Looking out at the Straits of Malacca, the waterway between Malaysia and Indonesia.
There is a restaurant in Penang’s Little India called Sri Ananda Bahwan. If I had to pick one restaurant that I had to eat at every day of my life, it would be this one. The flavors are so deep and so rich that you can’t even have conversation while you’re eating because you’re so engrossed and beautifully distracted by what’s happening in your mouth.
My lunch plate below is filled with rice, lentil dhal, tomato chutney, cauliflower manchurian (this is actually a Chinese dish that you can find at a lot of Southern Indian restaurants), eggplant and cabbage fry. And, of course, a coconut because they quench you from the heat!
Little stalls like this, selling food on the street are super common in this part of the world. This one had a dessert that was INSANELY good and unlike anything I’ve ever had. See below.
This is a dessert called Putu Bambu (Malay word for bamboo). It’s hard to explain the magic of it but it’s basically a tube shaped rice flour pancake that has been steamed inside of bamboo and served with shredded coconut and coconut sugar. It’s so much fun to eat and it hit all the right spots.
This row of food stalls was a few blocks from our B&B. We would wake up early every morning, before it got scorching fucking hot, Luanne and I would go to the fruit stall and get loads of fresh fruit and Luanne would go to another stall and order a noodle dish called Won Ton Mee.
We would sit at this table and eat our respective breakfasts while soaking up the smells, sounds, colors and sights of early morning Penang.
Me at the fruit stall. I would buy bright red dragon fruit, sweet papaya, juicy pineapple and dripping mango.
Luanne’s Won Ton Mee and my dragon fruit. Plant based eater and omnivore, happily having breakfast together. #happilycoexisting
One of my favorite things to do is to sit someplace I have never sat and be totally present in the moment, and simply observe.
No thinking, no analyzing, no trying to figure shit out. Just witness.
The contrast of Penang.
Penang is known for their street art. This is one of my favorites.
Okay, I need to talk about banana leaf for a hot second.
Banana leaf is not only a style of Southern Indian cuisine (one of my favorites), it’s also a style of eating. Instead of plates, food is served on actual banana leaves and traditionally, you eat it as they do in India, with your hands.
The servers (always men) come up to your table and start piling food on your leaf until you tell them to stop. They will literally keep dishing you food until you say “stop, stop, stop” and make the “no more” motion with your hand. You have to be assertive because the more they give you the more they will charge. I told them only vegetarian food and they had me covered. Southern Indian food doesn’t typically have cream like Northern Indian food so if you say vegetarian, it’s 99% going to be vegan.
The tofu in the middle of my leaf was unlike any tofu I have ever experienced. I’m still dreaming of it.
When you’re done with your meal, you fold up your banana leaf and that’s how the servers know you’re done. For me, a dining experience doesn’t get better than this.
Meet Sago Gula Melaka. This little gem of a dessert is made from pandan leaf flavored tapioca (sago) and served with a side of fresh coconut milk and melted palm sugar (Gula Melaka). The only sweetness is from the palm sugar so it’s not overly sweet. It’s also like eating art.
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