Just like what momma used to make.
CYBERJAYA, Malaysia- They call it rojak.
“It’s like whatever you have in the refrigerator you put it altogether and mix it up,” a Malaysian Sikh in Cyberjaya explained to me as we stood before a food stall in a hawker center.
“So it can have chicken, tofu, noodles, vegetables, other meat, anything in it.”
“We have a food like that where I am from!” I responded in surprise. “We call it a garbage plate.”
I grew up in between Buffalo and Rochester, New York. While Buffalo gave us chicken wings Rochester gave us the garbage plate.
A garbage plate and rojak is the exact same thing, made for the exact same reason, with the exact same ethics, in pretty much the exact same way. However, while the Rochester garbage plate tends to have hot dogs and French fries as a staple, the Malaysian variety relies on noodles and … well, anything.
The rojak stall was run by two women from Myanmar. They emigrated to Malaysia four years ago. Apparently, they found an economic niche for themselves finding whatever food they could find, slapping it on a plate, and calling it rojak in the hawker center of a new city devoted to high-tech R&D. All of the dishes that they offered were some form of rojak: normal rojak, rojak with chicken, rojak with fish …
I ordered a rojak special. I was told that this would have the most stuff in it. When it comes to garbage plates, the more stuff the better.
I paid $1.75 for a heaping plate of it and went to sit at a table of guys who work for a block chain startup. I felt a tinge of nostalgia as I looked down at the mess in front of me.
I have no idea what everything was that was in it so I will just post a photo and you can identify the various parts and pieces for yourself:
“The name of that dish is a euphemism for when you just can’t be bothered to care,” one of them said with a laugh.
I dug in.
Like the garbage plates back home, it was enjoyably disgusting.
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