There are days when I earnestly long to be in another country. I absolutely love traveling. I love being on a plane, taking off, landing, seeing new sights and smelling new smells (though some smells I’d really rather not smell), walking on foreign streets, taking public transportation, exploring city and nature, experiencing a different culture, and eating new foods. Traveling abroad is not just a leisurely activity for my family, but a necessity since we all live thousands of miles away from each other. My brother lives in Hong Kong, my sister lives in London, my dad lives in Malaysia and almost all of my extended family lives in the Philippines. I’ve listed the perks and downsides of having such a global family in my mind and one of the best things about it is that I get to travel more often than most people! This past summer after graduating college, I took a 2-month long trip to Asia and visited the Philippines, Hong Kong, Penang (Malaysia), China (for 27 miserable hours) and Mongolia to visit family and explore. When I visit another country, I always like to immerse myself in the country’s culture and my favorite way to do that is by eating local, authentic food! More often than not, local and authentic food is best found on the streets (be brave, Americans!) and in Penang, Malaysia, that was exactly the case. I had made a list of must-try foods in Penang and my dad made it a point to take me to every yummy place that he’d been to. I kid you not, I gained at least five pounds in the seven days I was there.
Most of our meals were eaten at hawker fares which resemble an outdoor cafeteria with many different vendors selling different kinds of food. There are benches to sit on where you can gather all the food you procure from different stalls. My dad also said that it’s actually cheaper to eat out (assuming you eat at a hawker) in Penang than it is to cook in.
I had plenty of noodle dishes in Malaysia, but this one was my favorite. It’s called Laksa – it’s sour, tangy and extremely spicy in the way that there’s spices scratching at your throat. I loved ever slurp of it.
Curry Mee – noodles with curry gravy and spices (I don’t even know what those brown things are. Tofu? EDIT: a friend of mine claims that it is coagulated pig’s blood, which actually makes a lot of sense. HAHA! Plus, she’s an expert on tofu so she’d know). And I have no clue what the one below is…oops.
Pasembur – another fave, it comes with deep fried items on the bottom that you choose from a variety of, ranging from squid to tofu. It is topped with shredded vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, etc) and a spicy, sweet, peanut-based sauce.
Rojak – a mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables (apples, cucumber, onions?!) with some cuttlefish slices topped with a funky-tasting prawn sauce. It was sweet and savory, spicy and peanuty. There was way too much going on. Does it sound weird? Because it definitely was and it was rather unappetizing in my opinion.
And then we went to a nice hotel buffet where I got to eat all of the above on a nice big plate with real silverware. I may have had three full plates…and while it was tasty, nothing beats the price, taste, authenticity and joyful experience of eating hawker food instead! Penang was truly a place with delicious food influenced by Indian, Thai, Chinese and many other cuisines and it was also filled with such kind and welcoming people!
P.S. There’s a part two coming up because one post on Penang food is not enough (: