June 3, 2012
Malaysian Eats in 3 Ports: The Best of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Penang
Three consecutive days of Malaysian discoveries put me in a tizzy: the good kind, of course. The food finds were plentiful, some for the palate and some just for the eyes (you'll see what I mean).
First port: Singapore
These delectable offerings were not for my tasting but rather, religious offerings in a Buddhist temple. Replete with egg omelets, spring rolls and sautéed greens, you know I had to restrain a nibble - teasing chopsticks and all.
Food Row in Chinatown brought me strong coffee in ornate china, a doughy pork bun puff, and stacks of salty BBQ pork patties textured like a jazzin' jerky.
Since I'm always jonesin' for coffee, the sweltering heat begged to make it iced. So I picked up a cold can of UCC Black Coffee from a market and it immediately made me smile, as it was the same kind I sipped all over Tokyo during my 3-week stint there two years ago. But the tiny portion did not quench my thirst so a gentle stroll later….
….I came upon a quaint, tented food court of about 5 establishments, one being Coffee Village. Another iced black coffee to go, please, and this one hit the spot. Brewed freshly pour-over style, the steaming liquid melted the rocky ice cubes until the temperatures evened out. Suffice it to say, it satiated my drooling pant for the rest of my walkabout journey in Singapore.
Seconnd Port: Kuala Lumpur
This capital of Malaysia brought street food that agreed with me - for the most part. My favorite find were these savory and dense deep-fried sweet potato balls that I popped lolli-style all too quickly. A crisp and light exterior encapsulated a fluffy yet substantial mash.
A walk through the backstreets of Chinatown opened my olfactory senses to fried fish, creamy curries, and puffy pastries, mostly served buffet-style for you to enjoy at plastic tables and chairs already populated by locals hunched over their own plates.
Nearby, the Central Market is an indoor complex that houses bazaar shops and a food court on its own level. This is where I had my lunch at Mini Wok. Officially called Kuey Teow Goreng, it was an unimpressive tin wok filled with noodles, diced chicken and two prawns. The flavor was run of the mill Chinese I could have gotten in the States, though the salty crisps served alongside were a nicely textured crunch.
Luckily, a gem of a treat laid just outside of the Market, on a parallel street named Katsuri Walk with more vendors. The most refreshing thing on a balmy day was none other than the water from a fresh Sea Coconut. The vendor axed off the top, popped in two straws, and voila, a hand held bowl of slightly sweet translucent liquid was ready for sipping. This water is much lighter and mellow than that from the more familiar smaller brown coconut. Needless to say, this one was going, going, gone in mere minutes.
Third Port: Penang
My tongue got tastes from the enclosed Chowrasta food market in this coastal city's Georgetown neighborhood. Modest in size, the outdoor vendors sell dried and pickled goods, especially fruits. I tried pickled mango, chestnut, a plums - all to my vinegary liking.
Also from exterior street carts were fried and steamed treats, including Japanese rice pyramids wrapped in newspaper with the milky sweet flavor of succulent coconut.
Easily hidden on the interior is a wet market (literally floors flooded with water) with smelly raw fish and fowl. Butchers chop away heads of chickens and sea creatures alike, and put the parts on display for sale. It doesn't get much fresher than that. These uncooked eats may put most off, but not this girl. Had I a kitchen, I would have nabbed a variety and fired up my grill for some fish on the bone, and bloody slabs of steak. I guess I will remain resigned to my imaginary meal from Chowrasta market. But the little bites I did have were memory enough for me.