Jessie & Ali

From: the USA and Iran Respectively

 Living In: Malaysia

The View From Her Kitchen
The Expat Table: Where do you hang your apron these days? (where are you living)
Jessie: I hang my apron in Bangsar, a funky neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur. 
TET: How did you end up in KL? 
Jessie:Long ago, I was a dirty backpacker and was passing through town en-route to Bali. However, destiny intervened. I ended up at a reggae bar in Chinatown, the night before my flight, and met my future husband, Ali.
TET: What inspires you to get in the kitchen?
Jessie:I like to create things, randomly. When I’m in the kitchen, I see what ingredients I have and depending on how I feel, I just make. 
A little magic in the kitchen.
TET: What does your kitchen look like? 
Jessie:  Well, we just moved into a funky studio. All the kitchen facilities are along one wall. Starting from the right, we have a hobbit refrigerator (Not a mini fridge but not a real fridge either), then a red and pink counter that takes up the rest of the wall. Underneath is storage, on top we have our coffee maker, some food, sink, stove top and the most important thing in our house, our shisha. We’re about to paint and are stuck on choosing blue or yellow. We also have a lot of food photos from markets around Southeast Asia. It’s sort of our thing.

TET: Do you make a lot of things from scratch? 
Jessie:  We do make excellent homemade yogurt and we cook home cooked meals but as for making cheese or dough, we don’t do it so much. 
TET: How has doing this changed your life? 
Jessie:  We make things from scratch because it’s something that we can do together. After a long day, it just feels good to listen to music, drink a glass of wine, and cook with my lover man. Also, I really hate buying prepackaged things, like yogurt. It’s wasteful and Malaysia isn’t huge on recycling yet. 
TET: When you are missing home, what do you cook? 
Jessie:  Tacos or Tex-Mex ( an awesome dip my mom makes). My mom makes the best of both and when I’m really missing her and days at home, I make ‘em. 
TET: What is the one ingredient you can’t live with out? 
Jessie:  It’s a tie between tomatoes and lemons. 
TET: How has KL affected your cooking? 
Jessie:  KL is a paradise for foodies. Food, GOOD food, of all kinds is readily available at all times. Dah makan is a common saying for, "Have you eaten?" And that just what we do here. During any given week, at some point, we’ll go to mamak (local eatery) for tea and tosai or roti, and usually at midnight. So, when we do cook at home, we make sure to eat fresh, raw, or wholesome. 
TET: Before you lived elsewhere in Southeast Asia.  How did living in Thailand/Malaysia affect your cooking? 
Jessie:  I never cooked in Thailand because food was cheap everywhere. Even fresh foods, not so much of that in KL.  I started to cook more in KL because Ali loves to cook and pretty much taught me what I know. 
TET: What do you do when you aren't in the kitchen? 
Jessie:  Most of the time, I write. I’m a freelance writer but I haven’t figured out how to survive completely on that. So, I also teach part time. When I’m not working, I’m crafting, going for walks, or traveling. 
TET: What do you want to make next?

Jessie:  Cheese!  A tradition Iranian breakfast is bread, cheese and walnuts. We eat this a lot. Sometimes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’d be nice to make our own. 

TET: How has being married to your wonderful husband inspired you?

Jessie:  Honestly, he’s really the one that inspired me to get crafty in the kitchen. Before I met him I used to never cook. Only breakfast sometimes. But he showed me the light : ) and how amazing Iranian food is. 

TET: How is cooking related to homesickness? 
Everything is related! Sometimes, we’ll be cooking an Iranian dish and Ali will say, “Oh, in Iran the vegetables and spices are brighter and taste better than here…” and it just goes down that homesick path. 
The View From His Kitchen
TET: You moved from Iran, to Malaysia and are married to an American. How has this affected your cooking, your ideas about food.

Ali:  Well, I tried more western style food, like yogurt in the morning. That’s just weird. We eat yogurt as a side dish with lunch and dinner. 
TET: How is cooking related to homesickness?
Ali:  Well, you remember those days when you sit at home and your mom cooks Persian food for you. Food reminds me of Iran and makes me homesick. 
TET: Where do you hang your apron these days? (where are you living)
Ali:  Kuala Lumpur. Bangsar. 
TET: How did you end up in KL?
Ali:  To study. 
TET: What inspires you to get in the kitchen?
Ali:  Well, sometimes I’m tired of eating Malaysian and Indian food and I want to eat something good, like kebob. 
TET: What does your kitchen look like?
Ali:  It looks like shit right now. 
TET: Do you make a lot of things from scratch? 
Ali:  Not as much as I’d like, but I want to do it more often. 
TET: When you are missing home, what do you cook?
Ali:  When I miss home, I don’t cook. I go to a Persian restaurant.
TET: What is the one ingredient you can’t live with out?
Ali:  Spice. Black pepper and the yellow thing. Saffron
TET: How has KL affected your cooking?
Ali:  Well, I wasn’t used to eating spicy food but in KL, you have to eat spicy food. If you don’t get into it, you have to be hungry most of the time. 
TET: How did living in Iran affect your cooking?
Ali:  Well, in Iran because the ingredients are better and cheap, I can make better food. In Iran most people cook at home for all meals, its not common to eat out,  but here everyone eats out. 
TET: What do you do when you aren't in the kitchen?
Ali:  I play chess. 
TET: What do you want to make next?
Ali:  Actually, it’s a long time we haven’t made chicken rice and home and we make good chicken rice. 
TET: How has being married to your wonderful wife inspired you?

Ali:  It’s the best thing that could happen in my motherfucking life. I show more effort and now I know what I want to do in my life and planning for future is easier, its given me direction in my life. 

Originally from the Northwest United States, Jessie is a freelance writer currently based in Southeast Asia.  You can follow her work on The DFR and at Travel This.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter



You might not know this, but Korea grows amazing figs.  Like super awesome extra delicious figs.  They are grown in Mokpo and every summer we love to head south to purchase some of these delicious delights.  It's not like they are a secret, Zen Kimchi and others have blogged about them, but it still feels life folks don't give them enough attention.  However, we feel Sir-Mix-A-Lot described them best when he sang:

I like big figs and I cannot lie, 
you other brothers can't deny, 
that when a vender flies past 
with an itty-bitty case 
and a round fig in your face you get some.  

Wanna pull up quick 
'cause you noticed that case was stuffed
deep in the back country garden
I'm hooked and I can't stop starin'.

Oh, baby, I wann get wit'cha
and take yo, picture
the expats tried to warn me
but that big fig you got makes m-m-me so hungry. 

Breakfast Figs v.1:

Toasted brioche topped with baked figs, butter, and red ginseng with honey.

Breakfast Figs v.2