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Winter vacation in Malaysia

Penang gastronomy

Penang - the first evening
28 December 2004

We flew from Singapore to Penang with Singapore Airlines Boeing 777. The flight time was 1 hour and 20 minutes. Penang, in Malay Pulau Pinang, is a Malaysian state located on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The name "Penang" comes from the word "pinang", the betel nut tree. The name "Pulau Pinang" translated literally from Malay means "pinang island".

Penang island is predominantly Chinese, but with a strong presence of Indians and Malays. The preservation of the Chinese cultural heritage in Penang is the most impressive in the region. In Penang we expected to feel interesting blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures.

In the airport minivan met us and took to the Paradise Sandy Beach hotel. At the hotel door there was a billboard welcoming us (our names were there). We got our double rooms and everything was perfect. Driving through the island had taken our fears away. Yes, we saw the sweeping and some broken hovels, but mainly normal life just continued.

Our hotel was in the village called Tanjong Bungah. Tanjong Bungah is one of the suburbs of Georgetown, the capital of Penang. It was known as a fishing village, but now it's populated by many commuters from Georgetown and people, who work in the hotels along the beach.

In the evening we decided to go to dinner. From the hotel we got the suggestion to go to Batu Ferringhi. Taxi cost 15 ringgit from Tanjong Bungah. We never paid by meter in taxies, in most cases were even was no meter in the taxi. Batu Ferringhi looks like a new village, but it's very old. It used to be a kampong with a little fishing village.

Penang is very famous for its tasty food. Even Malay people from Kuala Lumpur love to go up to Penang for the food, from time to time. In different places in the world you can find restaurants dedicated to Penang food called "Penang Garden" or similar, but of course, there is no comparison with the real thing in Penang.

Our first experience with Penang food was just fabulous. The secret of Penang cuisine lies not in the elaborate preparation techniques, but in the use of fresh ingredients produced locally. You can try vast array of Asian cuisine in a very small area, with numerous Indian, Chinese, Malay and Thai restaurants. Penang laksa is a fish soup with a sour taste from tamarind pase; it is served with special white laksa noodles.

After first dinner we were convinced that Penang food is both legendary and fabulous.