Sep 23, 2007

NANCY DREW AND THE JELLY ICE MYSTERY
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.

2 comments:

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

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

    ReplyDelete