I hate February. It is my least favorite month. I’m not a fan of November, either, but at least in November the bad weather is novel and even sort of refreshing, and besides, there’s Christmas and New Year to look forward to. But by February the short days and cold air have long outstayed their welcome, and every time I step outside I feel like shouting up at the sky, “Enough already!”
But there are ways to chase the February blues away. Jogging helps (when it’s not raining). So does beer. And of course there’s the Super Bowl, although I can understand it if not many of you are interested in staying up until 3 AM to watch a confusing sport often unfavorably compared to the far more popular rugby.
Call me a romantic, but my favorite way to break up the late winter doldrums is to celebrate Valentine’s Day. (Cue eye rolling.) I know, I know. It’s the sappiest of holidays, mostly advocated by greeting card companies and purveyors of cheap chocolates, and if you’re single it can make you want to commit suicide – or homicide. But hear me out.
Even for romantics, the rituals of Valentine’s Day can become a dreadful chore after so many years of chocolate, roses, and overpriced lobster dinners. It should be fun and exciting for couples, so why do we turn to the same old steakhouses and stuffy French restaurants year after year? Typical Valentine’s meals are heavy, overly formal, and criminally expensive – hardly moodmakers for an evening of love, if you get my meaning. A meal that’s truly romantic requires spice, color, a sense of excitement and a touch of the exotic – but by now, Indian and Thai have grown tiresome. It’s got to be Malaysian.
Anybody worth dating will find typical Malaysian aromas of kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, chilli, and coconut irresistibly intoxicating, and these days, the UK boasts some truly atmospheric Malaysian restaurants. Up north, you can visit Norman Musa’s Ning in Manchester for a three-course Valentine’s feast of satay, curry puffs, whole fried sea bass, chicken curry, and light, tropical sorbets. In London, there’s Suka at the Sanderson Hotel, which boasts an authentic Malaysian menu served in one of the city’s most stylish venues.
Or better yet, you can impress your date by cooking a Malaysian feast yourself. Classic dishes are remarkably easy and very satisfying, and they fill your house with an incredible perfume. And remember not to skimp on the chilli – they’re an aphrodisiac. The pain signals your brain receives from chilli heat cause your body to release endorphins, resulting in a light, woozy buzz. My old college roommate and I used to challenge each other to do shots of Tabasco sauce for this very reason. Also, we were idiots.
If you’re single, I may have lost you already. But Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to have some friends around, grab a few beers or a bottle of gin, avoid overbooked restaurants and nauseating cooing couples, and knock up some awesome rendang, laksa, or char kway teow. At the very least it will help provide an escape from the gloomy February climate. Which we all need, regardless of relationship status.
For recipes and restaurant info visit Malaysia Kitchen!