What does “I don’t like the dish” really mean?

Is there a difference between “I don’t like that dish” and “the dish does not taste the same”?

During our many trips back  to Malaysia, we had the opportunity to sample the amazing array of cuisine in different parts of Malaysia.

Few years ago, my husband and I travelled to Malacca, which is famous of its Peranakan dishes. Since we are both from Penang, which is renowned for its baba nonya cuisine, I thought it would be a great idea to have the dish as the last time I was there was about 20+ years ago.

So the first thing we did was to order the “must try” dishes that have same name as the dishes in Penang. The dishes were nice, but the tastes were not quite like the ones from Penang, that is, the ones I was brought up with.

I was a bit disappointed, as Penang is renowned for its street food and our baba nonya cuisines, so I’d expected a similar flavour and ways of cooking from the Malacca’s baba nonya cuisine… But just could not find it.

Why do those similar dishes taste so differently?

That really bugged me and got me thinking…

It is just the dishes in Penang are influenced by the blend of sourness of tamarind, the sweetness from the tropical fruits, and spiciness from the array of chillies. So where do you think those influences come from? From our neighbouring countries, but Thailand mostly.

However, for a similar dish, each household will still have their own version, their own way of cooking, i.e. some like it spicier, less fish, more torch flower, more sour etc. In other words,  people’s taste buds are influenced by food they are brought up with.

So my taste buds were influenced by the food I grew up with; I like well balanced dishes infused with spiciness, sourish and sweetness in my food, anything less would be termed “not nice”.

So for the Malacca dishes that I was not accustomed to, they were prepared based on the raw ingredientsavailable in that region and were influenced by neighbouring countries as well as people who consumed and prepared them and what they were used to. It is not that they are “bad” or “not nice”, they are just different.

So the lesson here is, whenever you try a dish, if it is not suitable to your taste buds, before you judge this particular dish, ask where the chef is from. If the chef is from another region, that could be the answer as to why this similar dish tastes different from your own experiences.

That applies to when you go out to dinner with friends from different parts of a country; they will have different experiences from you when it comes to taste buds. Everyone’s expectation is different. It is not that the dish is not good, but different!

Love to hear your thoughts…

Have a wonderful day.