When it comes to food, I was a weird kid. As soon as I had teeth, my parents found me knawing on a radish I’d fished out of the vegetable drawer. My favorite sandwich, mustard and raw onion on a baguette, elicited giggles around the Girl Scout fire circle. My bowl of triscuit crackers in milk was met with sideways glances at the breakfast table.
I lived for family road trips and the adventures in vending machine fare that went with them. Things like crab flavored potato chips (I grew up in Maryland) or instant coffee machines that dispensed cups of hot chicken broth fascinated me. We would all be piled back into the car, pulling onto the highway, when someone would sniff me out and ask, disgustedly, “what is that?”
At the motel, under the guise of filling the plastic ice bucket (what would a seven year old need that for?), I would sneak away to the vending machine, to see if they had my favorite thing; the jerky and cheese stick twin pack. The more backcountry the place, the better my chances. I would feast in secret, since nobody from suburban Washington, DC would be caught dead eating meat in tubular form with a side of un-refrigerated cheese. Other kids would get Ho-hos or Doritos. I would wait until they were gone to satisfy my salty vice.
Eventually, I grew out of it, but that’s what beef jerky was to me, until I read this a few weeks ago.
The problem is that in an urban setting, it is not easy to find good jerky. The kind that looks more like leather and less like shoelaces. I mean home made, from actual meat – like the kind I used to see at country gas stations on my way home from college in Upstate NY (though I never built up the courage to fish one out of those big glass jars).
More recently, I’ve had to appease my craving with the mass-produced, plastic-looking scraps in a bag from the local deli, which are more like licorice with a hint of meat.
Then, last night, when I was walking toward the Chinese supermarket on Elizabeth and Grand, this awning caught my eye.
I rushed inside and came face to face with jerky heaven! Malaysia BJ has pork, chicken and beef varieties, for around $17 per pound (one 4×4″ piece is more or less $1).
The spicy beef jerky won my heart. It was not spicy, but it was very flavorful, satisfying, and delicious – the best jerky I’ve ever tasted. It was served warm and juicy in a little wax paper pocket, labeled with a red and yellow sticker (in Chinese and English) to remind you which one you’re eating.
Another favorite was the sliced beef. It had an aromatic char-grilled BBQ flavor like that last piece of forgotten churrasco on the back of the grill that you snag while everyone else is busy swigging beers and has twice the flavor of the other ones! One bite and I was transported to a lazy August afternoon in the park with salsa music and curls of smoke mingling on the breeze.
There are no preservatives, but supposedly they will last up to four days out of the refrigerator…I didn’t get to find out because my five pieces didn’t last more than four minutes. PS- five pieces is not normal for one snack. Don’t get that many. Or do. If you are a jerky crazy fool.
Maylasia Beef Jerky
95 Elizabeth Street
between Grand and Hester