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

Sugar cane juice and coconut water

It’s hot in Malaysia. I had to remember to keep drinking liquids because it was so hot, even in the month of May. And after a while, you get sick of drinking water. Instead of going for sugary pop, I took advantage of easily available street drinks.

Sugar cane juicer

This juicer made access to fresh sugar cane juice easy and quick.

These green coconuts had their top sliced off and you could drink the water. Was also given a spoon to eat the young coconut meat.

These green coconuts had their top sliced off and you could drink the water. Was also given a spoon to eat the young coconut meat.

Koey teow th’ng – Hai Oan Kopitiam, Malaysia

Hai Oan kopitiam

Hai Oan Kopitiam

One place we stopped at was a small kopitiam (coffee shop) called Hai Oan. This place, I was told, had fantastic koey teow th’ng – a clear soup with hand-made fish balls, minced pork patties, and flat rice noodles. It was delicious and mellow, and I could easily see how this would be a good dish when you aren’t feeling well or when you want a lighter meal.

We took the soup to go, and it was eaten too quickly for me to take a photo. I did manage to take photos of the signs though.

Pitt Street koey teow th’ng stall

Pitt Street koey teow th’ng stall

Pitt Street koey teow th’ng stall close up

Pitt Street koey teow th’ng stall close up

Tambun biscuits (tau sah peah) – Him Heang, Malaysia

tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

Tambun biscuits, or tau sah peah, are round little cookies stuffed with green beans (a.k.a. mung beans). Flaky, dry, a little salty and savoury, they are a popular snack and boxes are often given as gifts. The ingredients of tambun biscuits are actually quite simple: wheat flour, green beans, fried shallot, vegetable oil and salt.

My grandmother insisted that we had to stop at Him Heang, a local bakery famous for these cookies. The place was packed and boxes were flying off the shelves. I think we only managed to get some because my grandmother, this persistent (and stubborn) little old lady, shoved her way to the front counter and shouted her order to the staff there.

Frankly, I was disappointed once I bit into them. They were so dry that you had to eat them with a drink handy. Although they weren’t greasy, I did find there was a bit of a greasy aftertaste – perhaps from the vegetable oil used? Also, the beans didn’t taste very strong at all and made me wonder why they even bothered to add the beans.

I ended up lugging two boxes of these with me onto the next leg of my trip – Hong Kong – and gave them away to people there, because no one else in my family wanted to take them back to Canada.

inside view of a tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

inside view of a tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

Him Heang Sdn. Bhd.
162-A Jalan Burma,
10050 Penang,
Malaysia

Pancakes, Penang style

Creamed corn and peanut pancake

Creamed corn and peanut pancake

One of the reasons why I loved my trip to Malaysia was getting to try so many new dishes.

This hawker stall, in front of a kopitiam (a kind of coffee shop/hawker cafe) on Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney) in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, served pancakes stuffed with various sweet and/or savory fillings. The dough is cooked into a thin, crepe-like skin (but crispy), filled, and folded like a taco. The traditional filling is creamed corn and peanuts, but now you can buy it filled with ham, chocolate, bananas, tuna, etc. It was fascinating to watch the vendor at work, and I took a video of him cooking my corn and peanut order. We didn’t see him at his spot every day; apparently he actually set up shop elsewhere in the morning, and only showed up on Gurney Drive after lunch if he had ingredients left over.

Many areas of Asia tends to treat corn as a dessert (in one shopping mall I saw an ice cream stand that also sold fresh corn on the cob). I’m not usually a fan of this, but I have to say, creamed corn and peanuts are a surprisingly good combination.

An additional photo and a video after the cut.

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