Since Jen's parents spoke highly of their trip to Penang, we decided to add it to our itinerary and spent 7 days in the state's capital city, Georgetown.   Unfortunately, we mostly only saw the inside of our hotel room.  After our cooking class, we both caught really bad colds/flus, and later during the week we both got food poisoning!  It hindered our spirit and motivation a little, so we unfortunately didn't manage to get out and see/do all of the things that we hoped to. 

During our last couple of days here, as we were getting a bit better, we did start going out for some short walks and saw a small portion of the city near our hotel.  Here are some of the pictures of the highlights we did manage to see along the way. 

Clan Jetties
These are small neighbourhoods along the shoreline of Penang, that were built on stilts, over water, by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century.  Generally, immigrants belonging to the clan (ie. people with the same family name) were allowed to live at the jetty designated for that clan.  Several clan jetties have been taken over by modern development projects over the years, but the remaining 7 are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Georgetown Streets
We mostly only wandered around Chinatown, but we did manage to see a few of the famous Street Art pieces that Georgetown is home to. 

Kek Lok Si Temple
Sitting atop a hill overlooking the city, this is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.  We stopped here for a quick visit after our cooking class. 

Our main reason for coming to Penang was to experience the street food.  Although we were too sick to get out and try all of the dishes and hawker stalls that we wanted to, we still managed to get a good teaser of what Penang's cuisine offers and every meal we had was delicious!  We're not sure where we got food poisoning from, but here are some of the places and dishes that we tried and really enjoyed:

Bee Hwa Cafe
Probably our favourite place.  We tried Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Pad Thai) for 7 MYR (~$2.15cad) and Penang White Curry Soup for 6.5 MYR (~$2cad).  Both dishes were new to us and we really loved them!

Cintra Street Fish & Chicken Porridge 
Initially went there for the 7.50 MYR (~$2.30cad) Chicken Congee (rice porridge) because we were sick, but we returned because we  liked the food!

We love curry laksa but wanted to try some other types of laksa that Penang is known for.  We tried Asam Laksa and Laksa Lemak (11MYR/~$3.30cad) and were not disappointed! 

This constantly-busy restaurant serves Murtabak (Malaysian bread stuffed with a variety of fillings including meat, eggs, and vegetables) for 6-7 MYR (~$2.00cad).  We also really enjoyed the plate of Biryani rice for only 5 MYR (~$1.50cad).

Mother and Son Wan Tan Mee 
We tried Wantan Mee for only 6 MYR (~$1.80cad) for a big bowl.  We were expecting a "soup" but this is actually a "dry" version of nice chewy hand-made wonton noodles with a light sauce and delicious lean bbq pork and wontons.  Jen really enjoyed it, but Dom prefers the more typical soup version 😃.

Every Fresh Bar
At 15-20 MYR (~$4-6cad) per smoothie/oatmeal bowl, this place was relatively more expensive than other places/dishes, but it was our attempt at filling our bodies with vitamins/nutrients to try to speed up getting over our colds... and it tasted good 😂.

Cooking Malaysian Food

Since Penang is known for being a top street food destination in Asia, we decided to learn more about Malaysian cuisine by booking a local cooking class called Cooking with Chef Samuel.

At 760MYR (~$250cad) for the 2 of us, it was a lot more expensive than any cooking class that we'd done in the past, but Jen saw that we could learn how to make Roti Canai (a Malaysian bread that she's always wanted to learn) and it was a private class (due to covid restrictions), so we decided to go for it.

Before the course, we had to choose which dishes we wanted to learn, but other than Roti Canai, we hadn't tried very many Malaysian dishes before.  After chatting back and forth with Chef Samuel on WhatsApp, we decided to make: Roti Canai (Malaysian bread), Laksa Lemak (Soup), Chicken Rendang, and Chili Pan Mee (Noodle dish).

On the day of our class, Samuel picked us up from our hotel at noon and drove us to a local market to buy ingredients and sample some local snacks. 

He introduced us to some delicious dishes that were new to us, including:

  • Pasembur - a Malaysian salad with a sweet, spicy, nutty sauce
  • Otak Otak - spicy Asian fish cake steamed in banana leaves
  • Chai Kuih - steamed vegetable rice dumplings
  • Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with lime

When we arrived at Samuel’s place, we were treated to a really nice view of Georgetown, Penang.

..then it was time to start cooking 😀. 

We went to our stations and started by prepping the dough for the noodles and roti because the dough needed to rest for a while before being used. 

Samuel then listed the key spices that we would be using in the recipes and explained what flavours each spice brought to the dish and how those flavours balanced each other out.  With Samuel's help, we worked together on the Chili Pan Mee curry paste and meat sauce, then we rolled/cut the noodles and assembled and ate the Pan Mee dish. 

Next, we worked on the curry paste for the Laksa Lemak and made the Chicken Rendang.  While rinsing the dry chillies, Dom learned that your hands can also burn from the heat of chillies.. not just your mouth 🌶️✋.

After we finished the main dishes, it was finally time to learn the special technique for stretching the Roti Canai.  We first practised the hand position and motion with a small towel, then Samuel demonstrated the technique with the real dough... then it was our turn!

Even though we weren't super familiar with the dishes that we would be making, we were really happy with the choices because all of the dishes ended up being super delicious!  We will definitely try making the recipes again at home... but maybe a tad less spicy 🥵.

A day with the birds

Ok, maybe it wasn't a full day... but we passed a lot more time at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Sanctuary than we were expecting... and definitely took a lot of pictures!  The nice thing about this park is that most of the birds are free to walk and fly around.  Obviously, it doesn't beat a forest, but it's better than seeing them in small cages at the zoo. 

Since the birds are free to fly around, there are multiple opportunities to interact with the birds.  In one of the areas, we got to feed sunflower seeds to the colourful parrots as they dangled all over our arms, shoulders, and heads, while squabbling with each other for the seeds.
The funny part was after Jen ran out of seeds, one of the bigger birds tried to eat her watch… it seems the yellow button looks like a kernel of corn!!  Luckily, the bird eventually gave up on trying to chew the plastic button, so it spit it back into Jen's hand and we will have to find some glue to re-attach it :).
Dom also had a bit of fun feeding the birds :)  Given his latest luck with animal encounters (ie. the 2 rabies scares), he thought that he would probably get an eye poked out… but thankfully, it didn't happen.
We also watched the stork being fed fish - a pretty simple process where the keeper comes and dumps a bunch of fish on the ground, and the storks scramble to get their share.  Once the fish ran out, one of the storks still wanted more.. it snuck up and tried to eat Jen's leg.  Their beaks are fiercer than they look - it actually managed to leave a couple of decent sized bruises!  When Jen yelped at the bite, the stork squawked back and they gave each other a glare.. the stork then backed off realizing that Jen wasn't going to let it try again.
A bit cheesy, but Jen loves playing with animals... so we went for some all out cheesiness - paying to take pictures of her with tamed birds arranged to perch on her.  It was cool because they let us choose which birds to take pictures with.  The handler put them on you and voilà… picture perfect!  Jen chose 2 cool looking owls and got to pet their cute little heads after!

From weird chickens to ostriches, there is a lot to see and enjoy at the KL Bird Sanctuary.  This may not be the most adventures thing we've done, but it was quite relaxing and fun.

Kuala Lumpur

On our way to Bali (our last stop in South-East Asia), we did a 2 day layover in Kuala Lumpur (the Capital of Malaysia).  Here, we mainly just walked around, ate Malaysian food, and enjoyed the sites. 

One of the first things you see when arriving in Kuala Lumpur are the Petronas Twin Towers which, between 1998 and 2004, were considered the highest buildings in the world.  Although they lost the title to some building in Dubai (of course), they still retain the record for the highest two storey bridge in the world.
To ensure that we maximized our taste buds, we did an "Eat, Pray & Love" walking tour around the central market to introduce us to the multicultural diversity of Malaysian food.  We were not disappointed.  During the tour we got to taste several local Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisines.  Here are a few dishes that stood out:
  • Teh Tarik:  similar to Chai Tea but made with evaporated and condensed milk… sweet.  We got to watch their expertise as they mixed the tea by pouring it back and forth at arms length
  • Banana Roti:  a Malaysian style bread / pancake / crepe 
  • Tissue Roti:  these are super thin, crispy, and look like a giant birthday hat… so good!
  • Mee Goreng:  Malaysian fried noodles that we tasted from a street vendor hidden behind a sketchy-looking building, in a nondescript alley
  • Luohan Juice:  juice of a chinese fruit that is 300 times sweeter than sugar (the english name is: Siraitia grosvenorii).  BTW, we tried it both hot and cold.. it's much better hot.
  • Apam Balik:  a delicious peanut pancake
  • Claypot Chicken Rice:  nothing to say other than… mmmmm!!!

Since it was an Eat, PRAY & Love tour, they also took us to visit a Mosque, Hindu Temple, and Buddhist Temple.
We can't forget to mention all of the rats we saw while crossing the "wet market" - the darker area of the market where they usually sell fresh fish and meats.

To kill a bit of time while waiting to depart for the airport, we also tested our archery skills.. at the nearby mall :)

All in all, we enjoyed our time here ;)