After my adventure in Indonesia I was sad to leave but excited to explore Malaysia.
After a lot of research, I was super excited to head to Penang, food capital of Malaysia. As 99% of my day is spent thinking about what I might like to eat, I was super excited to see the food on offer.
It didn’t disappoint.
A beautiful place, with colonial style buildings, Chinese temples, Indian Florists and fabric shops there is so much to look at. Not only that, Penang has a huge art scene with paintings and art scattered all over Georgetown. This is definitely the ‘hipster’ part of the island.
The street art in the centre of Penang is really impressive and adds so much charm. There is a mix of graffiti and sculptural Art. As well as all the cultural influences in the Architecture, it’s easy to see why many expats are attracted to Penang.
Whilst walking the streets of Penang hunting down the Art, I stumbled across a cat cafe. I obviously had to go inside and have snuggles with all the kitty Cats.
I spent about 1 hour here, there are lots of toys you can tickle the cats with, some a little grumpier than others but they all seemed to be super happy.
My favourite diva was this lady.
Walking around the town, you will find street food hawkers galore, selling all sorts of food.
As mentioned before, there is a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indians here so aside traditional favourites there are lots of fusion dishes too.
As well as the local resteraunts and markets there are some amazing places to eat a little more on the pricey side.
I treated myself to a dinner at China house and had the Confit duck with pineapple jam and sweet potato, not typical Malay I know, but with the colonial influences in Penang I guess it’s normal to have this kind of fusion. Also made better by a nice glass of red wine, something of a challenge to find in Asia.
They also have a cafe called Canteen with around 20 cakes you can choose from whilst listening to jazz singers. I wouldn’t have seen myself enjoying a night of Jazz but armed with my drawing pad and of course another glass of wine it was actually perfect.
The food markets are an absolute steal with dishes costing around 3RM which is about 65pence! Knowing how much I had spent on restaurant food I was eager to make more effort to try the street food hawkers.
We tried a few dishes, from Chinese stalls including a pork and noodle broth and Lok Lok.
Lok Lok is great fun, a little like tapas. You select your skewer and steam it with a selection of sauces. On offer is fish & seafood, sausage, meat dumplings, vegetarian parcels, this list goes on!
Indian stalls offer the usual delights of curries, rotis and tandoori chicken. All absolutely delicious.
I couldn’t leave Penang without a cooking course under my belt. After reading some reviews on time out, I decided to go to Nazlina’s spice kitchen.
It was so much fun, I’d highly recommend.
We had an early start with breakfast at 7.30am, and then took a walk around the markets. The local knowledge from Peter who took me around was great! He knew all the best places and had a good relationship with all the stall holders.
Walking around we first stopped at ladies preparing beansprouts. I can honestly say I will never look at them the same! For such a cheap eat they are SO labour intensive. They take around 7 days to sprout which involves a serious of washing and switching tubs.
After this we saw coconut milk being prepared. I was in absolute heaven!
The taste of the fresh coconut milk is like nothing you’ve had before and certainly not like the tinned imports we get at home.
Later Nazlina let me try some frozen coconut milk she had… It was perfection!
All of the meat prepared in the markets is Halal. Something I found a little tricky to see.
I even saw a black chicken! It’s a genetic disorder apparently and offers some sort of prosperity.
We saw all sorts of fruit and vegetables.
Old cucumber is a favourite here, used to put in soups and also hollowed and stuffed with coconut.
We also so fresh nutmeg- this little guy is the male variety, it was so vivid in colour.
Before heading back we stopped to see a local man making the discs for spring rolls. Watching him work was amazing.
The glutinous dough stuck to his hand as he lightly lets it touch the pan and creates a wafer thin circle which cooks in seconds. He is in his 70’s and makes around 2000 a day!
Back at the cooking school we looked at ingredients. Typically there was soy, oyster sauce, sesame oil but also the Indian influence of curry leaves, coriander, cumin and turmeric. Fragrant spices like cloves, cardamon and cinnamon also used.
We began with a local rice noodle dish of Chow koay taow. Usually this has sausage but we did with black pepper prawns. It was similar to a pad Thai but a little less sweet.
We followed this with a black beef curry ( Daging Masak Hitman) It uses the usual spices you’ll find in Indian cuisine but has the addition of soy and mint which makes this really unusual. Quite a sweet curry but packed with flavour.
In addition to this we made a sambal tumis with a local square pea. This is a spicy mix of chilli, water, shrimp paste, garlic and Palm sugar.
Sautéed cabbage with chilli and turmeric and a lentil rice ( Nasi Kacang Parpu) which used the cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, garlic and lemongrass.
We sat and ate all the food whilst discussing our travels. I loved the food in Penang, there is so much more to try. Luckily I have another nights stay in the coming week.