How I Loved the Pearl of the Orient, Penang Island. Part Three.

The third and final chapter of my Penang food trilogy.

Char Kway Teow.

The very famous Char Kway Teow! Perhaps the most popular and known dish on and off the island. There is a precise way in making this, which involves incredibly high heat and a wok. I’m told it’s not that easy to make good Char Kway Teow because of those special factors.

Pork Skewers.
Pork Skewers.
Curry Mee.
Curry Mee.
Close up.
Close up.

The Curry Mee had a coconut broth base that was too much for me. However, the noodles themselves were fantastic. There was some spice to the dish as well but it wasn’t enough to mask the sweetness. I loved that there were clams in it.

I got ten skewers for 10 ringgit, which is 3.04 USD. The Curry Mee was 4 ringgit, 1.22 USD.

Mee Goreng.
Mee Goreng.

A popular noodle dish, this one sounded better to me than it tasted. Again, there was a nice spice to it, and I wished that there were more sprouts and potatoes. It was good, but not great, and it got a little sickening after a while. It was also take away, so maybe if I ate it right as it was made it would have been better?

3 ringgit = .91 USD.

Lamma Island Aroma Rice.
Lamma Island Aroma Rice.

At a sit down restaurant, this bowl was the boyfriend’s but I tried some and it was so very tasty. Made with steamed rice, brown sauce, a drumstick, caramelized sausage, something green, giant mushroom, and an easy egg. It was simple but so delicious.

Smashed potatoes folded in crepe.
Smashed potatoes folded in crepe.

Penang.

One of the days we were wandering around we were so lucky to stumble upon Diwali! We had no idea it was going on, and we couldn’t believe how utterly fantastic it was that we happened to wander that way. Diwali is a Hindu holiday celebrated every Autumn. It was quite a festival. Unfortunately again, I didn’t get any photos, just several shaky videos. The streets were lined one after the other with vendors and goods and there were lights and bright colors everywhere. Loud and energetic Indian music blared from all corners and there were so many people. It was a beautiful sight during the day and even more so into the night! The atmosphere was positive, energetic and fun.

The boyfriend and I had dinner at an Indian restaurant. I love going out to eat Indian food here in Grand Rapids but there were plenty of items on the menu that I have never seen before, like the smashed potatoes in crepe. Pretty freakin’ delicious. You would think that the boyfriend and I would have been used to the crazy low prices of food in Penang, but we were still shocked to find that the five large plates we ordered came to be 24 ringgit total. That is 7.31 USD. Here in the States, for one plate of food at an Indian restaurant starts between $12 to $14 dollars. In Georgetown, five whole dishes cost 7 bucks!

8 Boutique By The Sea.
8 Boutique By The Sea.
Our view from 8 Boutique By the Sea.
Our view from 8 Boutique By the Sea.
Tanjung Tokong.
Tanjung Tokong.

Not sure why I’m going backwards with this, but 8 Boutique By the Sea was where we stayed our first night on Penang Island. Located right by the water, in the city of Tanjung Tokong, it’s a very nice, little, and quiet motel set in the middle of a Chinese fishing village! I loved it. I don’t want to start describing the area in detail because these entries are already too long. Let’s just say that it was quite different from anything here and I’m so glad we got to experience it. The desk lady spoke some English and was quite nice and helpful, as was the young staff member who cleaned. They put us in their nicest room, which was new and clean had a great view of the village and water.

Meat and potato Nasi Lemak.
Meat and potato Nasi Lemak.
Mini fish burger and sweet rice cake.
Mini fish burger and sweet rice cake.

It was here that we had our first experience with food in Penang, and I was ecstatic. The nasi lemak we bought from one of the stalls pictured above was the best I had the entire trip, and the mini little spiced fish burger was delicious.

This is the conclusion of my trip to Georgetown, Penang Island. From the food aspect, of course. To be honest, the incredibly hot and tropical weather conditions Malaysia possesses was the only factor that I disliked on the entire trip. Other than that, I can say that I genuinely fell in love with the place. From the U.S., the cost of flight is quite high but when you’re there, lodging and food prices are so incredibly low that I feel everything rounds out pretty reasonably.

Georgetown is a popular tourist spot but it’s not overwhelming. There are definite areas around town that are foreigner heavy (mostly Aussies), but the culture and spirit of the country still shine through, even there. That sounds pretty stupid but you know what I mean. Right?

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How I Love the Pearl of the Orient, Penang Island Part Two.

Holidays, people, and work! Busy busy. Finally, on with the second half of my food adventure in Penang, Malaysia. Uploading these pictures is making me miss Georgetown all over again…

Karts and stalls and markets everywhere!
Karts and stalls and markets everywhere!

Penang.

Did I mention in my previous post why I love Georgetown so much? Yes, the cuisine of course, but what also made me fall madly in love was that you could take fifteen steps in any direction and voila!- you come across lines of hawker stalls, karts, or street markets! The food is fresh, having been picked quite early in the day and there are so many different options of food, drinks, and shopping.

Gurney Drive.
Gurney Drive.
A beach at Gurney Drive.
A beach at Gurney Drive.
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.
Chee Cheong Fun.
Chee Cheong Fun.

Gurney Drive is what I would call one of the ritzy areas of Georgetown. You can tell there is money there. The boyfriend and I wanted to check out the famous Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that it may be the largest one on the island. Located right by the beach and the new, very large and beautiful shopping mall in Komtar Tower, there are quite a lot of people milling about. It’s a huge space of food stalls lines up side by side, with plenty of tables and seats in the center of it all. The photo above doesn’t do justice, as we went early on in the evening and the picture doesn’t depict how large the center actually is. But let me tell you, this place was just awesome. 

(The boyfriend and I didn’t have any issues but when eating there, but be sure to sit at nearby the stall you are ordering from. Sometimes the hawkers can be territorial about the tables.)

Line Clear.
Line Clear.
Nasi Kandar.
Nasi Kandar.

Speaking of fame in Georgetown, Chulia Heritage Hotel is right next to the incredibly popular eating spot called Line Clear. Featuring Nasi Kandar, it is a type of Indian Muslim cuisine that originated in Malaysia. You pick a plate and inform the server or chef what you want piled on it. There is a large variety of rices, meats, vegetables, side dishes, and a whole slew of curries. The cashiers were friendly and funny, calling the boyfriend and I “East Meets West” or something like that. (I’m Chinese-Korean, he’s white….is what that comment was pertaining to.)

It cost 26 ringgit for both our plates, which is about 7.92 USD.

Watching the process of making one of my favorite things was pretty great.
Watching the process of making one of my favorite things was pretty great.
I don't know what this is called but it was one of my favorite things about Penang!
I don’t know what this is called but it was one of my favorite things about Penang!

We came across this on our last day, and I just loved watching the hawker prepare and cook it. It is by far one of my favorite dishes from Penang, maybe even my favorite? And I don’t know what the name is! Stir fried non-sweet rice cake chopped up with several different sauces, green onion, sprouts, and egg. He asked if I wanted it spicy. Of course I did. It was so delicious. I needs it.

2.70 ringgit for the whole thing so .82 USD.

If anyone has a clue what this dish is called, I would be so elated to know. If anyone can come to my city and cook it for me, that would be even better.

How I Loved the Pearl of the Orient. Penang Island Part One.

Penang is a state of Malaysia. We stayed on Penang Island, or Pulau Pinang. There is quite a mix of culture there due to the high level of diversity the country possesses, which in turn presents a wide array of languages, religion, and most importantly, food!

The boyfriend and I stayed mostly in Georgetown, a popular spot for tourists to stay. We stayed at a nice budget hotel called Chulia Heritage Hotel. Our room was small but nice and clean, and the service friendly with fluent English speakers for visitors. The prices for rooms are very low in comparison to our standards here. I also booked our stay through a site called Tingo, which lowers the price of hotels and hostels if other sites do the same. I ended up getting about 37 USD refunded in my bank account after returning from our trip. For a six day stay, I paid 160 USD total. All in all we got quite a deal on our lodging!

Chulia Heritage Hotel.
Chulia Heritage Hotel.

The main reason why I picked Penang was because of the food. Watching numerous youtube videos on the variety of cheap street food and hawker stalls, I knew it needed to be checked out. The major ethnic groups on the island are Malay, Chinese, and Indian. The food was great and interesting because of the melding of different cultures, but you can also find traditional dishes from each individual country as well.

Penang Laksa.
Penang Laksa.
Noodle shot.
Noodle shot.

The Penang Laksa is known for being one of the dishes that brought fame to the Malaysian food world. One of my favorite dishes, definitely. Tender noodles, great veggies and the fish based broth was spicy and sour. It was a very flavorful dish, with a lot going on. It came with a dark sauce that looked like hoisin, and it was sweet. The boyfriend added it to his and I didn’t to mine. I was surprised at how beautifully the sauce blended with his soup. It wasn’t overly sweet and added a lot of depth to the dish. I liked my version just a tiny bit better, because it was lighter and more strong with the tangy and spicy notes.

Two bowls of the laksa with two sodas totaled 14 ringgit, which is 4.36 usd.

Chinese Buffet. Street Style.
Chinese Buffet. Street Style.

We didn’t know what we stumbled upon when we came to this little spot. Lots of places you eat at on the street will have several different food karts in one space for you to choose from. A server will walk around and get you drinks that you pay for, then you choose which stall to go to for your food. We chose basically a Chinese buffet, but it was so much better than any I’ve been to here in the States. Given a plate of rice, you can choose from a large assortment of dishes from chafers. The boyfriend and I loved everything we piled on our plates. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

My plate was 5.50 ringgit, so 1.71 usd.

Hawkers!
Hawkers!

I am aware that I’m not a professional photographer. Thank you.

Penang.

Something that I notice when I’m in Asia is the difference with working generations. Here in the States, it’s a life goal to retire in your 50’s or 60’s. In Asia, I feel that people work much longer lengths of their lives, and harder. Respect.

Nasi Lemak Kart.
Nasi Lemak Kart.

Nasi Lemak was also one of my favorite foods. Thanks to a co-worker of mine, I learned that the term means “fat rice” because it’s cooked in coconut milk. It’s served wrapped in banana leaf, brown paper or newspaper.

Nasi Lemak.
Nasi Lemak.
Spicy Fish.
Spicy Fish.

Fish with spicy sauce, dried anchovies and boiled egg.

Fried Oyster.
Fried Oyster.

An oyster omelette, with spring onions and typically served with a side of sweet and sour chili sauce. I’ve never been a fan of omelettes but I had to try it because I love oysters. I ended up just picking those out because they were very good, and the rest of the omelette was too greasy for me. But I also got it as take away so I may have liked it better on the spot?

Raw Oysters.
Raw Oysters.
Indonesian Prawn Hotpot.
Indonesian Prawn Hotpot.

We were looking for a seafood spot because it’s so fresh in Penang! We came across a Chinese restaurant. The service was a bit awkward, with the servers taking turns standing behind you and watching you eat. I think they do that in case a customer needs anything, and it was creepy, not gonna lie. Just a difference between cultures. However, the food was great. My oysters were good and the hotpot was delicious. The prawn were big and fresh tasting and the sauce was light and milky with coconut but not thick. There were fantastic whole chilies in there and the oiliness was great. It was a fantastic mix of spicy and sweet. I ate it with steamed rice.

Red Garden.
Red Garden.

We came across the Red Garden when we left the seafood restaurant. It was across the street and we saw a large parking lot that was full and a bright neon sign. I’m saddened that this is the only picture I have, because I mostly took shaky videos of the place. The boyfriend and I didn’t know what to expect, and it was quite a surprise. When you walk inside, you see a massive space with food stalls lining all the walls of the area, with so much variety! Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, and western food spots were seen. Tables fill the entire space in the center, and those surround a tall stage with singers belting out songs with music blaring behind them. It was amazing. It was energetic, and fun. I regret that we didn’t spend that much time there. It’s one of the spots I want to return to right away when I go back to Penang, and I will go back.