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A week in Penang, Malaysia


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22 minutes ago, Anna N said:

How did they compare with what you can get in New York City?

they were very good.  The ones we get in NYC are similar, if not maybe a little better - but the NYC place I love is run by 2 Malaysians who have worked in fine dining restaurant kitchens for many years, so their technique is amazing.  The only thing is that in Penang they have easy access to fresh pandan, which is a super important ingredient in kuih - I know it's one thing the NYC people constantly complain about is that they can't get the kind of pandan they wish they could get.  They keep asking me to grow some for them!  I'm considering it!

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Breakfast the next day:

 

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Double order of roti canai

 

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Beef rendang.  Below are some type of hash brown and to the left of them is some sort of fried starchy thing that didn't have much flavor, colored with pandan.

 

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Plate of pineapple

 

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Clear chicken soup with rice noodles, fish cake, fish ball, mushrooms and fried shallots

 

After breakfast, we went to the neighboring city of Ayer Itam to see the Buddhist temple Kek Lok Si which, I believe, is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.  I thought this temple was amazing because it had the most amount of manicured plants that I've ever seen in a temple.  It was just so relaxing wandering around the grounds... I could have stayed there all day.

 

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Some nice heliconia

 

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Giant bronze statue of Guan Yin

 

After viewing the temple, we were walking around Ayer Itam and stumbled into this Laksa place for lunch.  There seemed to be a good amount of locals in there (as well as some getting takeaway which is always a good sign) although quite a bit of tourists since it's not far from the entrance of the temple.

 

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Cendol is a common SE Asian dessert - it's basically some pandan flavored jellied squiggles in coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar.  Ais kacang is shaved ice with flavorings.

 

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The laksa stall

 

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The mise en place - squirt bottles are full of shrimp paste syrup, the pink shredded stuff is torch ginger flower, then chillies and mint.

 

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Giant cauldron of broth

 

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I thought this version was better than the one we had a few days before.  Bigger flakes of mackerel and better broth flavor.

 

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I saw a sign on the wall for this and was curious...

 

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Quite interesting - kind of sweet/sour but very distinctive - didn't really taste like anything I've had before.

 

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My wife needed a pick-me-up, so.....

 

After lunch we went to the botanical garden.  They have a few houses of specific types of plants, but 3 out of the 4 were closed.  This one was open:

 

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The fern house

 

There were quite a few monkeys roaming around:

Contrary to what the sign says, the monkeys were not aggressive at all.  This lady was feeding some (which you're not supposed to do) and they were being very patient with her as she doled stuff out:

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They even have a nice trail through the rain forest:

 

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Great example of a cannonball tree.  I've seen them in the Singapore botanical garden when they were flowering, but I've never seen them with the mature fruit.

 

Then back to the hotel to relax a bit.  By dinner time, my wife was pretty exhausted so we stayed in the hotel.

 

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Indian style lamb curry with a dish of pickles and a the blandest pappdum ever.

 

This is the middle of the end.  Soon after dinner I started feeling super exhausted, and then wound up having a fever with the chills and became ridiculously nauseous.  Like debilitating nausea where you just want to curl up in a ball and pass out.  Thankfully, a few years ago I got a prescription for an anti-nausea medication meant for cancer patients - it's really effective.  In about 5 minutes, the nausea is mostly gone and by 20 minutes, you feel normal again.  It didn't really help for the fever though.

Edited by KennethT (log)
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The end of the end!  I woke up the next day feeling awful again.  We basically stayed in the room for the rest of our stay, which is a shame because I had such big plans for the next day and a half.  I had wanted to see a very popular local market called the Cecil Street Market which is a wet market and also sells housewares like cooking tools/utensils, clothes, etc.  I had also wanted to go up Penang Hill which has tons of interesting planty type stuff.  We basically ordered room service (mostly for my wife since I wasn't really eating at all) for the next day and a half and was the beginning of me not eating for roughly 5 days in a row.  Most of the time I spent sleeping in bed.  We had taken a few COVID tests that we brought with us, but all came out negative, but we still didn't really want to take the chance of getting anyone else sick so we basically didn't leave the room and didn't allow the staff in to clean.  I believe my wife had a cheeseburger for at least one of the meals - she described it as more of a meatloaf burger (with Malay/Indian spices) with mayo (who puts mayo on a burger?) as well as a fried egg.

 

Our plane back to Singapore didn't leave the next day until like 6PM - we were lucky that we were able to talk to the hotel manager (on the phone) and explain the situation so they gave us a late checkout so we wouldn't have to sit in the airport longer than we had to.

 

Also, lucky enough, we wound up being Singapore Airlines Gold status (probably from the long NY-New Zealand via Singapore flight back in Dec. 2019) so when we did get to the airport (wearing major NIOSH certified N95 tight fitting masks just in case), we had a separate line (which had no one else on it because we were early) and we were able to sit in their Gold lounge where I could sit far away from everyone in a comfortable chair and just close my eyes.  My wife enjoyed some of the food offered in the lounge:

 

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Some type of fritter with sambal made with dried fish and chillies - she said it was really tasty.

 

We had a several hour layover in Singapore.  I had originally planned for us to go through immigration so we could go the the Jewel (we didn't see everything there the last time) and have dinner in Violet Oon's Peranakan restaurant there (she's like the Lydia Bastianich of Peranakan cuisine in Singapore with multiple restaurants, a TV show, cooking videos online, etc.)  Instead, we wound up going straight to the Gold Lounge (in the transit area) where I could sit in a comfy chair away from everyone and my wife was able to eat whatever she wanted as they had a decent size buffet.  She didn't take pictures, but I know that there was a whole Katong Laksa setup and a large dim sum selection that was constantly being refreshed and rotated.

 

Once on the plane, I talked to the head flight attendant and told her of my situation and told her not to bother serving any of the meals that I had preordered via their Book the Cook (which I had been looking forward to).  She was fantastic and constantly came around to check on me throughout the flight, offering me water/juice/tea and also offered to bring my meals during non meal time if I ever got hungry (I didn't).  She also brought me bottles of water so I could poke the top of the bottle under my mask to take a drink so I never had to take my mask off.

 

All in all, it was a great trip, marred by unfortunate circumstances....  I'd love to know what I had.  We got back to NY at like 5AM and I was still feeling crappy by that evening (now like 3 or 4 days without eating) so my wife convinced me to go to an urgent care, who gave me PCR tests for everything, and all came back negative....  oh well, I guess better that than anything else!

 

 

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Well, I am so sorry your trip ended so short and that you felt so bad.  I guess the one good thing is you only had a day and half left...which is a lot, but at least you weren't sick the whole time.  Your wife is a trooper to have hung in there and gone out like she did.  It's good that you tested negative so you got back home, but I would guess that you both had some version of covid.  Your symptoms were so much like my last round.  Also so glad you had such nice attendants on your flight.  Again, being that sick and having to fly from a different country....I think that would be so hard.

 

Thank you so much for showing the journey.  The food....the FOOD!!!  Makes me want to make Asian tonight which would be nothing like what you ate.  The lime juice drinks always look so refreshing.  I know I would like those.

 

Again, many thanks.

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So sorry your vacation went south. But it does sound as if you were fortunate enough to bump into some of the nicest people that we all know are in greater supply than the other kind.  
 

 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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25 minutes ago, Shelby said:

Well, I am so sorry your trip ended so short and that you felt so bad.  I guess the one good thing is you only had a day and half left...which is a lot, but at least you weren't sick the whole time.  Your wife is a trooper to have hung in there and gone out like she did.  It's good that you tested negative so you got back home, but I would guess that you both had some version of covid.  Your symptoms were so much like my last round.  Also so glad you had such nice attendants on your flight.  Again, being that sick and having to fly from a different country....I think that would be so hard.

 

Thank you so much for showing the journey.  The food....the FOOD!!!  Makes me want to make Asian tonight which would be nothing like what you ate.  The lime juice drinks always look so refreshing.  I know I would like those.

 

Again, many thanks.

Thanks.  Yes, she is definitely a trooper, but she kept saying that she didn't feel that bad - she just got tired really easily which was kept in check by drinking tons of Kickapoo and going to bed early.  Despite all the negative tests, I also think that we had COVID - maybe the XBB variant which is why my 5x vaxxed and 4x previous infected a$$ got so sick with it as it supposedly tends to evade previous antibodies better than the other strains.  The doctor at the urgent care also thought that our symptoms were consistent with the new strain  but could have been any number of other things as well.

 

I wasn't worried about not being able to get home - the US (and pretty much all other countries) have gotten rid of the negative test before arrival thing so I could have had a raging infection testing positive 8 ways to Sunday and still wouldn't have had a problem, technically.  The biggest thing for me was not just coming from a different country, but just the whole sitting on a plane for 18 hours thing, and being in a couple airports being who knows how far away from a bathroom and if there was a line at said bathroom, but thankfully, both the nausea medicine and Immodium (if you take enough of it) work wonders.

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Fantastic. I can almost taste the food - almost! Nothing beats being there.

Sorry to hear about your illness. I hope you are well. I came down with Covid when I was in Cologne last year, and didn't realise until I dragged myself into work the next day, checked my temperature, and only then tested myself. Straight back to bed!

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Thanks for the walk down memory lane. We loved Penang, and both times, enjoyed amazing food at various stalls. We have a friend who lives in Penang as a guide, in fact, I think she used to frequent eGullet. Had our first cendal with her from a street vendor and it was love at first sip! and our best friends live north of Penang, in Yan. They spend winters there at Shahedah's family home. We were to go with them mid Jan, but couldn't because of hubby's on-going medial issues.

Roti canai with chicken curry was our very first ever Malaysian breakfast. Loved it.

Then it was roti jala, equally fabulous!

Hope you are all over whatever ailed you.

Thank you once again for trip!

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Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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A couple of favourite memories from Penang. Are you familiar with these, @KennethT?
I know you'd mentioned cendal:

 

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The kuih was made by our friend's older sister. The egg shapes were Curry beef and potato bits in a custard

and the star shaped ones were filled with brown sugar, both with a crepe-like shell.
 

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I brought pans back with me, but I haven't made any!

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Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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43 minutes ago, Dejah said:

A couple of favourite memories from Penang. Are you familiar with these, @KennethT?
I know you'd mentioned cendal:

 

                                                     Cendal.jpg.e52fcd13f50eb84853d44490275cda52.jpg

 

The kuih was made by our friend's older sister. The egg shapes were Curry beef and potato bits in a custard

and the star shaped ones were filled with brown sugar, both with a crepe-like shell.
 

                                                   1906094428_Kuihcaramanis(brownsugar).jpg.65d503ece113d1846d0624ac5b16058f.jpg

 

I brought pans back with me, but I haven't made any!

The cendol, of course, but I've never seen kuih like that.  Most of our kuih experience is the Singapore kind - from what I am to understand, Penang Nyonya is a little different from Melaka or Singapore Nyonya.  For example, a very famous Singapore Nyonya dish is Ayam Buah Keluak - chicken curry made with buah keluak nuts.  Up until relatively recently, this dish was supposedly unheard of in Penang, however, you can now find it in most Peranakan restaurants now just because so many tourists have requested it, so they've learned to make it.

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