Food ts the central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.

Mark Kurlansky

Georgetown is a great place for a tour at any time. Take a walk around this storied Malaysian city, the capital of Penang State and you’ll discover a city steeped in history and culture. Combine that walk with food – plenty of it – and you’ve got, not merely a walk, but an experience. Where to start? With experts. Sign on to the Simply Enak (means “tasty in Indonesian) tour and you don’t have to worry about where to go or what to eat. That’s taken care of for you or, in this case, for us – Mr. C and me. As participants, we had but two duties heading into the evening — to be hungry (VERY hungry), and to be ready for some walking, talking, gawking, and hawking. WE WERE READY!

The tour:

  • If you haven’t seen it already – Mr. C hadn’t – take a look at the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower and soak up the British colonial history that, like it or not, is an integral part of the pastiche of today’s Georgetown. Thnk about the changes for Malaysia and all of Southeast Asia since the British departed. Contemplate the sweep of history and its ramifications for the people and the land. Ten minutes is plenty.

After a short stroll through an atmospheric neighborhood of shops, houses, and shophouses, we pitched up at an “Indian Vegetarian Paradise”. To when my appetite which hardly needed whetting, I must say, I ordered an iced ginger tea. Mr. C found his favorite quaff, room temperature water, a pleasing treat after contemplating centuries of colonial rule. He toasted, “To the queens and kings who ruled this land and left an indelible mark on its history and presence.” At least I imagined he toasted thusly, sometimes the verbal pronouncements of a two-and-a-half-year-old need some parental gloss which I was only too happy to supply.

Refreshed and happy on our stall stools, we tore into Ghee Rawa Onion Masala Dosa, Channa Bhatura (Fried bread with chickpea curry), and completed our repast with Vade (donuts). We were satisfied, but not overly so. We knew, Mr. C and I, that we had just embarked on this gastronomical journey.

  • Our short walk from the vegetarian paradise took us within shouting distance of our oh-so-pleasant Palm Mansion Boutique Suites. “That’s our hotel!” I explained. “I wanna go there!” replied the lad. “Not yet, Kid, we have more eating on our agenda. A native of Southeast Asia, I suppose I had heard of the citrus fruit, calamansia, before but I don’t remember where or when. An iced calamansia tea was just the ticket on our warm late-afternoon tour. 

Shadows lengthened and hawker activity waxed as late-afternoon turned to early evening. The diffused light on the ochres, yellows, and oranges of Penang’s architecture was a mellow complement to our enjoyable evening. Mr. C was about to raise another toast with his H2O, but I stopped him knowing that his wisdom, though profound, was seldom pithy.

We ate: 

  • Roti Jala (Indian Muslim crepe that looks like a net),
  • Ayam Rose (Curry Chicken)
  • Briyani rice
  • String hoppers briyani
  • Mutton Keema

…and we enjoyed every bite, chewing slowly knowing that this was not the end of our juicy journey.

  • The ten-minute walk (Mr. C opted for a stroller ride) to Tan Jetty was just the bit of exercise we serious taste-testers needed to recharge and our palates. Iconically local, the fare here was typically Malaysian/Asian. Even for the not-so-hungry-anymore patrons like we, it was delicious. Knowing this was our last stop and that a cozy room with soft beds and plentiful pillows was to follow, we didn’t stint. The list:
    • Char Koay Teow, a classic Malaysian dish that some say was born here in Penang.
    • Penang Hokkien Mee – so ordinary yet so special.
    • Asam Laksa – oodles of noodles.
    • Umbra fruit (Jew plum) juice – to complete our tropical fruit fantasmagora.

I know it may be hard to believe, but looking back at our Simply Enak evening makes me hungry.

With research and writing help from JKJ.

Categories: food holiday

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