Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The well-fed pescatarian in Malaysia

I generally describe myself as a vegetarian, as this is the easiest way to talk about people that don't eat meat, but then occasionally someone will call me on the fact that I eat fish. Being an avid traveller is made so much easier by consuming fish, although it didn't help me miles away from the sea in Russia, when pickled vegetables were my only sustenance. So in summation, I am a pescatarian and a pretty well-fed one most of the time.

On a recent trip to Malaysia I was able to eat very well with my combination of vegetables and seafood, as rice, noodles and myriad non-meaty flavours supplemented these key ingredients. Anyone who has travelled in the country will know that it is a foodie heaven and it is difficult to go hungry.


The island of Penang has become associated with wonderful street food of late and I was keen to sample the vendors' offerings. It would be remiss, however to neglect the great restaurants scattered around Georgetown too, as they serve up some delicious dishes that ticked all the boxes for this hungry pescatarian.

Among those to try are:
  • Sri Ananda
There are a few branches of this establishment serving up south Indian specialities on the island. The one in Little India in Georgetown is very conveniently located. I had prawn masala, aloo ghobi, pelak paneer, garlic naan and rice.
  • Woodlands
Just across the road from Sri Ananda is another delicious stop-off - Woodlands. My meal here consisted of chenna batura - a spicy chickpea stew with raw onions, sliced red chillis and half a teeny tiny lime on top. Accompanied by freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • Teksen
Not far from Armenian Street is this humble-looking establishment with beaten metal tables and stools. Do not be put off by its apparent simplicity, as the complex flavours of the dishes more than make up for the d├ęcor. I would recommend ordering the tamarind king prawns, which were among the stickiest and tastiest things I've ever eaten. Even those who eschew a Brussel sprout at Christmas could not fail to love the fried sprouts with shrimps - delicious. Nutmeg juice washed the whole lot down.
  • Tropical Spice Garden
On my last day in Penang I took a tour of the Tropical Spice Garden, which is in the Teluk Bahang suburb of Georgetown. The very informative guided tour from a lady called Bea was the perfect way to work up an appetite for lunch and the restaurant certainly didn't disappoint. Sat outside with beautiful views from under colourful umbrellas I tucked into a very flavoursome pad thai. The garden has its own cookery school, where visitors can learn to make such delights. Unfortunately my time was up by that point, but maybe next time...

Lunch at the Tropical Spice Garden

Street food

There are lots of areas in and around Georgetown that can boast a wide array of street food on offer. One of which is a huge hall at the bottom of Gat Lebuh Armenian, which is jam-packed with hawker stalls. Wandering around, looking at what is available it is clear that you can take your taste buds on a culinary journey around the world without ever having to leave this place.

Everything from Thai and Taiwanese food to Nyonya cuisine and brisket was being served. I settled on Thai seafood rice and watched as the lady carefully chopped and threw ingredients into the wok. She also reached up to a variety of boxes on the shelf above her and added in a wide selection of spices and additions to subtly flavour the delicious dish.

Kuala Lumpur

As you would expect from a capital city anywhere in the world, Kuala Lumpur has plenty of places to eat whether you describe yourself as a carnivore, vegetarian or pescatarian. But for me and many other hungry bellies, the ultimate destination is Jalan Alor. This incredible street is jam-packed with food stalls every evening and there was only one night in the whole of my stay in KL when I didn't eat here.

You can almost smell this evocative thoroughfare from a distance and once the sun goes down, the light from the yellow and red lanterns looped from each side highlights the rising steam from the grills. It is just about impossible to see where one stall ends and the next starts. I walked the length of the street until I reached the tea bus, checking out what was on offer before making my choice.

On the first night I made a schoolgirl error and ordered far too much food, but the butter prawns and assorted greens were amazing. The fried rice was probably delicious too, but there was little chance of me making in-roads into it. I learned my lesson for next time.

Jalan Alor

During the course of my stay, I enjoyed everything from delicious whole fish to durian ice cream. The chap selling this delicious concoction had a specially made container that looked like three barrels joined together complete with perfectly fitting lids. He reached in with his incredibly long spoon and dug out the ice cream.

Before his customers managed to get a taste, however, this deft showman would use the thick consistency of the ice cream to stay stuck to the spoon. This allowed him to spin the cone out of reach just as the customer was about to take it. Twirling the handle and having fun, visitors to this ice cream stand are guaranteed entertainment with their sweet treat.

Durian is well known for its foul smell, but this was hard to detect when in ice cream form and the flavour was gorgeous. So if you are going to eat the stinky fruit, I recommend having it served up in a cone instead.

The ice cream entertainer at work


HitchHikers Handbook said...

Malaysian cuisine is one of the best in the world, in my opinion! Wonderful and inspiring blog, Emma! Thanks a lot for following us on Google+! Travel safe and keep up your great work!!

Barefoot Em said...

Thanks for the really lovely comment. Malaysian food is indeed delicious. It is a pleasure to follow you on Google+ and read about your travels.