In order to go any further, you have to know about “mamak stalls”.
The late Anthony Bourdain coined Malaysia the food capital of the world. In Malaysia, eating isn’t what you do because you’re hungry. Eating is a national sport. And for good reason. The population of Malaysia is over 31 million and the majority of the population is made up of Southern Indian, Southern Chinese and local Malay people. These three cultures have their own unique and rich culinary history, put them all together in one place and you get an EXPLOSION of flavor that you can’t get anywhere else on the planet.
So, back to the “mamak stall”. “Mamak” as locals call them, are open-air restaurants that look more like cafeterias, with their long metal tables, ceiling fans and fluorescent lights. Mamak is a term used for Southern Indians who are of the Muslim faith. And DAMN, can they cook!
Mamak stalls are typically open 24 hours a day and they serve different food, depending on the time of day. One of the things they are known for is a little something called Roti Canai (my personal favorite). This is a thin, slightly crispy tortilla – like bread that you flood with lentil/curry sauce. It is heaven on a plate and a trip to Malaysia is worth it just to eat this dish.
We woke up super early the morning after we arrived because we had to catch an early train to Penang, four hours north of KL. We went to the nearest Mamak because we knew it would be open and we ATE! For some reason, Mamaks always have the best coconuts.
Tired from our trip but STOKED to be back in food heaven.
Early morning view from the train station in KL.
Not quite jet lagged, but so close.
You KNOW I packed some of those Curry puffs in my bag for the train ride! Unlike American trains, Asian trains have a full cafeteria IN THE TRAIN. I’m telling you, people are serious about their food here.
Our ride to Penang Island. A ferry ride across the Straits of Malacca that cost us just over a quarter. 29 cents. I’m not kidding.
We arrived in Penang and a friend picked us up and took us to an awesome plant based restaurant called Wholey Wonder. They had green smoothies, green juice, and a big plant based menu. They also had yoga classes that we took part in during our stay (and when I say “took part” I mean that we went once). If you’re ever in Penang, go here!
A big green juice was exactly what we needed! I actually don’t think a green juice has ever tasted better than this one. My body soaked it up and I immediately felt more energized.
Hummus and veggies. Delish.
Okay, I know I said to stick with Asian food when in Asia but there is an exception. And this is it. If and when you stumble upon a vegan restaurant that smells like pure pizza heaven, do it the fuck up. We were NOT disappointed with this pizza.
Our room in Penang. My only complaint was that the bed was a tad small.
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