Heritage on a Plate

Intermission: Some Penang Food Favourites!

Food Tour, Malaysian Food, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hello! This week I wanted to take a break from our regular Penang in Pictures and Friday Flashback series, and show you some gorgeous food pics. Oh, and if you don't already know, the "intermission" is from old films they used to show at the cinema. Typically, midway through the film there'd be a 5-10 minute cut for toilet breaks. That's when you'd go out to stretch your legs and top up on the cinema snacks like chickpeas and sugared nutmeg. It was pretty cool!

Penang Kopi (Local Coffee)

if you've met me or been on one of our food hops in Penang, you'll know that I'm addicted to the local coffee. This stuff is so good. The local coffee, or kopi as we call it here, is often flavoured with spices, butter and palm sugar. If you walk into a shop and ask for kopi, you're in for a wild ride. Flavours can range from nutty and sour to sweet and spicy. It usually comes with condensed milk and sugar, so you might want to ask for less sugar, or strong and black with no sugar or milk to really savor the flavor.

hop penang food tour coffee kopi

Nyonya Otak Otak (Braaaaainnnsss)

When the zombie apocalypse finally rolls around, I'll be well prepared. By which I mean that decades of enjoying the Nyonya Otak Otak in Penang will have prepared me to consume brains as a zombie.

The dish is actually made from mashed fish and flavoured with spices, curry powder and in Penang, daun kaduk (wild pepper leaf). It's steamed in banana leaves for the Nyonya version, which has the consistency of a nice custard. The Malay community will grill it, giving it a more solid texture quite similar to fish cake.

The name itself means "brains" in Malay, due to its... well, brainy look. The otak otak is notoriously difficult to photograph, so I'm pretty happy this shot came out looking anything other than a brainy pile of mush :P

hop penang food tour nyonya otak otak

Penang Nyonya Assam Laksa

These pictures were initially part of the Laksa Shootout series, but I decided they were a little too specific. I wanted to capture the range of colours and ingredients, and the little quirks at different shops.

hop penang food tour assam laksa

This picture is from the Penang Road Famous Laksa, and I really loved how the colours from the mint, shallots, torch ginger flower and pineapple (!) really came together.

hop penang food tour nyonya assam laksa 1

This is from the other laksa place just up the road, and I really loved the detailing on the chopsticks. It gives the place it's own personality. I've become aware in the last few years about how strongly we are conditioned to consume without pause, with no chance to take a breath and critically examine the things around us. Things like this remind me that this isn't just another laksa on the list. It's a place with it's own character, personality and history.

Something to remember as we explore this beautiful world together. Safe journeys and good eating.

Penang in Pictures Part 3

Travel, Food Tour, Heritage and CultureDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! I'm back with another (possibly terrifying) blog post about my budding photography skills! This time, I've dug deep into a photo-walk I did in late-2016. This was during my "experimental" phase, and it resulted in a lot of uhhh interesting shots.

I tend to home in on textures and details, and a lot of the photos were taken deliberately off-axis. I think I was going for a surrealist feel or something. Like I said - "Experimental."

Most of these were taken on Jalan Pintal Tali, also known as Rope Walk. Fun fact: there used to be a community of rope makers who lived and worked here, which is how the street got its name. They moved here from their original base in Little India, once the area gentrified too much to accommodate them. I know the gist of the story but I'm still researching it. I'll have more to say about it... soon-ish?

In the meantime, I present to you some photos that didn't turn out terribly! Tadaa!

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 1

Naturally, I started out with what I feel is the strongest piece. I just really enjoyed the amount of details in this picture, and the myriad stories that must be hiding behind these wind-swept and rain-battered windows. There must have been a time when this was a grand view, with beautiful carvings and giggling bright plaster. It's a withering shadow of it's former self. I feel like it's sad and beautiful at the same time.

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 2

I liked the textures in this picture, and didn't bother to create a meaningful composition while I was taking it. The outcome is pretty flat, but with a lot of gorgeous wear and tear, telling the passage of time. I liked that the house number is 88, considered lucky in Chinese numerology. The wooden window panes are being held together by string.

hop penang food tour picture rope walk 3

Now, before you start thinking that every house in George Town is pretty much held together by some twain and a prayer, this is one of the off-axis shots I was talking about earlier. It's meant to convey... something? The tilt of modernity? The inevitability of change, like pieces being pulled by gravity on a tilted board? Possible day-drinking?

hop penang food tour pictures rope walk 4

Oohhhh purdddy...

That's it for Rope Walk, folks. I'll dive back into that endless barrel of Penang photographs for next week's edition of Penang in Pictures. For now, check out Part 2 of the series. And as always, safe travels and good eating :)




Friday Flashback: Our Favourite Penang Food Part 3

Food Tour, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

Hey, guys! Another Friday, another food flashback here. I hope your week has been going very well, and that you're going to be getting some much needed rest for the weekend (or some much needed excitement?) When I was going through pictures for this week's FF, I came across some really delicious rice dishes that I haven't had in a while. I'm putting them up so you can go find them if you're in Penang for the weekend. But I'm also putting them up as a reminder for me to go eat them again soon :P

Penang Nasi Campur

In Penang, we're big on rice especially during lunch time. The nasi campur or "mixed rice" concept is flexible, affordable and nutritious. It's like a buffet of dishes and you can choose the ones you fancy to go with your serving of white rice (sometimes cooked with ginger, or with butterfly pea flower.)

One of my favourite nasi campur places in the afternoon is Pak Yusof Nasi Melayu at the Traders Cafe on Jalan Macalister. The picture below is from 2017, and you could say this was a pretty light meal compared to my usual visits. I took some fried fish with sambal (chili paste and lime) sauce, tauhu sumbat (stuffed fragrant tofu), bean sprouts and egg. But they have easily 20-30 different dishes out for the weekday work crowd.

 Behold the seductive glow of carbohydrates

Behold the seductive glow of carbohydrates

Penang Pork Rice

Nestles in one unassuming corner of Lebuh Chulia is probably one of the most popular pork rice shops on the island. Wai Kee Char Siew sells pork rice every afternoon and the place is filled to the brim with hungry, expectant fans. You'll have to come early, around 11.30am, just to get a spot. Once the crowd starts going, there's an average 15 minute wait before you get a table.

Just a note about this (very overexposed) picture. I was still fiddling around with camera settings and trying to figure out how to take semi-decent food pics at the time. So, it's not really my best work. But I figured it was... informative?

hop penang food tour pork rice

Kailan Pork Rice

Ok, stay with me here. I know it looks err humble. But this here is one of my all time comfort foods. It's made in a little stall at the KOMTAR building on Jalan Magazine, by a husband and wife couple. Chopped and steamed kailan, with salted fish and roasted pork belly, served with piping hot white rice and a sour-spicy Thai chili sauce on the side. It's crunchy, salty, so pork-fatty good. When I'm having a bad day, this and a cup of iced Kopi makes it all better.

hop penang food tour kai lan pork rice

Ok, that's it for this week! I'll be back again next week with some more food pics rummaged from the depths of my memory as well as my SD card. Eat well!

There's a lot of good food in Penang. The Friday Flashback series will help recap some of our recommendations and help you decide which delicious dishes to have on your trip to Penang. For more food favourites, read Part 2 of our Friday Flashback series.