Sep 23, 2007

SEATTLE, Washington –  Maria, her daughter T and I wandered the three-mile loop at Discovery Park. Sunset buttered the sea bluffs, then shaded the forest groves: hard to remember we were smack in the middle of the city.

"I'm starving," T says. At 10-year-old, she knows her lines.

I rummage in my friend's truck, on loan for the week. "Look, here are some sunflower seeds I bought in the Yukon last summer."

She shoots me the look.

"OK, then. Time for dinner."

At the Malay Satay Hut, I spot "jelly ice" on the drinks menu. "Must. Have."

"What is it?"

"No idea. But we have to find out."

T goes one better: "We should cover our eyes when it's being served, then taste it blind."

She could grow into such a good travel writer...

We do the "see no evil" routine as the drink arrives. Then – big breath – we trade the straw back and forth.

Jelly ice contains globs. Kinda chewy, slimy, warm globs. I cough down a mouthful and open my eyes, which makes it much worse. Tooth-sized eggplant-purple chunks congeal in beige liquid. "Grossssssss," T wails, as we both lunge for the roti canai, hoping the curry will erase the horror.

Later research reveals these may have been fermented coconut nubbins or cassava-root-flavored tapioca pearls in soy milk, some variety of bubble tea. But no one, not even the wait staff, seems able to explain "jelly ice". The name – and possibly the drink itself – may be a horrible mistranslation or practical joke inflicted upon the Pacific Northwest.

I complain to a friend who once lived in southeast Asia. "Don't think about it too hard, he advises. "And next time try the avocado milkshake."

Um. No.


  1. hmmm ... my folks hail from Malaysia ... I'll ask them about the mystery jelly drink.

  2. Sweet. In return, I'll ask my mom to stop teasing you!