#navbar-iframe { display: none; }

« Home | The Eight, Haymarket » | Rowda Ya Habibi, Newtown » | Cafecito, Sydney » | To blog or not to blog » | Home Thai Restaurant, Sydney » | La Banette, Glebe » | Durban Dish, Baulkham Hills » | Stitch Bar, Sydney » | Quay Restaurant, Sydney » | Spice Temple, Sydney »

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fooding from Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Phuket, Thailand

Oh Malaysia photos. I haven't forgotten about you
. A five-day weekend (how great was the break?!) was the perfect opportunity to delve into the archives. Sure none of us want to be back at work at our desks today, but here's a photo-rich post to get you back into the swing of things...

My last Malaysia post left you in Penang, Malaysia. We woke up early the next morning to make the 350km drive from Penang back down to Kuala Lumpur, ready for the next leg of our trip to Thailand. 

Nasi lemak bungkus

Breakfast was at a truckstop along the way. Unlike comfort stops in Australia, there were no fast food chains to be found here. Instead we headed into a simply furnished food court circled with hawker stalls, half of them still closed at this hour of the morning. 

Nasi lemak bungkus was clearly the most popular breakfast of choice, a takeaway version of nasi lemak that is wrapped tightly in banana leaf and a coversheet of brown paper. Inside is a mound of coconut rice topped with fried anchovies and spicy sambal sauce. It's delicious, but small in serve so we top this up with a couple of fluffy steamed buns filled with lotus paste and sweetened black bean paste.

Mee rebus

Billy has the mee rebus, yellow egg noodles swaddled in a thick curry gravy, served with fried shallots, deep-fried tofu and a hard boiled egg.

Salak madu or snake fruit

On our way back to the car we pick up a couple of snacks. Forget bags of chips or bars of chocolate - all that is on offer here is fresh fruit, available loose or pre-peeled and sliced and packed up into plastic bags.

Ciku madu or sapodilla fruit

We arrive in Kuala Lumpur about 4 1/2 hours later, enough time to sneak in a quick shop and late lunch at Mid Valley Megamall.

Pu'er tea RM4 (about AU$1.40) per teapot

Mid Valley Megamall is a gargantuan shopping centre with 430 shops littered across five floors. After a brief zip-around, we head to Ying Ker Lou for lunch, which specialises in Haka cuisine. Even on the run, we are determined to make every meal count, although the presence of air-conditioning is also welcomed.

We're immediately impressed by the seriousness of the tea menu, set out just like a wine list with separations by variety and then graded by quality (and price). We try the standard pu'er tea and notice differences in fragrance and flavour between this and the more expensive gong pin tie guan yin oolong tea (RM6 or about AU$2.15 per teapot) and the top level South Mountain supreme oolong tea (RM10 or about AU$3.60 per teapot).

Hakka yam abacus RM17 (about AU$6.10)

What I'd been most keen to try was abacus beads, something I'd been curious about ever since Poh Ling Yeow cooked this dish on MasterChef Australia. This dish is so-named because the little dumplings made from steamed yam and tapioca flour look just like the wooden beads used in a Chinese abacus, an old-skool calculator.

These aren't as chewy or glutinous as I thought they'd be, but we enjoy the contrast between the yam and mix of dried shrimp, squid and crunchy black fungus strips.

Crispy pork belly with fermented bean curd RM22 (about AU$7.85)

The crispy pork belly has taken on a salty sweetness with its coating of fermented bean curd and the Dong Jian-style bean curd is also a hit. I relish the braised pork tail with peanuts, carefully extricating skin and flesh from each cylindrical stump.

Dong Jian-style stuffed bean curd in hotpot RM23 (about AU$8.20)

Braised pork tail with peanuts RM25 (about AU$8.90)

We jump in a maxi-cab to the airport. Traffic is truly insane in Kuala Lumpur. Kilometre-long stretches of freeway seem to reach a standstill. There are no accidents or roadworks to blame. There are simply so many cars on the road that everyone is used to spending half their time waiting in traffic.

McDonalds ayam goreng fried chicken RM10.35 (about AU$3.70) for two pieces with chips and drink

We reach the airport with plenty of time to check-in. There's even a chance for one last snack before we board the plane. I'm not usually one for fast food chains either at home or abroad, but the offer of fried chickens is enough to sway my mind.

Ayam goreng, or fried chicken, is a standard offering at McDonalds in Malaysia and when we receive our order, I immediately toy with the idea of buying more. The batter is all kinds of nubbly bliss, and beneath the crunchy golden batter is piping hot chicken that is tender and juicy.

Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Making Thai iced coffee

Our flight lands late in Phuket, and it's a one hour drive from the international airport to where we're staying, Kata Beach. It's one of the quieter areas on the island, unlike the brash and garish Patong, and we wake early the next morning to explore.

Frothing the coffee

There's no better start to a day than coffee and we gravitate to a roadside stall like excited school kids. We're already feeling hot and sticky in the humidity, and the iced coffee is cool, strong and deliciously sweet with condensed milk.

Iced coffees to go

Kata Beach

Kata Beach

Mobile satay and som tum stall

Literally a mobile stall

Dino Bar

Okay sometimes you get suckered into the weird and wacky. And besides, Pete has a craving for burgers. We end up at the Dino Bar for lunch, a kitsch and touristy food bar that looks straight out of Bedrock from the Flintstones.

Our drinks come with elaborate garnishes and we have a full view of the kitchen from our stools. This soon becomes a form of torture as we watch each order being painstakingly prepared and delivered to every customer but us, until at last! Lunch arrives!

Beef burger and pork burger 180 baht (about AU$6.20)

Red Boat Seafood and Thai Food

So lunch wouldn't have won any gourmet awards but we fare better when we head into the town of Patong for dinner, a fifteen minute drive away. The difference in traffic and the number of tourists is staggering, the roads teeming with tuk tuks and the footpaths spilling over with hastily set-up street stalls selling watches, sunglasses, wallets and souvenirs.

It's hard to find any restaurant not rowdy with tourists and waiters urgently cajole you inside as soon as you glance in their direction. We eventually settle on Red Boat Seafood, one of several restaurants that make up the open-air Patong Seafood Food Court.

Pineapple mango shake 60 baht (about AU$2)

[Clockwise from top left]: Fresh coconut juice 60 baht (about AU$2); 
fried chicken wrapped with pandanus leaves 150 baht (about AU$5.15); 
fried prawns with garlic and pepper 180 baht (about AU$6.20); and 
papaya salad 80 baht (about AU$2.75)

We order a mix of dishes but there's not much relief from the chilli - everything is deliciously spicy. The chicken in pandanus leaves is sweet and caramelised from the grill but to my surprise one of the highlights is the spicy shrimp soup, arriving in a ringed cauldron so it stays hot throughout our dinner. The soup is peppery with chilli but also rich with the flavour of a dark prawn stock.

[Clockwise from top left]: Fried squid with black curry paste 180 baht (about AU$6.20); 
beef salad 120 baht (about AU$4.15); and
spicy shrimp soup 350 baht (about AU$12)

We walk off dinner by exploring the streets of Patong. Eventually we find ourselves on Bangla Road, a chaotic pedestrian strip that is every nightmare your mother ever imagined and more. The noise is relentless, with music blaring from nightclubs and strip joints, flashing neon assaulting your senses, and loud drunken tourists every which way you look.

Every few steps we're approached by spruikers, or hopeful locals selling cheap trinkets or toys. The spruikers point eagerly toward their strip clubs, where young women gyrate with forlorn resignation in their eyes. Large groups of men stop to stare at the dancing lady boys, jostling each other for a better view. It's seedy, harrowing and depressing, and the walk feels much longer than it actually is.

Power cables galore

Fish foot spa

I'd had much more fun earlier that day, when we'd headed to a day spa looking for a traditional Thai massage. For one hour we were kneaded, twisted and pulled by young Thai women who were infinitely stronger than they first appeared. 

My foot in the fish spa
- So tasty, but only 14/20?

I couldn't resist a fish foot spa either. Fish pedicures involve placing your feet in a tank filled with live garra rufa fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet. I admit I was nervous as I prepared to lower my feet into the water. What would it feel like? Would it hurt?

I sit next to Billy and we look at each other before we submerge our feet. And then I laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

The sensation is like a cross between pins-and-needles and having your feet tickled with hundreds of feathers. I'm extremely ticklish and soon I'm bent over double, convulsing with laughter in that please-stop-I'm-about-to-have-an-accident kinda way. The tickling is relentless and everyone else is laughing at my hysteria.

It takes some time before I can bear to open my eyes and watch the fish. Nibbling at my skin. Their mouths opening and closing like greedy little chicks. I can feel the flick of their tails, like the brush of a feather as they swarm about hungrily. It takes another couple of minutes before I dare to spread my toes. They dive right in. The feeling is bizarre.

And the result? My skin is definitely smoother, and it's hilarious to see whose feet the fish attacked with more vigour. And I haven't laughed so much in my life. Or since.

Kata Markets

Vegetable stall

We'd also stumbled across a wet market in Kata, offering well-timed shelter from the monsoonal rains. The covered market is a world away from Bangla Road, and we happily while away our time exploring the aisles.

There is much to see and the glimpse of local life in Kata Beach is quietly earnest.

New harvest rice for sale

Shrimp paste

Pre-packed eggs

Petai beans or stink beans

Dried fish

Threading flower garlands

Stallholders' kids playing in the markets

Shy but curious

Fried chicken

Time for a quick snack

Anywhere is good for a nap

Market stall worker

Fresh pig trotters

Pig heads


Choosing the best seafood

Live frogs

Corn fed chickens

Local butcher or Mr September?

Pepsi bottles for recycling

> Read the next Thailand 2010 post (James Bond Island, Phuket)
< Read the first Malaysia 2010 post (Kuala Lumpur)

Don't forget entries close tomorrow for the GourmetRabbit Baza'ar at Efendy Balmain. You could win a night of Turkish canapes for you and a friend, access to free tasting stations, a copy of GourmetRabbit Issue 2 and a take home goodie bag. 

Enter here!
Entries close Thursday 28 April 2011 at 9.30pm AEST.

View Larger Map
Ying Ker Lou
The Gardens Mall, 2nd floor, S231 & 232
Mid Valley
Lingkaran Syed Putra
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2284 8480

47 Karon Road, Karon Beach
Phuket, Thailand
Tel: +66 (76)  330 625

Red Boat Seafood and Thai Food
Patong Seafood Food Court
U Thid Road (opposite the Paradise Complex)
Patong, Phuket, Thailand

< Read the first Malaysia 2010 post (Kuala Lumpur)
> Read the next Thailand 2010 post (James Bond Island, Phuket)
25 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/27/2011 03:33:00 am


  • At 4/27/2011 4:39 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    This post took me 15 minutes to read but it was such a treat. Thanks!

  • At 4/27/2011 8:14 am, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    Classic pepsi bottles! I wish I get to hold that at least once in my lifetime!

  • At 4/27/2011 8:39 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Aaah, good ol Mid Valley.

    Thai photos are fab!

  • At 4/27/2011 9:43 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    lol good old Dino Bar, I'd totally forgotten we went there! How good were those Ice Coffees <3

  • At 4/27/2011 9:45 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Oh, what an awesome post! We honeymooned at the Katathani in Kata! Dinner at Mom Tri's was one of the (many!) highlights of our time there. Love the pics Helen!

  • At 4/27/2011 10:04 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Nice one Helen, thanks for the virtual holiday. Mmm pig trotters!

  • At 4/27/2011 10:29 am, Anonymous Sneh | Cook Republic said…

    Such a treat to read this post. Wow Helen, you are brave with the nibbling fish experience. Your description alone had me in stitches, I cannot imagine how tickled you must be, lol! Nick says I have Rhino skin and nothing affects me, so I would probably be ok but then I am terrified of most living things including fish :-)

  • At 4/27/2011 10:44 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    HAHA Man.... I'd so be in laughing fits too placing my feet into the fish tank. But it looks fun! It's always fun (and depressing) reliving your holiday but thanks for sharing it with us. Malaysia and Thailand are places I definitely need to check out! Did you get to try those snake fruits? If so, what were they like?

  • At 4/27/2011 10:59 am, Blogger Lil said…

    Hehe I've tried the fish foot spa and I couldn't stop giggling myself!! XD

  • At 4/27/2011 11:14 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I have the fish pedicure up in Darwin - it's totally weird and hilarious, I agree. Great post - makes me wish this was a 50 day long weekend so we could go over to Thailand for a bit more R&R.

  • At 4/27/2011 11:39 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    Thank you so much for posting this. We're going to Thailand for our honeymoon so its great to know some hot spots :)
    Cant wait for the fishy fiesta but Im extremely ticklish too so Im a little scared now lol

  • At 4/27/2011 12:25 pm, Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said…

    Oh sigh. Double sigh.

    What an amazing food-ologue, Helen.

    Thanks for sharing. I love the food in Malaysia and now you've got me wanting to go to Thailand as well. I know Sydney-Thai is considered on par with the original by many food critics but the colours and sights of Thailand can't be duplicated.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • At 4/27/2011 1:13 pm, Blogger Hungry Female said…

    Just back from Bangkok myself, can you believe it was my first time despite being Malaysian?! Your fried chicken pics reminded me of my own incredible findings. Glad you enjoyed what KL had to offer and the great Thai markets:-)

  • At 4/27/2011 4:36 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    love the photos! makes me realise how much i miss travelling and will need to get myself to penang and KL and thailand... so many places to go, not enough holidays and time!

  • At 4/27/2011 6:04 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    "please-stop-I'm-about-to-have-an-accident" HAHAHAHAHAHA

  • At 4/27/2011 7:12 pm, Anonymous msihua said…

    Oh wow!! This makes me HOMESICK!! WAAAAA... also should not visit unless dinner has been consumed!

    Awesome! Thanks :)

  • At 4/27/2011 8:44 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Look, Helen, I'm inclined to think this entire post is a flight of fancy. I'm supposed to believe you were up and about so early that hawker stalls weren't even open? *raises eyebrow*

    Actually, I take that back. I know you, and even I, would get up as early as 3am for days of travel, food, colours, papaya salad, and massages. I only wish I'd been there to see the foot spa :)

  • At 4/27/2011 9:25 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    How wrong you were Helen! Your pictures don't make me want to get back into the swing of things - they just make me want to go on holiday again!

  • At 4/28/2011 4:06 am, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    Wonderful photos Helen! Just brings me back to all the food haunts in Malaysia. I can eat 5 of those small nasi lemak bungkus at one go, so simple yet delicious!

  • At 4/28/2011 9:54 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow what a mega post - good use of a holiday! Loved the photos and it has inspired me to head to Malaysia at some stage where I have never been.

  • At 4/28/2011 4:23 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    There's types of fruit there I've never seen before. I loved your descriptions of sleazy streets and tickly fish.

  • At 4/29/2011 1:22 am, Blogger jack said…

    Your photos are beautiful as always, this post really makes me feel homesick for Malaysian food. I especially loved the 'mobile stall' and the guy napping at the market - you really captured the 'south east asia' feel :)

  • At 5/01/2011 1:18 am, Anonymous sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    Hmmm..... Not sure how I would cope with a thousand tiny teeth nibbling at my dead skin cells. Have a hard enough time with a normal pedicure. Love your pictures and how cute is the Dino Bar!

  • At 5/04/2011 9:20 am, Blogger susan said…

    Oh I so want to go back to Thailand. Although we had a som tum from a stall holder in phuket and we got incredibly sick and were in bed for 3 days :(

  • At 10/26/2012 11:26 pm, Anonymous huili said…

    hey there,

    i stumbled across your blog while googling for an eatery in malaysia. i'm from sarawak and like most sarawakian i think sarawakian food is the best in malaysia!!! the next time you're in malaysia you must drop by kuching for sarawak laksa (much better than assam laksa imo) and kolo mee!!! not to mention kueh chap, tu kar pui (pork leg noodles), pork satay, and the list is really endless!


Post a Comment

<< Home

      << Read Older Posts       |       >> Read Newer Posts