Sarah and I just completed the most extensive wandering graze of our lives.
Over the course of 12 hours in Penang, we managed to munch through 12(!) of the West Malaysian Island’s most famous street foods.
We shared most of them and they were small portions, but there’s no denying it – this was hedonistic street-gluttony run amok
Click through to see the full extent of our appetite!
A few nights ago my Asian Street Food experience came to an end on a Kuala Lumpur back street. We’d taken an overpriced taxi from our hotel to a reputable street food market in the Kampung Baru area of the city, only to find that a public holiday the previous day had curtailed the night market, meaning a rapidly dwindling pool of vendors. Ignoring the satay stalls and cat calls from the adjoining restaurants, I quickly settled on a popular noodle stall and it’s smiling Malay vendor for what was to be my parting shot.
This was classic one dish one vendor stuff, cooked on a huge, circular pan and served in hot, heavy paper parcels like fish and chips. The noodles were a wide and flat runway variety, reminiscent of a rogue strain of linguine, and had been mixed in with liberal amounts of beansprouts, chili and soy sauce.
The result was a dish that was more texture than flavour. The chili and soy sauce were good, but it was the juxtaposition of the smooth, soft, slightly sticky flat noodles and the crunchy, fresh beansprouts that piqued my interest. Faced with this mean pair, the flavours sidled off into the background and kept their presence to mere taste bud fodder. I gobbled the lot right there on the sidewalk (sorry, pavement) then went to buy some fake DVDs
I felt that this was a good dish to end on. It was simple stuff – quick, sustaining and unpretentious, and the type of thing that I’d be pushed to find any other place at any other time. I loved the rusticity of the serving methods and the fact that it only cost about 20p.
I’m in London now, and its going to be interesting to see how the street food here compares. Next stop Borough market!
Years ago, whilst en route to Australia, I had one of the most memorable eating experiences of my life aboard the wonderful Malaysia Air. It was around midnight UK time, but the cabin crew had yanked open the window shutters to the rising sun and announced breakfast.
On the menu was Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian and Malay breakfast staple that generally involves fried rice, egg, chili sauce and occasionally seafood, meat or vegetables. This particular version came with a little portion of curried prawns on the side, and sent my dormant, 18 year old taste buds shooting across continents faster than any jumbo jet.
I’ve carried that experience with me, and was justifiably excited by the prospect of a re-run when we arrived in Malaysia. However, far from recreating that single experience, I’ve discovered that Nasi Goreng, a lot like multi-cultural Malaysia, exists in several different shades held together by a few common denominators.
One of those is sambal, a pungent chilli paste with variations that include prawn paste, lime juice and sugar. Sambal can be a bit much at first, but as with many acquired tastes, perseverance brings with it rich rewards.
Other common denominators include fried rice and eggs. The egg sometimes comes hard boiled, at other times it is fried whole mixed through until barely cooked. Further variations exist with fried anchovies, prawns, sliced cucumber or what ever comes to hand. This is because Nasi Goreng is essentially an economical meal, composed of leftover rice and other odds and ends.
Even presentation is up for grabs. Sometimes it comes in little pyramid shaped banana leaf packages that open to reveal a boiled egg balanced on top of a dollop of sambal and portion of rice. Other times it comes out with the different components separated on the plate, awaiting the judicious application of fork and spoon.
A true breakfast of champions.