Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Eating in Penang

Yesterday I found a cafe with coffee ground from beans and many different variations of hot buttered toast. Only someone who has spent time wrestling with ice cold butter and thin white bread that has been essentially warmed-- not toasted-- will understand the pure joy of having thick slices of bread that have been toasted and then spread with butter and the topping before being brought to the table. I went back today for the coffee and the bright cleanliness of Trois Canon Cafe--and oh all right for the toast--augmented with butter and kaya (coconut milk and sugar cooked down to a spreadable consistency.)

Yes, I like "authentic" as much as any backpacker--but who says authentic has to be grimy and uncomfortable all the time? For my first week in George Town I had coffee at a Chinese open-air place across the street and that was fun, but it's equally pleasant to read the paper over cups of decent coffee and a plate of comfort food as I ease into my day.

Last evening as the day cooled, I roamed around taking snapshots of doors and windows and old tilework and was drawn to a house painted a glowing shade of pale green. It was a place that served three dishes--and one of them was rojak. This is a splendid salad made with chunks of mango and perhaps pineapple and vegetables and thin slivers of something that tasted like anchovies. I can't be more precise than that because everything was obscured with a dark brown dressing with the consistency of molasses and which was salty and chili-hot and sweet and tangy. I can't wait to go back and have the laksa--Malaysia's signature soup--and the cendol which is a dessert made with chunks of ice and other lovely things.

My new friend Jessie, who is so valiantly trying to help me find an apartment, took me to an outdoor food hawker center in what I hope will soon be my new neighborhood. The mussel pancake/omelette that is called hoi taud in Thailand is called fried oysters here and is served with a lovely chili sauce rather than the sweet syrupy one that accompanies the Thai version. Heaven on a plate.

Everybody who comes to Penang probably eats at The End of the World (after I did, I discovered it's in Lonely Planet.) It's at the end of a 20 km bus ride from George Town, a gorgeous route along a twisty road that hugs the coast, and its food is worth the trip. A seaweed soup held fish balls that were lighter than any I've ever had before, and the kailan with garlic tasted as though it had been steamed in saltwater.

And to top it all off, what with mango lassis and fresh fruit juices and iced nutmeg juice, I haven't had a beer since my night on the train with the Cosmopolitan Dutchman. Maybe I'll eventually rediscover my lost waistline, but with all the food there is to try on this island, I truly doubt it.

1 comment:

Jessi Cotterill said...

Hi Janet!! very nice pictures. I'm glad to know you're enjoying eating and living in Penang. Hope (again) that we'll meet there one day.