Roadside Satay in Taiping

I don’t know about any of you guys, but my definition of ‘satay’ pre-Malaysia was completely different to what it turned out to be. I had always thought satay was this intensely… peanutty sauce used in ‘Asian’ food and to drench kebabs before barbecuing.

As it turns out, satay is actually the dish itself: skewered meat cooked over a barbecue or grill and served with a sauce. Regardless, we found ourselves in Taiping at about 11pm one night. Thanks to a wrong turn, we lost 2 hours looking for our destination. We gave up and, having not had dinner, turned to the nearest place serving vaguely edible-looking food. It turned out to be a very tasty wrong turn.

The Temple of Satay Enlightenment

As it was 11pm, this food court was filling up with people hungry for their midnight snack. By far the most popular stand among the locals was the satay BBQ. Seeing this, we did the exact opposite and ordered char kway teow. Hey, we were hungry!

Noodley

Milo/Teh Ais and Char Kway Teow

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Anthony Bourdain ate here...

Malaysia, the cultural smoothie

“Cultural melting pot” is another one of those phrases that, while technically correct, gets repeated so much I feel like I don’t want to use it out of spite. I don’t think I could cope with working in tourism, too many buzzwords. ‘We have to synergize the green market to provide authentic experiences!’ …No thanks.

Malaysia is comprised of three major ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians. Each brings their own food, culture, and traditions. The groups all coexist remarkably well, considering the clashing beliefs. For example, the Indians are off beef, Muslims are off pork and require Halal preparation, while the Chinese will eat just about anything. I believe the philosophy is ‘if the spine faces the sky, we’ll eat it’. There is absolutely no shortage of delicious char siew bao (BBQ pork buns), wan tan mee, or bakkwa (Chinese-style beef jerky). The country’s government – Muslim – has raised more than a few eyebrows with some of its policies, and it’s certainly not without its problems. But the indigenous people (Malays) are in a far better situation than the indigenous Australians, for example.

Water you doing here?

‘Malaysian’ engineering? Or would you give credit to the water bottles? I mean, they’re the ones doing all the hard work…

 

There seems to be a unifying element in everybody being ‘Malaysian’, regardless of your skin colour or beliefs. Everybody I met seemed to be ‘ -Malaysian’, ‘something-Malaysian’: Chinese-Malaysian, Japanese-Malaysian, English-Malaysian. I think it’s impressive that there’s such a strong national identity given the demographics.

Enough! Time for food!

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Still nothin', Bill.

Malaysia in retrospect

This is getting ridiculous.

Not only have I utterly failed to keep this blog maintained, but I haven’t even shared my photos with anyone I know. I figure I should upload the best here, knowing that at least they’re available – even if nobody’s looking at them!

Malaysia was – in that cliché of Asian travel – a whirlwind of new experiences. I suppose these stereotypes exist for a reason. It’s hard to put into words, to aggregate an entire culture into a few sentences, and I’m not going to try. But I might as well recall and record my favourite experiences (and there were many!).

Having lived in Australia my whole life, to be honest I’m a bit sick of gum trees. I think my favourite destinations are the vastly different ones – the type where you feel like you’re truly in another culture. One of the things that struck me during the first week or so was the abundance of palm trees – hardly surprising, considering palm oil is a major export, but still.

Nah, not too soon

Thankfully the pilot didn’t get us lost (too soon?)

Upon arrival, one of the first meals I had was at Dragon-I, a Chinese chain restaurant. Don’t worry, this isn’t like Wok in a Box. Like many other things in Malaysia, chains seems to be really good. Maybe it’s got something to do with the brutal demands of the Malaysian public; the only chains that survive are the ones that satisfy a Malaysian appetite.

Cheap, right?

About $20 AUD total

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