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The Food Mecca of Asia – Penang, Malaysia

We disembarked the serenity & order of the ship to a buzzing, noisy, sweat fuelled bustling city of Penang, Malaysia. Motor bikes, small cars and flower laden trikes lined the streets with tour guides selling their wares, all respectfully yelling, ‘Lady… Lady…. Lady, this way. You want taxi? 50 dollar! I take you on 1hr ride in my car, you see things you not see any other way’.

Not up for the bargaining challenge, we side step the drivers and set out to experience Penang, Malaysia on foot, the traffic was a maze of cars, motorbikes, flower laden trikes and bikes packed to the hilt with cargo, crossing the roads was challenging. We tempted the fates and our own mortality as Queen Suebah (Mom) grabs my hand and boldly challenges the locals to a cheeky game of Russian roulette, as we navigate across 5 lanes (designed for 2) of traffic.

The sidewalks are jammed with street hawkers, sacks of spices, nuts, fruit, dried meats and fish too. This multi-cultural city is absolutely living up to the title of ‘Best food mecca in South East Asia’, and I hadn’t even had a bite to eat yet. There is a huge variety of foods available in Penang including Indian, Malay, Chinese, European and even Thai. Aware that tummy space is limited, I hoped my day of eating in this foodie paradise would include many of the foods Penang is famed for.

First stop is a traditional breakfast feast of Nasi Lemak – Anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, lamb curry, cucumber and a chilli paste. The sweetness of the coconut rice balances the spice of the chilli perfectly.

Happily fed, we stroll towards Little India, a vibrant haven that easily could be mistaken for India itself. Bright colours, strong smells, loud music, and an array of shops selling anything from spices, traditional costumes, jewellery to tasty fried goodies. I wish my photos were scratch and sniff for you to get a real sense of this part of the world, as incense coils burned at every shop front where women whispered prayers for wealth, riches and good fortune. Bollywood style tunes blared and store owners stood out front encouraging us to come inside and buy. And buy (food) we did.

We gorge ourselves silly on Assam Laksa, a spicy noodle soup that is tangy, savoury, sweet and spicy altogether. There is poached mackerel that simmers in tamarind, lemongrass, chilli and shrimp paste, topped with a big blob of rice vermicelli. Holy Guacamole it was superb!

With heavy tummies, despite the fact that our FitBits told us we’d walked 9 kms, we looped back through the amazing architecture of Georgetown with it’s wonderfully British buildings from a colonial era mingling next to the traditional peaked red roofs with decorative Chinese dragons.

We took in some amazing street art, had a look at a temple and then off to search for caffeine. Google told us there was a coffee joint owned by an Australian woman who had much love for the bean, but sadly we didn’t find her. We finished the day with a cheeky catnap in the sun on the lawns of the courthouse where there was free Wi-Fi, content to watch the world go by in this bustling multi-cultured city.

If time wasn’t a constraint, I’m pretty sure I’d still be eating my way through every nook and cranny of Penang, Malaysia it was the sort of place I’d like to go back to one day & explore some more.

I’d love to know, what’s your favourite type of cuisine? And do you heart Malaysian foods as much as me?

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