Hitting the mainland of Malaysia, a good friend of mine kept telling me to try Kopi Ice, a local ice coffee favorite. We had been on the lookout but hadn't seen it on menus yet. We were also still on the search for our favorite penang curry.
For lunch one day we stumbled into a real hole in the wall local cafe. Basically, there was a man with a wok, a couple servers and half a dozen plastic tables. It was a little hot and a bit rough around the edges but he served up some fresh, tasty and cheap food made right in front of you. Sitting at our table after our meal one afternoon, Steph decided to try her luck by asking if they had Kopi Ice? The waitress didn't even blink, "White or Black?" Now we are in business, "One white and one black please".
Its basically just ice coffee but a real treat in the hot weather. Once we found Kopi Ice we were hooked! We even learned you could get it take away. But not your normal style take away. It was served in clear plastic bags tied off with a string and topped off with a straw! High on novelty factor!
My friend also kept raving about the food in Penang - street markets and other seriously good places to enjoy the local cuisine. Our only question was, would we find penang curry?! To find out we headed to one of the many night food markets.
Imagine a big open air seating area, covered by corrugated steel roofs and small food stalls lining the perimeter. It was buzzing with tourists and locals alike. Throw in a couple TV’s, several neon beer lights, random hanging decorations, beer servers and even a small stage and DJ stand. We were sold, now, what to eat?
We strolled around carefully looking at each stall – the variety was very similar to the city canteens we had seen in KL. Sushi – no thanks, not here. Western – not a chance. Malay, Indian, Thai – now you’re talking!
Disappointed that we didn’t find penang curry anywhere, Steph opted for Indian. I went over to the Thai stand to pick something out. You ordered your food at the stall, gave them your table number then they would deliver it freshly cooked to your table. I came back to the table smiling – in my usual fashion, I just asked the guy at the stall if he could make penang curry and he said yes! Unfortunately, when it arrived it just wasn’t as rich and tasty as the ones we’ve had in the past. But both of our dishes were good and we got to enjoy some local singers covering oldie-but-goodie American songs.
Over the next couple of days, we kept wondering why we couldn’t find penang curry. We finally Googled it and apparently it’s a Thai dish and just named after the island. With Thailand next on the itinerary, we instead enjoyed all the other delicious things on offer.
One of the recommended Indian places was supposed to be a local favorite. True to form, it served some delicious food. On our second visit, we were standing there trying to choose from the numerous simmering curries. While we were trying to decide, a local guy stepped up to get served. The guy gave him a plate of rice and meat from one particular curry. Then he proceeded to take a spoonful of sauce from every other curry and splash it on top! We always had a hard time deciding which curry to try so when we saw this, our eyes lit up – we’ll have one of those please! Yeah, I’m not going to lie – it was fantastic! Top that off with an amazing tandoori chicken and we were in heaven!
Two months in to our travels, we noticed a trend forming. When we find somewhere we like to eat we become repeat customers. This has been happening everywhere! Yekaterinburg, Beijing, KK and now Georgetown! The hole in the wall and the Indian joint saw us more than once!
Thanks for the tips Leon!