Buddhists and Taoists are) should not eat cow (which beef is made of) because cow is a sacred animal.
As a kid, I didn’t think much of it. When you are a kid, what mom says is right. If mom says do not eat beef, then we must not eat beef. As I grew older, exposed myself to Buddhism teachings instead of just Buddhist prayers, and became the Intellect Buddhist that I am today, I continued with the habit of not eating beef. I guess I was just used to this habit, whenever I read a menu, I will automatically skip all the beef options. Since it does not cause me any inconvenience at all, I am just not bothered to change this habit.
I’m not sure if I want to call this reason a religious one. I guess it is more a mommy reason. I figured when I am in Malaysia, I am quite close to mom, so I do not want to eat something that she doesn’t want me eating. Especially when I am in KL, if I eat or drink anything that she does not approve of, she would be able to smell it from my mouth even after a prolonged period of time.
I still remember there was once when I was high school, I went out with friends. We had a beer at Red Box Karaoke in the morning, then we went for lunch, then crashed a friend’s house, then had dinner, then go home, and the first thing mom asked when I greeted her was: “Why you drink beer??”
And, it’s got nothing to do with how beef tastes or how it affects my body. Come on, I eat pork and I love bacon, I’m sure the (lack of) health properties between pork and beef are almost identical.
So, if I do not eat beef in Malaysia, why do I eat beef in the US and Japan?
Well, as a general rule, my habit is to not eat beef whenever possible. I would only eat beef when I have no choice. When I went to the UK, Europe, Singapore and China, not once have I thought of eating beef.
But when I went to the United States, things changed. If nasi lemak is Malaysia’s national dish and fish and chips is England’s national dish, then I think the steak is the American’s national dish. So, let me rephrase one of my statements above. I would only eat beef when
I have no choice not eating it means I am missing out on an absolutely essential experience when traveling to a foreign country.
When my US work counterparts travel to Malaysia, they always lament the fact that the steaks in Malaysia are horrible and that comparing US steaks to Malaysian steaks is akin to comparing chocolate and shit. Looks the same but totally not the same! And then when I was going for the first time, colleagues who have been to the States before said: “You must try the rib-eye steak, at least once! Else you gonna regret for the rest of your life man!”
When you hear things like this, how can you not try it? Right? So I did. In fact, I had quite a few wonderful steaks over my few visits, both in San Francisco and Colorado.
Crap, no… this is the wrong picture. Why am I showing you picture of a dessert? Silly me.. This dessert is called the Big Brownie Blast. It was my first time having hot cake topped with cold ice cream. It was my first time tasting heaven. It was soooooo good!!! Of course, today you can actually find similar desserts even in Malaysia, in TGIF or Chili’s or Morganfield’s, but when it was a first experience, the awesome factor was 100 times greater!
Nooo!! What am I talking about?? Beef!!!
Yeah, this is beef. This was my first meal in Colorado, in fact. I had it in Lone Star Steakhouse just across the street from my hotel. It’s a Sirloin/Chicken Breast Combo with Mashed Potato side. It was my first steak and it was also my first introduction to the real American portions.
Here’s the picture of another steak meal I had when in the States. It is a 6 ounce rib-eye topped with shrimps and assorted vegetables. It was one of those dishes from Applebee’s Simple-and-Fit menu, where all the dishes are 550 calories or lower.
And then, when I had a business trip to Japan, I had beef too. Come on, you know that besides sushi and sashimi, the most famous food export of Japan is the wagyu beef, right? Right??
Much like how I did not have a choice when in the US, I did not have a choice in Tokyo! Not eating wagyu beef in Tokyo is simply not an option!
Oh man.. I got the wrong photo again. Tis’ not beef, tis’ mixed seafood platter. I had this in a fancy restaurant called Tokyo Ocean Grill. It is on the top floor of Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku. It was 5900 yen (RM 180/US$ 60) and it was the most expensive meal that I have had, ever.
Beef! Go back to beef!
Yeah, tis’ beef. Tis’ wagyu beef strips. At least that’s what the menu said. I mean, that’s what the kawaii waitress said the menu said. That’s what “Kore wa? Wagyu sutoripusu desu.” means, right? (This? It’s wagyu strips.) .. I had this is Denny’s, which is (ironically) an American family restaurant chain. The price for this plate of food was 2400 yen (RM 72/US$ 24).
I have never told my mom about me breaking her don’t eat beef rule. She never asked, and I never mentioned. I suppose if I did not talk, then I did not lie to her. Of course, if she reads this, I wonder if I will be in trouble, or how much trouble I will be in.
And, I actually set out to write intellectually, but I guess in the end, it is just another show off post, showing you the awesome food I have had on my working trips… Oh well…