Penang: Heritage in Hues Part 2

Personally, eating local delicacy, taking taxis and buses in Penang brought back school life nostalgic moments. Therefore, this time I mostly highlight experiences that remind me of life in Petaling Jaya (PJ), Selangor (Malaysia) in 1999 where I pursued my study abroad for the first time.

Should I categorize this in travel or personal?

LOCAL DELICACY

Going to Penang without local street food equals to an incomplete journey. I regret not capturing great pictures of delicious food I ate that can arouse your appetite. I even need to replace some failed images with the better ones from internet. I hate doing this, but I think it’s necessary to do so. Otherwise, nobody knows what I’m talking about. That’s the last thing I wanna do with my blog.

Instant solution for chairs that don’t meet required size spec

Gurney Drive: Not about the Beach

Which ones do you prefer?

As described by the hotel receptionist, Gurney Drive is famous for its hawker centre along coastal line of Penang. I imagined it would be like dining by the beach in Jimbaran, Bali. Nevertheless, the hawker is actually situated across the street from the beach. The sand shore was partly covered by rocks. There were neither coconut trees nor sound of waves. I don’t think it’s suitable to call it “dining by the beach”. Quite dissapointing.

Hanging sotong (squid)

However, as the sun went down, there were more crowds coming to the hawker. Hearing the sound of chattering, laughing crowds and shouting vendors, I suddenly felt relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. I got the same feeling years ago when I hung out with friends at a hawker centre after finishing school projects. It was the best stress relief ever. Moreover, it represented all local food that challenges your appetite, from beef marrow soup, char kway tiauw, chendul, rojak, various kinds of seafood etc.

In a nutshell, Gurney Drive is about a social meeting spot for families, couples, friends, colleagues, and business partners, not the beach and the sunset.

Malaysian chendul (green rice flour jelly) have longer jellies than Indonesian cendol

 Hanging tutti frutti a laPenang

Pork char sieuw and intestine at the hawker near Sunway Hotel George Town

Herbal Eggs

Best source of energy to start your day!

Herbal eggs or Chinese marbled eggs are hard-boiled eggs simmered in Chinese herb soup. Whenever I had no time for breakfast or lunch at school, I took them as quick snacks. I didn’t only love the taste of the herbs absorbed in the eggs, but also they kept me energized, “hunger free” for hours and much better choice than junk food.

I was so glad I accidentally found herbal eggs in a food court at Gurney Plaza, a shopping mall in Gurney Drive. Now they cost RM 1 per piece. Then, RM 1 for 3 pieces. I couldn’t expect to get the same price as before, but at least they still taste the same as that of 13 years ago.

Indian Food

As Indian community is very rare in Indonesia, I purposely came to Little India to enjoy authentic Indian food which is hard to find in my hometown. Briyani rice, chicken masala, chicken tandoori, mutton curry…..yummy yummy! Besides, we went to Indian food stall close to the hotel to get roti tisu. Even tough I was so afraid of gaining weight, it was too irresistible to resist.

Roti Tisu

Back in PJ where I pursued my study, roti tisu, roti canai and roti prata were some of my favorite supper menus for lepak (hang out) at a hawker centre or a mamak stall. A very fattening and “heavy duty” choice for supper, but it was fun to share with my schoolmates and incredibly delicious!

Bak Kut Teh

Don’t judge a book by its cover: it tastes better that it looks

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t eat bak kut teh (Chinese pork ribs in herb soup) when I stayed in Malaysia. The only thing I remember about bak kut teh is a strange experience with Chinese cab drivers in PJ. Knowing I’m a Chinese descendant, these drivers -different person, time and place- approached me with a conversation mainly about Chinese community to get my sympathy, then they offered me instant bak kut teh for RM 2 moments before I got off from their cab. I didn’t take the offer, though. I kept thinking whether these people were doing multilevel marketing by selling instant bak kut teh in a sachet as their side job.

I finally ate the original bak kut teh for the first time in Penang that didn’t come from a sachet. I just couldn’t get enough, so damn good!! Besides, the dried version of bak kut teh with sprinkled salted fish. It doesn’t exist in Jakarta. So it’s something worth to try, even though I like the original one better.

Teh O Ais Limau: Bad Tea Day Saviour Remembered 

SURGEON’S GENERAL WARNING: addictive when mixed with iced tea!

Teh o ais limau refers to iced lemon tea in English. However, what Malaysian people use in their traditional iced lemon tea is lime or key lime (limau), not lemon. It should be “iced lime tea”, even though nobody calls it that way. I believe a lime causes Malaysian iced lemon tea has exceptional taste, and that’s what I miss the most. Therefore I spontaneously answered, “Teh O Ais Limau!” at hawker centres in Penang almost every time the waiter asked me for drinks. By the way, limes are very common in my hometown, but not a common ingredient for iced lemon tea.

Well, how I end up as a lemon tea addict actually started from the first depressive month in PJ as I’ve been an unsweetened tea addict. Getting unsweetened iced tea  (Indonesian: es teh tawar) at a Malay mamak stall drove me nuts. I said teh ais (also literally means iced tea in English) confidently because I thought it was the closest term to es teh (tawar). But suddenly I got iced milk tea. It didn’t say milk (susu) at all!

I was advised to order teh o ais if I don’t want milk in my tea. So I ordered teh o ais next day. It was true there wasn’t milk, but sugar instead. It didn’t say sugar (gula) at all! A few days later, I ordered teh o ais again with a remark “no sugar”.  The waiter nodded. Still, there was SUGAR in my tea!! The week after was my last attempt. I tried to order in English “tea without sugar”, once in Malay “teh tanpa gula“.  Both have the same meaning. But again, the GODDAMN SUGAR was STILL there!!!

Finally, I gave up. I would rather get a different type of drink. I gave a shot ordering iced lemon tea,  although I didn’t really enjoy tea with lemon. Yet, at least the lemon could neutralize the sweetness of the tea. Et voilà, I love it!  Since then, it was my regular drink besides ais kosong (cold water).

I should have asked all the drink terms listed in the menu, but it was time consuming and I was Ms. Know It All, then (now I know I wasn’t). Although Malay and Indonesian are similar, Malay beverage terms could lead me to total lost in translation.

Gula Melaka Ice Cream

The best home made ice cream is just two steps from here!

The café across Yap Temple, unfortunately I forget the name, has one of the best home made ice cream I’ve ever tasted, from chocolate, chocolate chip, coffee until tiramisu flavour. Chocolate chunks on the chocolate chip flavour tasted really good despite being slightly oversized, even without the (vanilla) ice cream.

How about gula Melaka (palm sugar) flavoured ice cream? The lady who served me was a very honest person. She didn’t recommend me to try it, but I insisted on getting the tester. It was something new for me; the only food that has nothing to do with my school life flashback. Not so horrible that I wanted to throw up, yet I just couldn’t enjoy it that much.

Don’t get me wrong. I love palm sugar. I mix it with coffee, grilled banana and avocado. Nonetheless, I admit it was a bizarre ingredient to create ice cream flavour.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

“THIS TAXI USES METER. BARGAINING IS NOT ALLOWED. GET THE RECEIPT.” a.k.a they don’t do what they said

Sorry to say, but I don’t see the point of placing announcement on the front taxi door as shown above. In reality, I never found any taxis in Penang using meter.  The best thing I could do was to get preliminary information about the average rate to certain destination or ask the hotel security guard to bargain with the driver. Taxis in the airport don’t use meter either, but you can get fixed rate if you buy tickets from the taxi counter after claiming your baggage.

“We won’t earn much for living because Penang is just a small island where everything is close.” said the driver in response to the question why taxi drivers in Penang don’t want to use meter. Regardless of not using meter, the drivers who took us were friendly and love chit-chatting just about anything, from tourist attractions, food until their wife, children and grandsons.

On the other hand, exploring George Town was very convenient thanks to CAT (Central Area Transit), a free shuttle bus mainly concentrated on tourist attractions around the heritage city area.

There are many ways to enjoy Penang and see what this island has inherited to the world, especially in Southeast Asian culture. And that’s not all yet, my friends!  I’ll bring you more “hues” in the last part of the heritage sequel. Stay tuned…

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