Malaysia: The Kitchen of South East Asia

As mentioned a few posts ago (Philippines), I decided to combine Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Penang into a single post. I visited KL right before Christmas (Dec 17-23) primarily for an event but of course I got some touring done as well. Penang happened from Jan 28-Feb 4 right after my Cambodia itinerary and that primarily was to sample the culinary wonderland that is that city. Unfortunately, during my time in Penang, I came down with a bit of a head cold, so that pretty much laid me up in my room in between food adventures for a few days.

Let’s first explore my KL itinerary and where I stayed:

  • December 17th: Landed in KL. Got on the train and headed to the Cozy Hotel @KL Sentral. After checking in, met up with a friend for dinner.
  • December 18th: Met up with same friend for lunch (McD’s Ayam Goreng!) before we headed up north to the Batu Caves Temple to do some climbing and exploring. Parted ways before I headed to the National Museum of Malaysia. Had my first nasi kandar experience (so good!)
  • December 19th: After a breakfast of roti canai, headed to the northern part of the city to wander through the National Art Gallery of Malaysia. Next up was the old Royal Palace followed by the Thean Hou Temple. Had enough time to grab a really good and cheap haircut. They even provided head and upper back massage as part of the service!
  • December 20th: Spent the afternoon wandering through the Central Market area. Close by, I checked out the River of Life, the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple (oldest Taoist temple in Malaysia), Kasturi Walk, and finished off with the Sri Mahamariamman Temple (oldest Hindu temple in KL).
  • December 21st: Spent the afternoon at Suria Mall and checked out the large Christmas tree that fronted the Petronas Twin Towers.
  • December 22nd: Event day as well as ascended the Petronas Twin Towers. Had my final dinner on the famous Jin Alor street with a slew of friends.
  • December 23rd: Headed back to Tokyo for Christmas and New Years!

The entire time I was in KL, I stayed at the Cozy Hotel @KL Sentral. As the name implies, it’s located by KL Sentral station and the huge mall that is located there. There are also a slew of tasty eateries in the area that are perfect for any meal of the day (ABC Bistro being one of the most frequented). It’s very convenient as the airport train “KLIA Ekspres” stops right there as well as having a couple other Metro lines serve it. I highly recommend staying in the area. The room I stayed in was decent and provided what I needed which was a comfortable place to sleep with AC and a decent bathroom. Bonus was the laundromat was attached to the hotel.

KL’s metro system is pretty decent, although it doesn’t cover everywhere. For those places that don’t it doesn’t easily reach where you wish to go, I decided on using Uber. Of course temperatures were hot and humid pretty much the entire time I was there.

When I came back to Malaysia in late January, I specifically decided on staying in Penang as it’s well known for it’s food, even more so than KL! I had always found it fascinating that many chefs and foodies would praise this city. One of my heroes, the late Anthony Bourdain, loved to visit Penang for the food culture and I made it a goal to visit there on this trip. I grew up not really having any heroes, but with my passion for travel and food, Anthony became sort of an adulthood hero of mine and it wouldn’t be remiss to state that he was a pretty big influence on my desire to travel and to explore cultures through food.

My itinerary for Penang will more focus on what I had to eat and where, interspersed with some of the usual cultural visits:

  • January 30th: Arrived in Penang and grabbed an Uber to my digs for the next few days. I split dinner between two stops this evening: duck kway chap at Lebuh Kimberly and nasi kandar as well as teh halia at T.S Bismi Nasi Kandar.
  • February 1st: Breakfast was two locations for roti canai. The first was Restoran Roti Canai Jalan Argyll Road for roti canai and egg with chicken curry. The second breakfast stop was at Roti Canai Transfer Road for a roti canai smothered in a spicy red sauce. After chilling for a bit back in my room, I checked out historic George Town and the UNESCO listed Peranakan Mansion. Around the corner from the mansion, I found lunch in the form of a banana leaf set at Veloo Vilas where they load up your banana leaf “plate” with rice, curry, and various toppings as well as extras. Feeling rather well fed, I decided a brisk walk was necessary and I found myself at the Asian Camera Museum. I met the curator and we talked about various things as I wander around the small exhibit area. For dinner, I ended up at Nasi Kandar Beratur which is open from 10pm to 9am. The place had a huge line before it even opened, but business was brisk and within 10 minutes of opening, I was seated with a heaping plate of tasty nasi kandar that featured fried chicken, a fried omelette of some sort, half a boiled egg, some random item I have no idea what it was, and the rice smothered in spicy red curry sauce.
  • February 2nd: First stop was to get some breakfast at Nasi 7 Benua Koo Boo Kafe which features a platter of 7 different kinds of rice. After, I wandered through the Snake Temple where live vipers lounge around languidly. For lunch, I ended up stopping at a road side chicken rice place (Adik Nasi Ayam Ikan Bawal Goreng). When I got back into the Goerge Town area, I visited Old Master Coffee shop to try out the cheese coffee which was surprisingly tasty. Started to feel under the weather with a head cold so I rested the afternoon before dinner. Feeling I needed something spicy, I headed over to the 888 Hokkien Mee cart/stall and had a large bowl of extra spicy hokkien mee. It ended being probably the most delicious item I had in Penang!
  • February 3rd: Hauled my lethargic carcass out of bed, still suffering from the head cold. However, I managed to get a decent multi-part breakfast. First was some simple and tasty chopped noodles (cheong fun) from Yan Foo Chee Cheong Fun which is a locally famous cart. Next, some citrusy soup was in order, so I had a nice bowl of asam laksa from Penang Road Famous Laksa which also provided a nice kick of vitamin C from the tamarind in it. Finally, I had a small cold bowl of teochow chendul from a couple doors down. Dinner of course was nasi kandar one last time at the famous Restoran Nasi Kandar Line Clear on Penang Road. It was a fantastic back alley open air “restaurant” and is known as one of the “go to” places for nasi kandar as well as having been lauded by the late Anthony Bourdain.
  • February 4th: Time to head out of Penang, but I had to stop at one more location. I managed to get down to Tiger Char Kway Teow for some fantastic stir fry noodles. The flavour was deep and rich with the smokiness of the wok hei (the flavour of the wok itself after years of use). Finally managed to get to the airport, feeling full and satisfied, but definitely needing to come back one day to have more foodventures. So long Penang! Time to head to Hong Kong.

For my stay in Penang, I was right in the middle of George Town by the old market at the Kim Haus Loft. It was a serviceable room but lacked a window and was a bit cramped feeling. Also, while the shower room was adequate for showering, it took a long time to dry out. Wifi also tended to cut out once in a while and I had to reset the router out in the hallway a couple times.

Penang has a city bus system known as Rapid Penang, but I mainly used Uber for the longer distance locations. However, most of my wanderings were by foot as many eateries are concentrated in the George Town area. There is also a free bus in Penang that services the main roads/attractions. I recommend looking into it if you don’t feel like slugging through high humidity and head like I did.

And now, as always, time for some random photos – the extra foodie edition!


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