Penang: a food lovers paradise

Malaysia. Whelp we were there. Yeah, its hard to say too much about malaysia, because, well we didn’t really like it that much. Maybe it was coming from Vietnam where everything was good, cheap and rooms were nice, to malaysia, where it  reminded us a little too much of the bad parts of India. We were only there for three weeks, and we were pretty ready to leave by the end. I wont go into Kuala Lumpur because Sean is going to review the city later, but let me give you a hint… it sucked. With all that said, the food was one of the only redeeming qualities to me. And it was pretty incredible. So here I go, i submit to you your food porn of the day. Malasian cuisine in a nutshell.

Penang island is known worldwide for its culitanary delights, its a crazy mix of chinese, thai, malay, indian and delicious. We had some serious hit and some serious misses. The island is off the west coast of Malaysia, we only saw the capital Georgetown for a few days in between our stay in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

Ferry to georgetown

Once we arrived we went straight to Love lane, the backpacker central of Georgetown. Then we started on our quest to discover the hidden gems of penang. Now at the point i feel its necessary to say that my inspiration into malay cuisine was brought on by watching an Anthony Bourdain “No Reservations” episode in Penang and he had, what looked like, the most amazing food. And, by god, if he could find it, so could we. So we were off to our first stop…the CF market. The popular markets are basically all the food hawker stalls off the street that have come together and make up a food court of sorts. Its loud, its busy, its cheap and its good. Really good.

Most of the food stall are individual businesses that specializes in one thing and do it particularly well. So we started off with the most traditional and well known malaysia dish, a bowl of Laksa.

Laksa is a spicy and sour noodle soup with shredded bits of fish and various vegetables (mint, cucumber, red chilies, onion, pineapple, ect.) and this was BY FAR my favorite dish in malaysia, and probably one of my top 10 dishes since we’ve been traveling. De-licious!

We also tried the curry mee…

Curry mee is a dish unique to Malaysia, its thin egg noodles in a spicy curry soup, with wontons and vegetables. It was alright, I wanted to like the dish, but it was just lacking something. Highly likely that it was just because the place we got it from. Add one to the misses.

The thing about Malaysian food is there is SO much to try and flavors to discover. It was more a hunt for the best food, and best dishes. Next up to try on our list of place was a nasi kandar place called “Line Clear”

We knew we were in the right area when we saw a huge line of locals lined for food. Apparently this place is the best nasi kandar place in Penang AKA possible the world, and there subsequently is a line at all hours of the day (the place is 24/7). The place looks dirty, grimmy  and in the words of Anthony Bourdain… “Lots of people, lots of food, lots of cats. The cats are a good sign.”

Also most likely at this point your wondering what “nasi kandar” is, we had never heard of it before either so dont feel bad. Nasi Kandar is another Malaysia dish and it possibly is the most unattractive thing you will ever eat. Its a meal of rice and various curries and side dishes all added together on one place. Any thing you can imagine (fried chicken, red/yellow curries, prawns, and stuff you probably dont wanna know) all combined into one ugly plate.

You wait patiently in line for your turn and then a man comes grabs a plate and you start pointing at things. No idea what your getting, but you get it anyway in hopes the mix you end up with is good. 

The final result.

Yeah. It was awesome. It looked like a pile of mush, it was everything you can imagine and it shouldn’t work. In no universe should that many flavors and spices combined make an appitizing dish… but it did! And it was Sean’s favorite meal of Malaysia, and my 2nd (after the Laksa). You end up eating with your hands, so by the end we were overly full, and terribly disgusting. We had to shower to get the smell off us (our clothes reaked till we washed them.), but totally worth the experience. Also neither of us got sick off of it! After 5+ months of traveling i’m pretty sure we have the stomach equivelant of goats.

The last place that we HAD to try was a place called the Red Garden Food Paradise. It was another market with tons of hawker stalls all set up one right next to the other. Its a strange place, its like a food court with entertainment and booze. People hang out here, dance, drink, eat all in an area that looks like something you’d find in a shopping mall but with neon light. Its odd. But it was fun…

We ended up getting two more of malaysian specialty’s chee chong fun and lok bah.

I was really excited about the chee chong fun, beacuse… well it had a cool name. And i can honestly say that is was a definite miss. Terribleeeee consistency. Its a thin roll of made from rice noodles covered in sweet soy sauce. Yeah, might sound good, dont let the fun fool you this was my least favorite dish of Malaysian cuisine. The lok bah (picutred above) was just alot of fried food. So in summary, fine, but no laksa.

So after 2 days of eating like it was our jobs, and probably 10 pounds heavier, we were done with Penang and off to play in the sun/sand for a while. Bye Penang, you were memorable.

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