Was our phrase at midnight on new year’s eve this year. Both D and I said goodbye to the last decade and hello to the new, in bed, thinking the other was asleep and not wanting to wake each other up to open the bottle of champagne we had bought to celebrate. Gotta love getting sick on holidays.
Ah, Penang. I go there not for anything other than my granny lives there and it was nice to have a holiday together with my family, and see four generations together.
I know people always bang on about how amazing the food is in Penang, but to be totally honest, unless you are willing to travel for miles and often ages due to traffic, in that blistering heat, I’d rather find food close by. And I guess staying at Batu Ferringhi, the touristy part of Penang, you’re not going to get great authentic food easily.
Our first night of eating was at a nearby hawker centre which truly was average. We were hungry and indecisive, so we pretty much ordered at least one dish from every stall. The one standout was the chilli stingray, which came not smothered in a rich red sambal, that we are more used to from Singapore, but a thinner, less processed version of limejuice, chilli, sambal belachan, sugar, onions and garlic. It was knock-your-socks off hot, but absolutely delicious.
On our last night, we went with my uncle and his family to a restaurant further up the hill, called “Restoran End of the World”, named, I assume, because it’s pretty much at the tip of Telok Bahang, and not because eating there will be the beginning of the apocalypse. It was essentially a koptiam specialising in seafood (it is located near a fishing village), and boy did we order (and eat!) a lot of that.
After a short wait, we started off with fried rice and fried noodles, and then the food just kept coming. Crisply battered calamari, pipis and “chu chu”, a strange conical seasnail (which I have to admit I only eat because it reminds me of eating it when I was very young), mantis shrimp, oyster omelette, cereal prawns and the two absolute standouts, a fried fish “ikan hantu” covered in that same chilli stingray sauce and simply steamed local mud crab.
The ikan hantu (which means devil fish because it looks pretty mean and ugly) was delicate and tender and was partnered so well with the sweet chilli sauce. At the other end of the spectrum, steaming the crab did the crab complete justice – nothing at all distracted from the incredibly sweet flesh of the crab.
I’m sure Penang is still full of wonderful local delights, but for me, the need to travel to the padang just to eat the Penang laksa under that sweaty, heat-containing “roof” is not really a big puller for me. I’m sure my relatives who live there would vehemently disagree with me – everything is “the best” in Penang to them – but for me…maybe not so much.