Eating our way through Malaysia

White tablecloth? Confounding cutlery? Snooty waiters? A roof? No thanks. In Malaysia, the best food was served in the humblest surroundings and involves the least amount of fuss.

As we planned our trip back home, only Kuala Lumpur was on the intended itinerary for Malaysia. But as we have already written in our last post, we left Thailand two days earlier and had two joker days we could spend where ever we wanted to. From many travellers we heard of a place which was once abandoned by locals and seemingly forgotten by tourists. George Town. The little village has emerged as one of the region’s hottest destinations in the last couple of years so they said. Some even said George Town is becoming the new food capital of South East Asia.

Hence our choice was easy. From Ko Phi Phi we left early morning for a 14 hours journey to Penang, Malaysia. Changing buses a few times, being squeezed in between way too many people and a snoring german on Valium we made our way south to the border and then to Penang. Eventually we arrived late night at our Guesthouse.

Due to our spontaneous decision we only knew a little about the town we were visiting. All we knew was that we had to get rid of our ‘three square meals’ per day schedule. In fact, five or six meals or snacks were more the order of the day than strict adherence to the breakfast-lunch-dinner trilogy. So basically “sightseeing” in Penang was eating all day long. Nevertheless we went on a walking tour around the city which was declared Unesco World Heritage in 2008. Due to the daily melt down of 40 degrees already in the early afternoon, we changed our plans drastically. We went back to our air-conditioned hostel and planned our next moves outside well ahead to avoid the heat as much as possible. Basically what we did for the next couple of days was eating, sleeping, drinking and repeating this cycle all day long! :) Thanks to our lovely and local guesthouse owner John we exclusively ate exquisite meals all day long.

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This little city was all about food. Centuries of trade, colonisation, and immigration have left their culinary mark on Penang (George Town) and the rest of Malaysia, in the form of cuisines so multifaceted it would take months of nonstop grazing to truly grasp their breadth. Nowhere else in Asia are the elements of three great culinary traditions – those of China, India and the Malay archipelago – so intertwined. The result is dishes both starkly monocultural and confusingly – but delightfully – multicultural. Along certain streets we had to pick between delicious Indian curries, spicy Malay specialities or local Chinese noodle creations all lined up one after the other.

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Many locals (and so also told us our new best friend John) would argue that the best (and best-value) food is found at hawker stalls, and who are we to argue? Most of these dishes can’t be found in restaurants and when they are, they’re rarely as tasty. Solely eating in so-called hawker-stalls we appreciated and tasted the region’s cuisines in all their glory.

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Simply put, in this part of the world it’s not ‘How are you?’ but ‘ Sudah makan?’ (Have you eaten yet?).

After a few days spending in this wonderful city we made our way further south to Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t much to do but taking countless pictures of the world known Petronas Towers.

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We were very happy about our time we spend in Malaysia. Even though there would have been so much else to see in this diverse country, we were now looking forward going to Singapore and treat ourselves in a little bubble of luxury…

But until then, so long…
Chris’n Toby

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