Bookalokal: Malaysian

Last night we went to a complete stranger’s house for dinner. We’d found them via the recently launched home dining portal bookalokal, which matches up diners in search of new experiences with cooks willing to welcome people into their homes and prepare a meal for them. As you can see from the site the choice is very wide, and we decided to go for Malaysian, as it’s not something you find much of in Brussels. In fact, according to our host, there’s one Malaysian restaurant in Antwerp, but it’s not as good as his wife’s cooking.

We arrived with another couple of friends at the address in Tervuren, just east of Brussels, and were warmly welcomed by Nur and her husband and two children. While their four year old son scampered around and their ten year old daughter served us water we chatted and got to know each other. Nur has been cooking since the age of nine, when she had to cater for the whole family while her mother was out at work, and it’s obvious she’s been honing her skills ever since.

Our starter was a selection comprising satay,  Otak otak (the leaf at the top of the plate which contains a kind of spicy fish cake) and the item on the right whose name I’ve forgotten but which was a tasty blend of marinated meat, egg and tofu.
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Here are our hosts, presenting us the main course.

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Our dining companions seemed happy with it.

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Our main dish was tomato rice, chicken with a spicy tomato sauce and a cucumber and pineapple salad.

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Finally the dessert which was a beautifully sweet combination of bananas, coconut milk and tapioca pearls. Our American friend Ashley said that it reminded her of Bananas Foster from back home. Here’s a recipe which sounds kind of similar.

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Afterwards we talked a lot more, comparing expat experiences and lifestyle differences between Europe and Asia, food, schools, work, you name it. It was a very relaxed yet stimulating conversation. Plus the fact that we were discovering new food in someone’s home and could talk to them about it and the culture from which it comes meant that we got a much more rounded experience than if we’d just gone to a Malaysian restaurant. If we’d been able to find one…

I’d recommend you try bookalokal if you’re in the Brussels area. We certainly plan to do more of these, and would be happy to go back for another Malaysian feast some time.

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8 thoughts on “Bookalokal: Malaysian

  1. Erik R. July 3, 2013 / 1:54 pm

    What a fantastic idea! Do you bring money, or just wine like a regular dinner party?

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    • simonlitton July 3, 2013 / 2:10 pm

      We paid in advance, so there’s none of that awkward handing over of cash. It worked out at 33 Euro per person.
      As they’re muslim they didn’t serve alcohol, but I guess that varies depending on your host.

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      • Erik R. July 3, 2013 / 3:55 pm

        What a genius idea for a website! It’s a win-win-win situation. I wonder what cut bookalokal takes. I’d be happy to cook a meal for four well mannered strangers for 20€ each.

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  2. simonlitton July 3, 2013 / 4:21 pm

    It’s the kind of thing you’re amazed no one thought of before. Like airbnb.com, there seem to be a lot of sites now matching up travellers, diners, etc with people who want to provide an occasional, artisanal, bespoke service. And the personal aspect only makes it a more enjoyable experience.
    I wonder what I could offer…?

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  3. Erik R. July 3, 2013 / 8:48 pm

    I mentioned this to my connection in the food industry, and she was surprised that such a transaction is legal. In the countries where she’s worked, there are strict licensing procedures you must pass before you are allowed to serve food in exchange for money. Perhaps the middleman website blurs the issue a bit, but you went to a residence (not a registered business address, which could also be an issue) and paid them to feed you. Perhaps it’s so small as to still be under the radar of the government regulatory bodies…until some litigious prick gets sick, I suppose.

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  4. paolao July 5, 2013 / 10:55 am

    Besides, they sell “an experience”, not dinner…

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  5. J August 1, 2013 / 1:10 am

    My mother in law should do this…she is from Guyana, though Indian by heritage. Guyanese curry is different from Indian curry. Not a LOT different, but different enough that people might be interested in trying it out…

    Now I want her lamb curry and roti, actually.

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