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"I should remember that," said Debbie. "I do remember eating saté, though."
And so would we, after pulling grilled bits of chicken breast off of skewers and swirling them in the Malay Café's peanut sauce. Even better were the golden coconut shrimp, which had come jumbled around a splash of deep-orange mango-and-cantaloupe sauce. Tender, chewy slices of fried fish cake, however, needed the punch of the stinky chili paste.
Bob, usually wary of unfamiliar cuisines, eagerly sampled every appetizer that passed in front of him and all but hoarded a communal bowl of the amber-colored hot-and-sour shrimp soup. This brew was so potent with ginger, garlic and lemongrass that just inhaling the steam rising from the china bowl was as head-clearing as the first spoonful, which bubbled with pink shrimp, bamboo shoots and button mushrooms. It was such perfect cold-weather soup that I returned the following day to fetch some for a sick friend, who downed a bowl and announced that she was "cured."
Even more healing was a pale broth of roasted chicken, mushrooms and carrots simply called Herb Soup. "It balances the yin and yang," promised Allison, who then watched me from the corner of her eye, presumably to see whether I seemed more centered after my third spoonful. I certainly felt balanced enough to finish a heaping plate of saffron-colored nasi goreng, dappled with roasted chicken, carrots, tomatoes and peas, before reaching across the table for pieces of Bob's basil-flavored beef. (He was busy admiring the artistic presentation of the yellow steamed rice speckled with nuts, peas and raisins.) Debbie ordered a vegetarian dish, Malaysian Garden, a pile of sautéed vegetables shining under a blanket of gloppy ginger-flavored sauce. "It's a very clean, fresh taste," she said, noting that her pre-Snake Temple food memories were miraculously returning.
"The awful dessert I ate was made with sweet potato and tapioca!" she blurted. I looked over the menu and spied that very delicacy, Bobo Chacha, alongside much more enticing choices -- which I ordered with abandon (the herb soup had clearly gone to my head): coconut flan, peanut pancake, Malay Parfait! To hell with tapioca, I say, when you can dip into a snow-white flan, rich with coconut milk, or a frothy scoop of house-made pineapple ice cream perched on a thin stack of sweet crêpes scattered with peanuts. The piece de resistance was a blue glass goblet stacked with two scoops of the Yims' own ice cream -- pineapple and kiwi -- layered with roasted coconut and whipped cream.
The Yims use traditional Malaysian fruits -- except for the country's treasured durian, which reportedly tastes like heaven but smells like hell -- for their ice cream. "We have customers who ask us for it," Allison said of the durian. "We can get the frozen fruit. But the smell is too strong. It would turn other customers away."