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"You like it spicy?" asked the cook whose specialty was char kwai teow, a Chinese-Malaysian stir fried noodle dish.
"Yes, please," I replied. "Spicy the way you eat it."
With pride, he expertly tossed the noodles, prawns, chilli, bean sprouts, egg and sauces into a giant wok, heated over a gas ring. The flames leapt up, curled around the wok and licked its contents - the dragon's breath that gives a good char kwai teow its smoky flavour.
A minute and a half later, he spooned it onto a plate and handed me the best breakfast Penang has to offer. I've been back many times.
I've tried to replicate it but it's always come up short, I suspect because I don't have a gas kitchen and can't get the wok hot enough, let alone have flames dance around it.
Despite years loitering in retail establishments, marvelling at the gas ranges, switching to gas has always been a bridge too far. It would entail expensive kitchen renovations and, not being on town gas, there's always the risk the gas bottle would run out halfway through the paella or other culinary triumph being attempted.
Now, it seems that hesitance has been vindicated. Not only is gas hugely expensive - even though we have stacks of it in this country - but now chefs are telling us it's hurting the planet and endangering the health of our children.
Yesterday, a coalition of chefs, climate scientists, doctors and real estate agents launched a worldwide campaign to get gas out of kitchens.
The Global Cooksafe Coalition has teamed up with some big hitters in real estate - LendLease and GPT - and high-profile chefs, including Neil Perry, James Edward Henry, James Lowe and Analiese Gregory, to convince the world that electric is the way of the future in the kitchen.
The coalition says not only will it help reduce emissions, it will improve children's health. It's believed there's a 42 per cent increased risk of asthma among children who live in homes with gas cooking appliances.
The appeal of gas has always been the precise control it gives over heat. Its alluring blue flame is marketed as the secret to any chef's success. But advances in induction technology make precise control achievable with electricity, the coalition argues.
Lendlease and GPT have agreed to stop putting gas appliances into new developments by 2030 - which will save them a lot of plumbing costs while polishing their green credentials.
All this is fine in theory but for a char kwai teow tragic like myself, it rings alarm bells. There isn't an induction cooktop I'm aware of which can flame the noodles - apply the dragon's breath - like a gas heated wok.
So it looks like the money saved by not switching to gas will be redirected to airfares to get me back to Malaysia regularly, where I can sate this hunger for the best noodle dish ever invented.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Gas or electric? What's your preferred cooking system? Have you been stung by rising gas prices? Is there a trick to getting a wok hot enough on an electric cooktop? What's your favourite noodle dish? Email us: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Labor has secured enough votes to pass a plan to make electric vehicles cheaper, after striking a deal with key crossbenchers. The plan would ease taxes on a host of low-emissions vehicles, and the government claimed it would save employers $9000 and individuals $4700 on a model costing $50,000. But subsidies for hybrid vehicles, which use a combination of electric power and petrol, are a key sticking point for the Senate crossbenchers Labor needs to pass the bill. Both the Greens and independent senator for the ACT David Pocock have claimed credit for an agreed compromise, which would see hybrids eased out of the package and the number of zero-emissions government vehicles boosted.
- People living in the central-western NSW town of Forbes are reportedly being abandoned by insurers in the midst of a major flood disaster. Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller says some people with existing policies have received letters saying they will not be renewed, while others say insurers refused to cover them to begin with. Ms Miller accused insurers of applying blanket bans on flood policies for the entire town, regardless of their actual flood risk.
- Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, is selling off even more of her cattle empire than she did last year. Ms Rinehart's S Kidman and Co. says it is already "advanced" in the sale of another 2.4 million hectares of its cattle country in the north of Australia. This follows Ms Rinehart's successful plan to sell off almost two million hectares of her pastoral holdings last year.
THEY SAID IT: "Country town to the city heart, in every corner of the globe you'll find a Chinatown, a Chinese restaurant or an Asian grocer. From this vast and ancient culture, we credit noodles, dumplings, rice, countless spices and cooking techniques to have enriched every culture that they've landed in." - Melissa Leong
YOU SAID IT: The high cost of diesel and whether it's putting the brakes on your driving habits.
Phil says: "I drive a diesel Prado. I hate going to the bowser. I consequently don't drive it as much but take the Subaru."
Gary shows his age: "I don't drive a diesel but remember paying 3/51/2 [I assume that's shillings and pence] per gallon and once I only had two bob to buy petrol to get to work and it was enough even to get to a petrol station to fill up after pay day."
Sue's making plans: "In 2010 I took a five-month road trip around the eastern part of the country. I didn't make it to WA. I have been planning to get there ever since, but something always intervenes. Back then I was only 62 so my two-litre, small 4WD with the camping gear in the back, was fine. No longer. Firstly, family responsibilities, followed by bushfires and COVID, kept me from travelling, but I had planned to head off soon. My vehicle is still a 4WD, but slightly, well, significantly, larger and I no longer need to put up tents or sleep at ground level. I have a 4.5 litre, V8 troopie, converted to a camper van. Two 90-litre tanks. Ouch! Am I going to have to work for another year so that I can afford the fuel? Love The Echidna. Keep up the good work."