Although I normally do post of trips and then have a separate food adventure, this time is different as well over 50% of the trip was centered around food. So below is a combination trip report and food adventure, mainly focusing on the food adventure.
A few weekends ago we went to the island of Penang in Malaysia. Carrie had been there before for work a couple years back and she was very excited to see coworkers, visit the work site, and relax for a weekend in Penang. I was excited as well to meet Carrie’s coworkers and to eat street food (which is why Penang is famous in Singapore).
Carrie flew up mid-morning to work for half a day and I met her after a full day of work in Singapore. We were met that night, after a minor hotel miscommunication, by her coworker who took us out for a wonderful hawker centre food experience (see below) and to the night market at Batu Ferringhi (the beach and tourist area of Penang). The meal was wonderful for its variety and the night market was wonderful for its cheap pirated DVDs and inexpensive ‘I *heart* Penang’ t-shirts.
Friday night dinner consisted of BBQ stingray, Char Kway Teow (stir-fried noodles), Satay (bbq chicken skewers), chili clams, and the herbal black chicken soup (yes the famous black chicken with black skin and black flesh).
Above is the food spread at the Hawker Centre seafood stand
Oyster Omlette (yummy) with the right amount of salt and spice.
The BBQ Stingray (spicy but with almost a curry like flavor, and different than Singapore style Stingray)
The chili clams (covered in chili sauce to really help out the sinus. BBQ beforehand so a great charred flavor as well). Notice the chicken satay in the background.
The black chicken soup (not the best picture and it tastes herbal and medicinal but well worth the fun factor)
After the feast of food we headed out the night market to peruse the pirated DVDs and knock off handbags before going to bed for the evening in anticipation of another wonderful day in Penang tomorrow.
Our first full day in Penang was with Carrie’s coworker Raymond and his family whom took us to Kek Lok See Temple and then out to Indian Food (which was to die for) and Chendol (a wonderful Malaysian/Indonesian dessert).
Above are the pictures of the temple. It was a grand sight built on a hill with continually terraced buildings that sprawled up and down the mountain. The temple and monastery were built over the years and as the temple got more money additional buildings were added and some are still under construction. This made for a hodge podge of building types and carving styles which made every building slightly different. It was a wonderful experience and took a few hours or climbing up and down stairs to really appreciate it all. (The photos are small but click on them to view larger if you so desire).
Below are pictures of the Indian food (southern Indian food for those aficionados) and some of the best Indian Food I have ever eaten. It was all delicious. We had Mango Lassi, Mutton/Lamb curry, Chicken Curry, Fish in an unknown but wonderful sauce, various vegetables, Indian soup, Chapati (hard crispy wafers) and rice. Also, we got to eat with our hands in the traditional manner and off of banana leafs which changes the flavors and is hygenic as they throw out the leaf after every person. So those of you who eschew utensils this was the place.
After the Indian food we took a quick stroll around the Indian part of Penang and the headed off to the famous Chendol Cart off of Penang Road.
For those of you who have never had Chendol before it is an odd looking dish (at least to westerners) but absolutely wonderful. It is comprished of shaved ice, coconut milk, brown palm sugar (gula melaka to be exact), rice noodles (dyed green with pandan leaves) and red kidney beans. It might sound different to people in the US but on a hot day I absolutely love the chill of the ice, the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the coconut milk.
Above is the Chendol Cart which numerous patrons waiting their turn for the dish.
The famous Chendol (notice the green noodles and red kidney beans). Delicious! After eating it you might have a smile like Jaydern (Raymond’s son) below. I think my smile was actually bigger.
This was the end of our first food odyssey of the day, as we were dropped off at the hotel for 30 mins of downtime before another coworker picked us up for touring and dinner. (Now are you getting the gluttonous food theme with only 30 minutes away from food per day in Penang).
We toured around Fort Cornwallis which was established by the British in the late 18th century and was used when Penang was a British colony. We also toured the Kuan Tin temple (see photo below).
Then it was off to another hawker centre for Char Kway Teow and Penang Hokkien Mee. Both dishes that we love in Singapore but they were different in Penang.
The first two pictures below are of the street carts that we ate from and the last two pictures are of the food and I have comments at the end for both dishes.
I loved the Char Kway Teow in Penang which was spicier and without the sweetness of the Singapore dish. It was a really great way to realize just how much I now know about Malaysian food. Also, this particular Char Kway Teow was cooked on a wok that was heated with charcoal, as opposed to gas, and this is very rare and does add a slightly different wok hei charcoal flavor to the dish. The Hokkien Mee in Penang was soup and spicier than in Singapore and well it tasted good, I prefer the Hokkien Mee dry version in Singapore, but trust me I wasn’t complaining.
At this point I think I need to stop and tell people that I had a minor epiphany during this food fest. I realized that six months ago when I moved to Singapore from the US this scene would have been slightly out of my comfort zone. I mean I was sitting outside, ordering food from a street cart in a place that majority of westerns would consider unclean. In fact Carrie and I were the only caucasians at this particular place, it will never be mentioned in Lonely Planet or any other guide book, but the locals here loved it and so did we. The smells, the sights, the cooks hard at work and displaying their wares were fantastic. The families were enjoying themselves while the kids could order what they wanted from one cart and the parents could order something else from another cart. It was variety and spice of life (pun intended) at its best and I am glad I could partake in the now familiar ritual and chaos of street eating in Asia. I really felt a stronger bond to Singapore and Asia for allowing me to experience it.
Ok, now back to the food fest which was wrapped up by eating coconut buns and a sweet soup in a different part of town before we waddled back to our hotel had a glass of wine and fell asleep. It was like the never ending thanksgiving feast!
The last day in Penang was relatively relaxing with a visit to a local wet market which is sort of like farmer’s markets in the US but include meat (thank you again to Carrie’s coworker Chang and his wife for taking us) and a visit to Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, and of course one more food item on the list was to eat Assam Laksa (extremely good).
Photos of the wet market below. Please note the fish, black chicken, the roasted pork that was hanging, the fruits, vegetables, and something really special the gentleman in the last photo who was making spring roll skins the traditional way by using his hand as a spreader on a hot griddle.
Below is a photo of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. This was a mansion from a Chinese business Tycoon in the 19th century). Well worth the tour but don’t plan your day around it. No photos were allowed inside but this gives you an idea of the old style Chinese architecture and old items like the trishaws scattered inside).
Below is a photo of the Laksa
The last photo is of me smiling while I enjoyed the last bite of Penang (but we will hopefully be back).
And Just one more shout out to all the coworkers and their families who volunteered to be tour guides of both sights and tastes! Thank you…you really made our trip a wonderful one.