(Posted by Kristin)
We had two weeks to explore Malaysia, and we were guidebook-free and operating primarily on the recommendations of people we met along the way. The basic plan was to eat our way through Malaysia and, although we did sprinkle in a few other activities, that is exactly what we did. Yum. Every time we arrived in a new town, the locals would tell us “oh you have to try the (fill in the blank)” so off we went in search of the best version of that food.
Langkawi didn’t seem to have one special dish, but it was our first stop in Malaysia, so we jumped into trying everything at the night market on our first evening there. The night market was a lively place, with people meandering through the streets, tasting all the local delights and shopping for clothes, toys, and whatever else took their fancy.
One of our favorites was the satay (chicken, lamb, and beef!)
And our new discovery of peanut pancakes. Here in the process of being made
And the finished product – yum!
Xavier enjoyed the grilled chicken.
There were many things we didn’t try, but they looked tasty. Our stomachs are only so big.
Interesting balls and other assorted shapes.
Tasty noodles (mee).
We were tempted, but stayed away from the brightly colored beverages.
After that first night of delicious and extremely inexpensive dining at the night market, we went in search of it every night. It so happens that the night market is a nightly event at different locations around the island. Unfortunately it was either too far from us or we just could not find it again, much to our regret our cravings were not satisfied.
Langkawi is also known for durians, but we did not have the stomach try these delicious gym-socks smelling custardy fruits (google it).
I love the idea of sipping from a fresh coconut on the beach (although I don’t actually love the coconut water as much as I would like to.)
We also had the worst meal of the trip on Langkawi, at the Red Tomato. For some reason I had a hankering for some pizza — bad idea. They used some weird gamey cheese that just didn’t work. To top it off, the glass of wine they gave me was undrinkable and when I complained (and I never send anything back, so you know it had to be bad), they said it was just a matter of taste. Don’t eat at Red Tomato!
Lastly, we are still confused by the Flossy Hottie…
Penang had a long list of must-tries and we did our best to work our way through it. They even have a foodie map of Penang. Our one regret is that we did not try perhaps the most famous dish, the Penang laksa — we will have to save it for next time. Our first stop was the Red Garden, which is made up of a large open seating patio surrounded by a wide variety for food booths. One of Xavier’s favorites was the oyster omelet, which he had with this other specialty dish made from gluey rice.
Anthony Bourdain has also savored the omelet at this establishment (see tiny picture of the chef with Mr. Bourdain)!
There were so many tasty things to eat, but we couldn’t try them all!
We had our best satay of the trip at this stall at the Chinese New Year street festival.
Char Keow Tay was another must-try, basically stir fried noodles with shrimp and cockles, and usually best at street fairs. The secret to a good Char Keow Tay is apparently HIGH HEAT.
Our new Finnish friends who live in Penang recommended the Sky Cafe for BBQ Pork — we tried going a couple of times but it was closed for Chinese New Year. Luckily it was open on our last day. OMG. The BBQ pork was to die for — beautiful succulent little caramelized, slightly burnt morsels of fatty, porky goodness.
We quickly ordered a second round after gulping down the first (we had to get our order in before they ran out!)
And to think what we could have eaten if only we were VIPs!
Needless to say, we were sad to leave Penang.
We limped into KL, checked into our hostel, and headed out to explore the nearby Chinatown market. After running the gauntlet of aggressive salesmen, we came across a nice vendor selling delicious coconut pancakes. We had to try them, and they were delightfully spongy, with coconut flakes — not too sweet!
After a day of wandering around KL, we decided to check out Jalan Alor, even though it is apparently a den of thieves!
The street comes alive in the evening with sidewalk restaurants.
Finally I found veggies!
But after wandering up and down the street, we decided to go with skewer guy.
He had a good selection of veggies, meats and seafood (some of which we could even identify).
And you could get things steamed, grilled, or fried. We enjoyed everything, but the deep-fried mushrooms were incredible — we ordered another round.
We stopped into a noted Chinese coffee house, and Xavier went with the waiter’s recommendation: lemon iced tea. It came with milk, which initially gave us pause, but it was truly delicious and refreshing! We might have to try it at home.
I had a pretty good Indian meal at the Batu caves (veggies!)
Our first evening in Malacca was spent sampling our way through the night market, which runs all weekend long (conveniently when we were there) and was right around the corner from our guesthouse.
Then we went on a quest to try all the local dishes. First stop: Nyonya Laksa. Our guest house host, Dr. Joe, recommended the laksa at Little Momma’s down the street, but it turns out she wasn’t making it anymore because she had gotten one bad review on Trip Advisor (supposedly from a competitor) and now no one was ordering it there anymore. Xavier made his sad face, so she agreed to make it especially for him the next day. We had a date at 2pm, and we were there. Xavier was in laksa heaven!
Even I liked it and had a bowl of my own!
And then it was gone.
All the locals insisted that we had to try satay celup, where you stick things on skewers into a boiling pot of spicy peanut sauce.
The blogs were all over the place as to the best spot for satay celup, so we ended up going to the “original” Capitol Satay (despite it being overpriced and overrated, according to some blogs). We had been by the night before to check out the famous long line…
…and decided to go right when it opened the following day.
We enjoyed the whole experience but didn’t exactly come away fans of satay celup. But the giant prawn was kind of cool.
I found out about Mille crepes while trolling blogs for the best eats in Malacca. Yep, it’s good: whipped cream and other luscious flavours between layers and layers of crepes (I counted 15). I had the “Malacca” with a touch of coconut cream and Malacca sugar (delicious dark brown palm sugar). We should have shared.
A couple of places in town claimed to have the best chicken and rice balls…
We went to Famosa, and it was pretty good (but we don’t know what it is supposed to taste like.)
Throughout Malacca we kept seeing signs for “cendol”. Even though there were pictures, we couldn’t figure out what it was. So we googled it, found out it was a refreshing dessert with shaved ice, pandan rice noodles, red beans, coconut milk, and Malacca sugar. So we decided to give it a try on our last night in Malacca. Except it turns out everything closes down early on Monday nights, so we were frantically rushing all over town in search of cendol. We finally found some near our guest house and it was indeed refreshingly delicious! (Ok, the green jelly texture was a little weird.)
With our bellies full, it was time to move on to our next culinary adventure.