For real though, they are. Every mall is HUGE (some of the cities have MORE THAN ONE mall the size of the Mall of America!) and they all have a “food court” in the basement. There is also usually one of the larger grocery store chains set up in the basement as well.
That alone should be easy to navigate, but even in the US I was never much of an asian food eater, so I arrived here basically clueless about asian foods…. and honestly, I haven’t gained THAT much knowledge since I’ve been here!
I have my few favorites… in Thailand I love Pad Thai and Tom Yum Khun soup. In Korea it was awesome to go out with friends for Korean BBQ. In Japan I tried so many different things with my friends, I couldn’t pick a favorite besides my old stand-by sushi.
But it really hit me when I was in Kuala Lumpur, I am so clueless about food and food traditions here in Southeast Asia. I was in the food court of Pavilion Mall and I walked the length of the whole thing and had NO CLUE how to even order some of the food.
Some counters are familiar, a menu up on the wall and you pick the food and order. OK- IF I knew what even 40% of the food at the counter was… that would be easy.
Some counters are just food out on the shelves. Rows of food, sometimes with plates or bowls out front, sometimes not. Sometimes with a pot of hot water or something else siting there with a woman behind it, what is she doing? What do I do with all that food on the shelves as I walk by?
I walked through twice before I decided to try the Indian place. It had a menu on the wall AND food out front. I figured at least I could order from the wall and see what happens!
I ordered Lamb Masala and the man offered me some fried squid from the shelves in front. Uhm, no thank you. “How about some fried shrimp?” Sure. So he added that on to my lamb dish. Then he added rice and some chapati and everything else felt a bit more normal.
I am so much braver to try these things when am with someone, but even though I didn’t go for something completely new, I felt pretty brave and proud of myself for trying the Indian counter even when it had all the food out front that I had no clue what I was supposed to do about!
Have you ever been intimidated by food in a foreign country?