Monday, January 9, 2012

Malaysian Encounters.

2011 was frankly ridiculous. I organised our wedding, our housemove and 2 work trips abroad. So when we finally arrived Kuala Lumpar I was desperate to kick back and enjoy being cut off for a few weeks. The food we encountered was confusing and strange, not always very nice, but nevertheless exciting. Assam Laksa was the first really mental thing we ate - a murky broth full of dried ground fish and fat noodles. Served with a tiny lime and serious chilli kick, this was my least favourite meal. Malaysian food is a strange mixture, being a fusion of many cultures - Indian, Chinese and Nonya (Malay/Indonesian food). The overriding theme which we encountered everywhere was dried fish. This becomes the base seasoning for a lot of Malay cooking.

The best food we ate in Penang was actually the Chinese food. Teksen Restaurant was a treat of place with a really chic interior of matching metal stools and a seriously gorgeous fine boned girl running the show. The food was punchy, with a lot of dishes coming in scorching clay pots. My favourite dish was by far the winged beans which came with chubby prawns and a light sambal (a pickled sauce common in Nonya foods). I'll definitely be testing out a few sambals and if anyone can tell me where to get the winged beans I'll buy them a grateful drink! They have a fantastic firm crunchy texture and delicate flavour which takes chilli really well. Plus with their increased surface area you could really drench them in a good sauce.

The street food which we encountered, piping from every corner of Georgetown's alleys was predominantly chinese in origin. I have a new respect for chicken satay. Popular on the '90's fusion menu in dodgy local restaurants and therefore pretty undesirable, my opinion of chicken satay was always low. But that was until I tasted real satay. We drank beer on the pavement and watched a seriously dexterous woman twiddle and turn her sticks rammed full of either pure chicken meat or liver and gizzard. With each rotisserie turn she dabbed the meaty sticks with a brush. It wasn't until we got really close and started quizzing her that we worked out what was going on: the brush was actually 3 sticks of lemongrass tied together and split at the woody end. And the liquid she was dipping the 'brush' in was actually an infusion of lemonglass water and oil. Served with some slithers of cucumber and a dark satay source (which probably had dried fish in it and also dried chillies) we happily downed our beer and mopped up the atmosphere of these smoggy but fun streets.

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