Gurney Drive Hawker Centre night market, Malaysia

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre

At one end of Persiaran Gurney (Gurney Drive) in Georgetown, there is a very large hawker centre that only operates at night. One nice thing about it is the large amount of choice available there. One not as nice thing is that prices are generally higher than at other hawker stalls. Saying that, however, the food is still pretty cheap by North American standards.

Like other hawker places, when you sit down you must purchase a drink. In this case, with so many tables, each section of tables are claimed by certain drink vendors. So you could be sitting at one table and have to order soy milk, and if you’re sitting at the next table over, which happens to be owned by a juice vendor, then you order juice. In my case, I had a delicious fresh squeezed watermelon juice from the stall in the photo.

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - juice stand

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - juice stand

This next hawker stall sold seafood. The cockles (similar to clams) in the baskets along the bottom of the photo were lightly cooked and really delicious. A friend asked me if those cuttlefish were real; yes they totally were.

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - seafood

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre - seafood

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Kek Seng Kopitiam, Malaysia

Laksa, popiah and ais kacang with durian ice cream oh my! Just a warning, this is going to be a long post. Kek Seng Kopitiam (coffee shop) is an institution in Penang. It’s been around for years and years, and frankly the atmosphere is a little dingy (although all the tables, plates, bowls, etc. were clean). The food is a little more old fashioned too; unlike at someplace like New World, the food is pretty much how it was served 30+ years ago (found something online that says Kek Seng opened in 1906). When we were there it was quite busy but we managed to snag a table.

One thing I miss dearly about Malaysia was the easy access to laksa. And by laksa, I mean Penang assam laksa. I talked about curry mee (curry laksa) a little while ago. That one is a coconut-based curry broth. Penang-style assam laksa is a sour, mackerel-based soup that is flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, chilli, ginger flower buds, mint, pineapple and onion. You also usually get a soup spoon filled with a thick, sweet prawn paste called Hae Ko, and the whole thing is served with rice noodles (either thick or vermicelli).

The assam laksa at Kek Seng was one of my favourites that I had throughout the trip. A strong fish broth with all those spices and a slight sourness; my mouth is watering as I type this. This first photo is of the hawker stall; those pink things are the ginger flowers. When I’ve shown that photo to other people, the reaction I’ve gotten has been “you mean they actually use flowers and not ginger root?!”

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

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Rojak, Malaysia

This is another dish I had at one of the kopitiams (apologies for the blurriness). Rojak is a kind of salad found in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This specific one pictured here is one made of fruit.

Rojak

Rojak

According to Wikipedia:

Fruit rojak consists typically of cucumber, pineapple, turnip (jicama), bean sprouts, taupok (puffy, deep-fried tofu) and youtiao (cut-up Chinese-style fritters). Raw mangoes and green apples are less commonly used. The dressing is made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), sugar, chili, and lime juice. Ingredients vary among vendors with some also using hae ko prawn/shrimp paste, tamarind or black bean paste in the mix. The ingredients are cut into bite-sized portions and tossed in a bowl with the dressing and topped with chopped peanuts and a dash of ground or finely chopped bunga kantan (pink ginger bud). Penang Rojak is another type of Rojak found in Penang, Malaysia. It is similar to fruit rojak, but adds jambu air (Water apple), squid fritters and honey to the mixture.

It was an odd mixture of the salty and sweet dressing, layered on top of the fresh tastes of fruit and cucumber. While it was interesting to try, it’s not something that I would go out of my way to look for.

Restoran 77, Malaysia – curry fish head

Restoran 77

Restoran 77

Restoran 77 was one of the few non-hawker places we ate at while in Malaysia. And as the sign says, we were there for the curry fish head.

curry fish head with okra

curry fish head with okra

Not to say that we didn’t eat other things too. We had quite a few dishes actually, but the fish head was the one that stuck in my head. Tender, flaky bits of fish and okra, stewed in a curry sauce. The okra was a tiny bit slimy, but otherwise this dish was fantastic. I wish there had been more fish though. Especially since my grandmother ate half the dish before the rest of us could have a taste. (That’s her hand in the photo below, stealing more fish.)

our meal

our meal

Let’s see, we also had fried rice, tofu, some sort of vegetable that I can’t remember but from the looks of it is probably gai lan, and something in a clay stew pot that I also cannot remember – possibly chicken. Oh, and fresh orange juice served in beer glasses.

Restoran 77

77-D Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney)
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Areca seeds (a.k.a. betel nuts)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s a green-themed post.

I was visiting Kek Lok Si Temple in Malaysia when I saw this palm tree with brightly coloured green and red nuts. Had no idea what they were until I got home and did a bit of a Google search. Turns out they’re seeds from the Areca palm, more commonly known by the technically incorrect name “betel nut.” And they’re normally chewed with betel leaves as a stimulant. I admit, if I had known what they were I would have been tempted to pluck one off the tree to sample….

seed of the Areca palm (a.k.a. betel nut)

seed of the Areca palm (a.k.a. betel nut)

Curry mee – Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia

Curry mee is a curry and coconut milk noodle soup. In many parts of Malaysia and in Singapore, it is known as laksa or curry laksa. In Penang, it is known as curry mee as laksa in Penang refers to assam laksa, a very differently flavoured dish. (More about that to come in a different post.)

I had curry mee twice during my trip. The first was at a small place in Langkawi, an island in Malaysia that is popular for its beach resorts. I don’t remember the name of the place but it was like a mini-cafeteria in a strip-mall near Underwater World, and sold a variety of Malaysian and western foods. The burgers apparently sucked somewhat and the Hainanese chicken rice was so-so. I had curry mee and Ribena, a blackcurrent drink popular in parts of Asia and in the United Kingdom. The curry mee wasn’t bad. Decent spicing, vegetables weren’t too soggy… I just wish there had been more of them and a little less noodles. This photo is also the current image header for this blog, which I wrote about earlier. And yes, I was mocked by my father for buying Ribena (adults usually see this as a kid’s drink). And then I was laughed at for taking a photo of it. But hey, I like the taste and it has vitamin C.

Curry mee and Ribena - Langkawi

Curry mee and Ribena - Langkawi

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Restoran Khaleel, Malaysia – roti

A couple of breakfasts were spent eating Malaysian flat breads at Restoran Khaleel, an Indian place near my hotel.

Restoran Khaleel

Restoran Khaleel

(By the way, “restoran” is Malay for “restaurant,” by the way. There’s this odd logic once you catch on to how Malay works… “ambulans” is “ambulance,”  “polis” means “police,” “Amerika” is “America, and “air” means “water.” Okay, that last one is a bad example, but you know what I mean.)

Roti canai (pronounced chan-ai, in Singapore called roti prata) is a favourite of my family, and is one of the few Malaysian dishes that we have access to here in Canada. It’s made of wheat, is pan-fried and (when done right) is layered inside a bit like phyllo. To eat, you rip off a piece and dip it in curry. At this place, they served it with a lovely chicken curry.

Roti canai with chicken curry

Roti canai with chicken curry

While there, we also tried another kind of roti, a roti tosai. Roti tosai is made from rice and lentil flour. It’s thinner, more crepe-like, and is steamed. They also served it with three dips – a lentil curry (middle), a yellow curry (right), and a spiced coconut milk chutney (left). I really liked this as it wasn’t greasy like roti canai can be, and the variety of sauces made this dish interesting. (And no, I didn’t have Sprite for breakfast. Those culprits were my siblings.)

Roti tosai and roti canai

Roti tosai and more roti canai

Did I miss Western breakfasts like toast and eggs and cereal? Not one bit.

Restoran Khaleel Sdn Bhd
Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney), Georgetown, Malaysia