It's a distressing phenomenon. Middle aged couples in their forties and fifties, usually with children sufficiently distant in high school or university, find it necessary to relive the fake interest in other cultures that was endorsed during their hippie years.
It wouldn't be so bad if the interest was sincere: in that case, some entrepreneurial Malaysian restaurant owner might try to make genuine, authentic food. He might attempt to decorate his premises in a similar style to the eateries of his youth, rather then making it look like the Taj Mahal. He might not have to worry about western standards, western customs, and western narrow mindedness*.
Of course, that isn't the case; the said middle aged couples don't particularly want authenticity, they want a not-too-spicy, not-too-different meal so they can convince themselves and their friends that they are worldly.
I wouldn't be so disappointed if they kept to themselves, perhaps if they had a easily recognisable symbol. It would be like the kosher or halal mark; perhaps a circled 'G' for gentrified. I could then avoid those restaurants completely. I wouldn't have as great a choice as before, but at least I won't have yet another bland Tom Yam soup. Of course, that would only be a temporary solution. Middle aged couples would then want convince themselves that they are as worldly as possible, and so would march in one of the few resisting bastions of real food and demand an authentic meal "but please don't make it too spicy -- my stomach might be upset, and please don't include anything that I might find gross or upsetting."
I was in an Indonesian restaurant in Montreal not long ago. As a meal, it was decent, pretty good even. But taking Nasi Goreng, a meal that is traditionally served on a street side for 10 cents, and serving it in a yuppie restaurant for $15 irritates me. Why did the trip across the pacific require the humble rice dish, known as a meal that can be bought anywhere for less then a dollar, require the new glitz and glamour?
I guess it's inevitable: a slippery slope into the illegitimate children of authentic food and happy meals.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating. Perhaps I'm being fanatical or overly harsh, especially to those poor middle aged couples I seem to pick on. In truth, their intentions are probably not nearly as malicious as I portrayed. A good portion probably just can't handle their capsaicin, and want a bit of comfort on their adventures. It's hardly limited to 40+ population, either. I have a good 19 year old friend that thinks anything other then steaks and shepherd's pie is weird, and the mere mention of brain curry is enough to send shivers down his back. But why is it that we approach every fruit, vegatable, and edible animal part with so much trepidation? Why is eating lung, heart, or brain any more weird than rump or shoulder?
* Mind you, I don't find westerners any more narrow minded than any other culture. We're all narrow minded, in our own special way.