My Thanksgiving shopping list has no Malaysian ingredients -- should it?

In terms of holidays, Christmas is the king of lists. Every December, I make so many lists, I need a master list to keep track of them all. There's an address list for Christmas cards, a list of teachers to thank, a list of friends and neighbors to bake for, not to mention the all-important list of gift ideas for my hubby, kids and extended family. No other holiday comes close, right?

Wrong.

If you've ever hosted the family feast, you know that Thanksgiving ranks a close second in terms of planning. See also: - In a world full of cheese makers, why is Denver's selection so limited? - New Cafe critic Gretchen Kurtz dishes up a few words on her philosophy

First you have a list of people to invite, and later, a list of folks who can come. Then there's a list of possible dishes, winnowed down (hopefully by now) to a menu based on the right mix of new recipes and family faves, final headcount, and what friends have offered to bring.

It's at this point that lists multiply like rabbits. Grocery lists with subsets for specialty stores. More grocery lists for forgotten items. Liquor-store lists. Lists of household items to pick up, like extra placemats or a wineglass to replace the one that broke last year.

With all these lists, you'd think nearly every item in the store had been tossed in my cart and checked off at some point or another. Not so. Pandan leaf, sambal belacan and kangkung, three staples of Malaysian cuisine, have never made it to any list related to my family's annual feast. But after recent visits to Makan Malaysian Café, I'm wondering if maybe they should.

Find out just how good these ingredients - and the dishes they're in -- can be when my review of Makan Malaysian Cafe is posted here tomorrow.


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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz