Asia, you’re always on my mind.

It absolutely surprises me to realise that no matter where I go, I take a piece of its experience with me, even if I may unconsciously do so. Let me explain, but before that, let me set the backdrop.

Public Health, particularly Global Health, is such a dynamic, interdisciplinary field that by the time Friday comes around, my brain is low on fuel after having interconnected all the concepts from economics, health policy, global governance and innovative entrepreneurship. I love it, of course – life is no fun without pushing your horizons and challenging yourself to learn outside your comfort zone. But my way of re-fueling on the weekend is by getting my mates together and indulging in the culinary delights that London has to offer.

This time, feeling the home blues for Asian cuisine (more particularly read…Asian bistro with South East Asian flavours), I landed up at Busaba Eathai. Plus, they were giving 50% off your total bill in the month of January if you paid via their mobile app (so much for marketing and business boosting through technology platforms…). I’ve noticed a trend in preference (or we’re becoming more adventurous on the culinary front I may add) for Asian flavours in our palate in multicultural cities outside the South East Asia realm such as Mumbai, New York and London. It is pleasantly refreshing to see Asian flavours coming together with Western influences in creative, hip restaurants wherever I go. It cures the home blues, for sure. And needless to say, Busaba Eathai did not disappoint. For the price you pay, their food is impressive, and the ambience even more so. They sway from the usual, boring restaurant table set-up with massive, wooden tables and benches with no de-markations – eating in a communal setting, and occasionally exchanging conversation with the random people sitting beside you about the meal? Alright, that’s pretty cool. Don’t forget to try the calamari in your starters (love how they put raw, green peppercorns for that authentic flavour), and the Massaman Curry if you want to sway from the usual Green/Red Thai Curry or the Pad Thai!

The point of this post, however, was that although a trip to Busaba was intended to cure my Asian food cravings, I returned with a realisation of how much of my experiences in Southeast Asia are unconsciously ingrained in me. And also with a warm, fuzzy feeling that had definitely cured the home blues because all I need to do is look around a little harder to find that sense of home. While appreciating the chic, wooden Pan-Asian interiors of the place (love the low-ceiling lanterns!) on my way out, I spotted a gorgeous piece of Asian art – a stone-carved wall piece of what appeared to be a king surrounded by apsaras (angels).

If I could explain to you how within a nanosecond of spotting that, my sense of déjà vu kicked in, I would. Why it was just this piece of art, and not any of the interiors or their spot-on menu, I don’t know. For the past eight years of being in Singapore, all those years of travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam’s many museums has involved spotting this piece of art wherever I go. More so, it is a usual piece of art that adorns walls of most art enthusiasts in that region. Funnily enough, instead of giving me the homesickness blues, the sheer enormity of the déjà vu and suddenness of this onset brought a smile to my face; that little glimpse was enough for a peaceful reminder of my travels, my daily interactions with Southeast Asian culture, and my sense of familiarity for the past eight years. I realised how much of the culture and experiences I had ingrained in my unconscious mind, and a powerful sense of belonging that comes with it. And perhaps it was this inward realisation that I don’t have to look further to know that I hold what I’ve called home for the past eight years, and its sense of familiarity, in my heart, that allowed me to leave the place with a warm, glowing sense of comfort.

P.S. Even the hand soap in the restrooms there smells of the typical Southeast Asian spas; does that lavender-lemongrass aroma ring a bell? Help. Now I need to find one in London.

P.P.S. Don’t miss out on the amazing array of sauces on the tables to enhance the flavours of your dishes…by that I mean, all you need is some of that Sriracha sauce.

Photographer: Prashant Gokool

(Image courtesy: http://prashart.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/IMG_1989.jpg)

 

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