Monday, October 13, 2014

Georgetown is Malaysia's Grazing Ground

My arrival in Georgetown is about when I realized that I'd temporarily lost the will to spend hours pouring over the Internet to research where exactly the best rendition of every dish is served in the city before walking for miles in the heat/trying to explain destinations to tuk tuk/cab/bus drivers to get there. And that's crazy because Georgetown is one of the best little places in Southeast Asia for eaters. Malay cuisine is a mix of Indian, Chinese and traditional Peranakan dishes and flavours, and the small city of Georgetown is known for both its street hawker stalls and restaurants that dish up every Malaysian meal you could ask for. 

One dish I did research thoroughly before setting out to eat was char koay teow, a popular rice noodle dish served up by multitudes of hawkers across Malaysia. The woman above is known for her bomb char koay teow (also her red hat and her attitude – hey, you don't need to be her bestie) and yes, I'd say it was worth the walk to Lorong Selamat outside of the Old Town center to eat it, but I was sweating my ass off too, so, cab is prob best. 
Red hat woman is totes an expert – order the largest portion (still too small) of her delicacy and look for plump prawns, velvety cockles and ribbons of chinese sausage hidden within a tangle of eggy wide noodles. Behind her stall is a hawker center with tables and chairs where a different vendor will offer you drinks and other dishes – we also went for a fried yam cake that wasn't particularly memorable. Best char koay teow I had in Malaysia, though, only topped by one in Singapore. 
A good way to try a little bit of everything is to head to one of Georgetown's nightly hawker centers where locals and tourists both rock up to order a variety of dishes and wash them down with plenty of expensive beers (alcohol isn't a huge thing in Malaysia considering its largely Muslim population). Red Garden Food Paradise is close to the Old Town and has questionable live music nightly. It's a good place to knock a bunch of the must-eats off your list all under one roof. 
None of the dishes we got at Red Garden were amazing but you're here more for the experience. Charlie and I ordered steamed cockles, chee cheong fun (the rice rolls in a dark sauce above), oyster omelet that was actually kind of bad, a bangin' bowl of Indian saag aloo – a spinach curry with potatoes – and cendol, a disgusting shaved ice dessert with green noodles and red beans that I literally never want to see again in my life, below. Walk up to each stand, place your order and leave your table number. Your food will be delivered when it's ready and you pay upon delivery. Drinks waiters provide a good tableside service and LOVE you if you're drinking beer.
You should also eat roti canai for breakfast in Georgetown. The flaky, doughy flat bread and sauce served at all of the places in Little India and is available with fillings like egg, potato and onion. They're more or less all the same. I'm a savory over sweet person, so this was def a breakfast fave over the death-inspiring banana pancakes popular in most tourist joints. 
This guy! This man is a hero. This man made me a very, very happy person. He makes some SERIOUS char siew barbecue pork at the bright teal colored Sky Hotel on Chulia Street. It's open from 11am to about 2:30pm and it's crowded every day – walk in with confidence and stalk a table. We ordered both char siew and roast duck, but the char siew was the real winner. We ordered a second dish of just the pork because this was some serious sh*t. Be early, the pork sells out quickly!
Each slice of sweet, caramelized pork had crunchy, melt-in-mouth edges. Slices were tender and moist – fat rendered all around leaving a lean, meaty bite in the center. Rice and bok choy here only serve as obstacles that get in the way of how much pork you can consume so seriously consider just ordering dishes of pork pork pork. The easiest way I can explain this to unknowing Americans is: imagine the greasy boneless spareribs from your favorite Chinese take-out and then imagine them like a million times better. Ugh, this makes me forget about having (unconfirmed but suspected) worms and (multiple cases of) bedbugs in Malaysia!
Yes, that's a bagel. A pretty decent one considering we're in Southeast Asia. Some hipster earned his moustache and plastic frames by opening the Rainforest Bakery and Cafe, also on Chulia Street, and I couldn't complain about having access to lox and cream cheese on poppy seed while travelling through developing countries for five months. Sometimes you just need a break. I mean, the line you'll have to wait on at this place is pretty worth the wait. Get this to go and store it in your hostel fridge the night before heading out on a morning bus trip to your next destination! Isn't that a good idea!?


Red Hat Char Koey Teow Woman: 108 Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Malaysia

Red Garden Food Paradise: Lebuh Leith near Jalan Muntri, Georgetown, Malaysia

Sky Hotel: Lebuh Chulia near Jalan Pintal Tali, Georgetown, Malaysia

Rainforest Bakery and Cafe: 294 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown, Malaysia

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