We have been talking about doing a Malaysia Food Tour for years and it finally happened last month. For an entire week last month, the yaokuis launched a massive, well planned (almost) and non stop gastronomy tour, hitting four main Malaysia food cities- Malacca, Kuala Lumpur (KL)/Petaling Jaya(PJ) and Penang. Malacca is Gan and my hometown so we were in charge of the food itinerary there, while Nick Choo aka Chef Nick was supposed to be our food guide in KL/PJ, and Nan showed us some of her favorite food in Penang.
What really inspired this gastronomy tour in our own country was actually Tony Bourdain's No Reservation episode on Malaysia. Although Tony almost always hit the best eating spots in many cities, we thought he didn't get to experience the true Malaysian cuisine (not just Malay cuisine, Tony) during his trip to Malaysia. Perhaps he didn't have the right people showing him around (chef Wan, bull testicles soup, really?) I don't know. We did toy with the idea of inviting Tony Bourdain to join us in our Malaysia food tour, but I'm not sure if he would have agreed to participate.
First stop, Malacca. Based on our discussions with friends from other Malaysian cities, it seems like there are certain food such as satay babi, chicken rice balls, durian chendol, (Malacca style) taiwanese pork chop noodles, malaccan nyonya, oyster omelette and satay celup that are unique to Malacca, so we made them the "must eat" places during our stop there. But with so much food to try and so little time, and with some popular restaurants closed during the weekends, we only managed to check out a handful of places. So no satay celup, bukit rambai chendol, teoh chew porridge etc for my visiting friends. But I'm glad they enjoyed satay babi and oysters omelette as much as we did!
Next stop, KL/PJ. The food itinerary in KL/PJ consists of Ah Wah Hokkien Mee, Village Park Nasi Lemak, Pantai Seafood, Sage Restaurant, You Ai Seafood curry mee and Greenview restaurant. KL/PJ's food tour was interesting, mainly because our food tour guide Chef Nick was not with us the whole time, so coordinating what to eat and when to eat was a little challenging. But to be fair, we did cause Nick to miss his hot date(s) and made him wait for almost an hour at Ah Wah restaurant on our first night there. For that reason Nick, we forgive you for being MIA since then!
Thankfully, I was able to recall some of the really good places my brother in law brought us to the last time we visited, so I took over Nick's responsibility and organized the food tour instead. One of our favorite restaurants in KL/PJ area turned out to be Greenview restaurant; it's the kind of restaurant where you can just order any dish and they are all impressive! Salted egg crab, ribs, steamed fish, fried noodles, anything!
On our way up to Penang, we did a pit stop in Ipoh, a city famous for many things ie hometown of movie star Michelle Yeoh, birthtown of white coffee, a city famous for its Ipoh Nga Choi Kai (bean sprout & chicken dish) and Ipoh Hor Fun (Ipoh chicken noodles soup). It was in Ipoh (specifically in Sin Yin Loong Coffee shop) where we had the best kaya toast and the best coffee.
Final stop in Malaysia, Penang - the food capital of Malaysia, the city where you get the best char kuay teow and where assam laksa and shrimp noodles originated. It was Gan's first time visiting the Pearl of the Orient, and he really loved it. Since we were also in Penang to attend a friend's wedding, we didn't get to try as many places as we've planned. But under Nan's guidance, we did manage to eat some really awesome food over there; We went to the famous Heng Huat Char Kuay Teow, Teochew chendol, Perut Rumah nyonya restaurant, Mee Sotong etc. If you love char kuay teow, you must try Heng Huat's at Lorong Selamat. It will blow your socks off -- super chunky fried lards + jumbo shrimp cooked at really hot wok (so hot that the cook has to wear a pair of goggles while cooking) = out of this world char kuay teow.
If you have tried Malaysian food in New York City or somewhere else and you love it, you must make a trip to Malaysia at least once to check out the real deal. And if you are a chef, eating in Malaysia will only inspire you, expand your sense of taste and expose you to food that you never knew existed! Look at what Malaysia has done to/for Zak Pellacio! Fatty Crab!
What I absolutely love about eating in Malaysia is the fact that the food vendors are very specialized where they serve only a few dishes that they cook really well. Because of that, I can always count on getting the best and freshest food prepared daily at almost everywhere, and at a price I'll never find in New York City. I'm already missing the food back home!