Thursday, July 14, 2011

Asia tripping - part XII: Penang, Malaysia then home

This is the twelfth and final of several brief posts of my recent trip to Asia: photos, food and a few thoughts.

The roti man in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Staying in Georgetown, Penang was an odd choice in hindsight. There didn't seem to be a lot to do other than seek refuge in air conditioned shopping centres - although that did allow me ample time to stock up on Malaysian supermarket snacks.

It also gave us time to seek out roti at every opportunity. One late morning, our roti request was met with a short wait for the roti guy, who had ducked out. Being such an art form, there was no-one else there who could make roti, so we snacked as we waited.

Ayam goreng - deep fried chicken
Ever had fried chicken for breakfast? I have, now. From the nasi kandar section of the shop, the golden-hued surface of the chicken maryland was just as crunchy as it looked.

It reminded me of why thigh fillets are often preferred in Asia over breast fillets - juicy, tender and full of flavour. We cleaned this maryland down to the bone.

Roti telur bawang
Roti man came back and was pretty amused with our late breakfasting and cameras, especially those pointed at him and his creations. His flattening of balls of dough and stretching them till they were thinner than paper was just mesmerising, but so easy and quick for him too.

The egg and onion roti is folded into a rectangle and then dipped into curry sauce, also from the nasi kandar bain maries.

Roti pisang
For a change from my regular roti canai order, I ventured into uneplored sweet roti land with the banana version, or roti pisang. The same dough is filled with sliced banana and a sprinkle of white sugar.

There's a slight salty-sweet play that's very appetising, as well as a soft-chewy contrast between the somewhat cooked banana and grilled dough.

The beach at Batu Ferringhi, Penang
The plan for this day was to spend it by the beach (or indeed, hotel pool) of Batu Ferringhi, Penang's most well known beach. While it has little on Sydney beaches, there are a bunch of waterside activities for the sporty-inclined and it's kind of nice to be by the water on a typically hot Penang day.

And despite our only activity being floating about the lagoon-styled pool and climbing out to reclining sunchairs, we somehow managed an appetite for lunch.

Bain marie offerings for nasi campur in the street centre, Batu Ferringhi, Penang
There are a few roadside options for dining, including the fresh fruit stall which we hit up for dessert. But set up in the middle of the road, we noticed a bit of lunch crowd starting to build by the plastic chairs and tables, and a long, food-filled bain marie.

It's nasi campur we're informed by the lovely chef lady, set up self-serve style whereby you're given a plate of rice and you choose an array meat and vegetable dishes, and are charged per selection.

The takeaway version is similar, except the plate is reverse-wrapped with a plastic bag which is then filled, flipped and tied up to go.

My nasi campur plate
I found it impossible to not try a bit of most the options, though I steered clear of the ones that the lady noted as quite hot (as a Malaysian 'quite hot' is not my cowardly 'quite hot' and I was already sweating enough).

With almost 10 meat and vegetable options on my pile of rice totalling about 10 ringgit (just over AUD3), it wasn't the cheapest meal by local standards, but more than fine by Sydney standards.

The other side of my nasi campur plate
Standouts from memory were the deep red, spicy chicken wing; the deep fried ayam goreng chicken drumstick; some kind of meat curry that also had chunks of fresh pineapple; some kind of spicy stewed eggplant and the square of spicy sauce-coved tofu.

It was a relief to have the non-spicy okra there, but food-related sweating soon outdid the weather-related sweating.

The lovely nasi campur lady
We squandered away the afternoon, although beachside in a rather tropical part of Malaysia can hardly be called a waste. We were looking forward to the expectedly touristy night markets that clog up one side of the footpath of the main road.

While I bought little other than a taro ice cream from a Wall's vendor, the oppressive heat and humidity (even after sundown) plus the swarming bargain-hunting crowds was intense for a (these days) lightweight shopper.

Most amusing was probably the clandestine actions of some stallholders yet blatant selling of fake branded goods at other stalls.

Crowds at Long Beach food court at Batu Ferringhi, Penang
I think we hit Long Beach food court at peak dinner time, as it was heaving and not short on Aussie accents either. And there's nothing like a day of doing not much to work up an appetite.

Pineapple juice
We start off with some necessary refreshments before food and beers; the rather large fresh juices doing the job well.

Lime juice drink
The lime drink is sour enough to fresh lime juice, but with a liberal dose of sugar mixed through as well.

Manning the satay grill
Sweating it out as I was doing nothing, I really felt for the satay guy who had to stand in front of hot coals all night long. I felt for him so much that I was simply compelled to order both chicken and beef satay, as well as a small plate of lontong compressed rice cakes.

Chicken and beef satay with lontong (background)
Both sets of petite meat sticks feature charred black parts, but the sweetness of the chicken is really something above the slight chewiness of the beef.

The spice heat of satay sauce the sticks are served with is somewhat tempered by the cucumber and rice cakes, although personally I find the latter to be generally bland and stodgy.

Chicken char kway teo
The carb fix for the night is the rather-famous-in-this-part-of-town char kway teo; rice noodles wok-fried with chicken, fish cake, egg, shallots and bean sprouts.

The 'breath of the wok' (smokey aroma from a hot wok) is clearly apparent while the bold salty and sweet flavours of the sauce are joyously scoffed.

Jumbo grilled prawns
 Halved grilled prawns the length of my hand were quite the surprise arrival at the table. I'm pretty sure they were the biggest ones I've ever set eyes upon.

Grilled to perfection and doused with a sweet, sour sauce, the bouncy flesh came away easily from the shell. Each crustacean was at least four mouthfuls although I didn't eat the shell nor quite large, spikey heads.

Grilled stingray - ikan pari bakar
Also from the seafood stall, we had to have the stingray - this speciman actually a few pieces from a smaller fish. I found the flesh a little soft compared to its larger cousins but tasty nonetheless, especially with its hot a sour dipping sauces.

Fried oyster omelette
I had excitedly passed a stall that advertised fried oyster omelettes and was immediately handing over the ringgit. Having heard much about this dish, I couldn't wait to try it out, however odd it may sound. Its slightly messy, home-made appearance only added to the appeal.

What we received was indeed a soft, eggy omelette featuring lots of young shallots and indeed lots of oysters, of all sizes too. It was hard to tell whether they were orginally fresh, frozen or otherwise in their cooked state, but they retained all their briney, creamy juiciness within their cloaks of egg and lived up to every expectation.

Grilled chicken marylands
Having more than once sampled the succulent reward of the grilled chicken at hawker centres, an order of a couple of marylands was a given. Again, crisp sheets of skin; juicy, tender and tasty flesh; and completely finger-licking good.

Corn kernels with margarine from Daily Fresh, Penang International Airport
After a pretty awesome two weeks worth of eating and travel, it was a little bittersweet to have our final meals in airports, though it gave me a chance to finally try things I'd been eyeing off at many arrivals and departure gates.

Having thought we had plenty of time waiting for the flight to Kuala Lumpur from Penang, we took a stool at the Daily Fresh stand, which I'd seen all over the city, and finally got the cup of corn I was craving.

With a hefty helping of margarine, salt and pepper, eating this 'healthy' snack was mouthful after mouthful of sweet corn juice goodness.

Daily Fresh waffle with strawberry jam and peanut butter
I also finally got to try the waffles at Daily Fresh, whose aroma would float to all corners of the terminal or shopping centre every time. Going with the failsafe combination of PB&J, or peanut butter with jam (jelly), this intensely sweet snack was probably the appropriate fuel for our subsequent sprint to the boarding gate.

Assam laksa from Old Town White Coffee, LCCT, Kuala Lumpur
With plenty more time to kill before boarding the plane back home to Australia, we also ventured into the Old Town White Coffee chain at the terminal in Kuala Lumpur.

Branded like, and almost as ubiquitous as, Starbucks, Old Town White Coffee is apparently very popular with the young generation for their fix of traditional Malaysian drinks and snacks.

We order one main - the assam laksa - which was rather disappointing; its broth watery with a slight sour fishiness the only flavour point.

Kaya toast from Old Town White Coffee
Somewhat better was the kaya toast, which arrived as two large, cut toasted sandwiches on brown bread. With a warm tea drink in hand, this seemed to be an appropriate goodbye to the holiday.

Kaya toast innards
Spread thinly with the brown, eggy coconut jam, the squiggle-edged sticks of butter were an interesting addition - but not something I'd do of my own choosing (I think I'd rather it spreaded beneath the kaya).

Sweet, buttery and sending me back to younger days when mum would make me toasted sandwiches, it seemed I was ready to head home.

Two weeks away in Southeast Asia. Never enough, but better than not, I guess. Vietnam was a highlight of the overall trip, simply for the massive cultural differences that I experienced and adored. Malaysia certainly delivered on its promise of fantastic eats and has given me an even greater appreciation for its diverse cuisine. Meanwhile, Hong Kong will always be a big city to admire and fear, while Macau still means casinos to me.

Now, it's a case of saving up money (and annual leave) before I can research and prepare for the next big trip. Sooner rather than later, I hope.


mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I agree, the best way to reward a poor man sweating over food being grilled over charcoals is indeed to purchase said food and enjoy it!

And I have to admit, that has got to be the first time I've seen crinkle-cut butter! =p

sugarpuffi said...

roti, kaya and ayam goreng...zomg! i want some right now! and im craving pandan waffles atm so bad...

Simon Leong said...

that crispy chicken leg looks like perfection :-) i'd be happy to have anytime of the day, although at night would be best!

Richard Elliot said...

Great photos and memories of your trip. I love street food and food courts when I'm travelling in Asia (not that I've done enough of it!) and it looks like you managed to pack in quite a few.

I've loved reading all the posts.

Daryl George said...

I hope you had a great trip! The food looks sumptuous. I was just wondering, though - you mentioned that it's the first time for you to have fried chicken for breakfast? That's amazing! I bet you have bread, coffee or something, but I'm sure you enjoyed that fried chicken!

Just a quick note: In the Philippines, fried chicken is quite a famous breakfast food. You should check the country! :D

chopinandmysaucepan said...

I just got back from Singapore and KL and your pics just transported me back there again! The satay looks delicious and to think there was so much food during my trip that I didn't even get to taste satays! :(

Ramen Raff said...

Everything in this post looks so darn good! The nasi campur looks like my kind of plate. Char kway teo, yum!

I think I need a Southeast Asia trip soon too. Everytime we head that way, we always end up in Manila. I think it's time to explore the neighbouring countries/cities.

Tina said...

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - Indeed; a double serve of satay!

Hi sugarpuffi - A few of your favourite things...? :)

Hi Simon - It was actually pretty awesome for brekky ;)

Hi Richard - Thanks :) We both haven't done enough of it all.

Hi Daryl - We sure do: toast is normal for me. But I must check out the Philippines soon if they have fried chicken for brekky! My kinda place!

Hi chopinandmysaucepan - Satay was becoming a standard order for us :)

Hi Ramen Raff - I'd be keen to check out Manila on my next trip that way - whenever that might be...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a shame this is the last of the series! It was quite the visual treat!

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

The roti wins my vote. And dessert!

Lovely recap of the highlights and photos :)

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - Until next time...

Hi Corinne - Thanks :)

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

What a great write up - the street food looks to die for and instantly transports me to Asia - humid, hot, sticky, and so bloody cheap and good. I could definitely do with an Asian holiday now!

Tina said...

Hi Forager - Thanks. I think anyone in Sydney at the moment could do with a warm holiday... :S


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