Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Something to Keep You Cool

For the past few weeks, here in Penang, it has been quite hot and very humid. We haven't had much rain lately, which intensifies the heat. It is winter back in the US and Europe and the weather is much different than winter in Malaysia. My brother Pete and his wife Debbie sent me a few photos taken outside their house in Watertown, New York, my hometown. They were taken after a recent snowfall, which in Watertown can amount to a few inches a day or as much as 2 feet. I must admit that I do miss the change of seasons, especially spring and fall. I realize that here in Malaysia we do have winter, but to tell the truth I cannot see any differences at all. I do, at times, miss the snow, but I don't miss driving in it or shoveling it. It is nice to look at though.

I am writing this post at 10:00pm Malaysia time with the temperature of 90 degrees F or 32 degrees C and 70% humidity, as compared to Watertown with a temperature of 21 degrees F, or -6C and 90% humidity at 9 in the morning. I am sharing these photos to bring back some memories for my Western expat friends and to show my local friends here what winter REALLY looks like. Enjoy the photos. I hope viewing them cools you off a little

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Penang Fish Head Curry

For all of the time I have lived in Penang, I have seen restaurants and food courts advertising "Fish Head Curry", but I have never tried it. In the US when we order fish in a restaurant we usually get fish fillets or salmon, tuna steaks etc.. We don't usually see the heads attached to the fish when it is served. I think most people would be grossed out by having the fish they eat looking back at them.If we go into a fish market or grocery store we sometimes see the entire fish, such as with trout or mackerel. Where I come from catching and eating catfish, or as we call them, bullheads, is a tradition in the springtime. But before they are cooked the head is removed. I can remember my father fishing for trout, which my mother did fry and serve with the heads, but I think most fish were beheaded. So eating a dish with just the head seemed a little strange for me.

Quite a while ago I wrote a blog on the Old City Food Court in which I mentioned the ABC Fish Head Curry stall. As many of you know I eat lunch at this food court quite often, and I have eaten squid curry  and the fish curry, but I have never tried the Fish Head Curry. Kenny, the owner of ABC, has been trying to get me to try fish head for a long time, so I finally gave in to him. I ordered Fish Head Curry for 4 people and asked him to include squid, just in case I didn't like the fish head. Kenny suggests that you order the fish head one day in advance to insure freshness. I ordered the curry for 4 on  Thursday to be eaten on Friday.

On Friday, my friend Kevin and our neighbors Linda and Cheah shared my first experience eating Fish Head Curry. Actually Linda had never had the dish before also. Apparently the fish cheeks have the most tender meat on the fish, while the lips were also quite tasty. Yes, I said fish lips. I never knew fish had lips! As soon as we sat down Kenny brought over our meal. There it was! A huge clay pot featuring a rather large fish head, with a gaping mouth full of teeth and smothered with onions and okra, or lady fingers as they call it here, and squid in a fragrant curry sauce. Kevin dished out the fish cheeks to make sure everyone got a share and we all settled down to enjoy our meal.

I found the the dish to be very good, since I do love curry. I didn't really think that the fish cheeks tasted any better than regular fish meat though. I love squid so even without the fish head I would have thought the meal was great. I did not mind eating the cheeks and other meat of the head though. One of the treats of eating the fish head is supposed to be the eyeballs. I passed on those and we all left Kevin to enjoy the eyeballs! The total price for the Fish Head Curry was RM79, which is a good price for this special Penang dish, which is not normally found all over. We all left feeling very satisfied with the meal. I would recommend that anyone who visits here or anyone who lives here, but hasn't tried it, give this dish a try. Don't be scared off by the fish staring back at you as you eat.

Monday, January 14, 2013

BP Anjung Indah - A Thai Hidden Gem in Penang

Recently my friends and I had dinner at a Thai restaurant, which I had never been to or even ever heard of. One of my friends had eaten at the restaurant a couple of weeks ago for the first time and really enjoyed it. He suggested that we should try it for dinner. So a couple of nights ago my neighbors, who also had never heard of the restaurant before, joined us for dinner. The name of the restaurant is the BP (Balik Pulau) Anjung Indah.

The ride was only about a 20 minute ride from Tanjung Tokong to the restaurant. The restaurant is on a side road atop a rather steep hill. Once at the top I was pleasantly surprised with a beautiful Thai style restaurant comprised of wood. There was a fantastic view of Penang and the sea. We arrived just before sunset, so we could enjoy the view, however, clouds prevented the viewing of a classic sunset. What really impressed me were close to a hundred large Bonsai plants lining the walkway in front of the restaurant. At the entrance to the restaurant are 2 carved wooden Asian elephants to greet the customers. Also at the entrance is a well kept red MG sports car, probably dating back to the 1960's.There are several large tables in the interior of the restaurant, as well as a number of small thatch covered tables outside of the main dining area, for more private or romantic dining.

We ordered a total of 6 dishes, which included green curry chicken, lemon grass chicken, deep fried squid, petai with prawns, miang kum,steamed lemon kampar (baby clams) and 4 servings of white rice and 1 pitcher of passion fruit juice. I found the deep fried squid to be the best I have ever had in Penang. I also found the lemon grass chicken and green curry to be excellent. All of the dishes were fantastic in the opinion of all of us. The total bill came to RM120 (about $40USD). The price was right and the portions were quite adequate. I must point out that there is no service charge tendered here. The service also was very prompt and courteous.

Thai food is by far my favorite cuisine and I have tried many Thai restaurants here, but this one is by far well above the others. I highly recommend a visit to BP Anjung Indah for a great Thai dinner with a lot of atmosphere. If you want to see a fantastic view of the sunset, plan ahead before your visit.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Exotic Must Try Chinese Delicacy - Stinky Tofu

A number of years ago I tried a rather strange food in Taiwan after someone dared me. It was called stinky tofu or chou doufu and it had a rather offensive odor. This is actually a form of fermented tofu. Recently my friend Kevin and my neighbors were talking about this exotic delicacy. Kevin found out that it was being sold at the Tuesday night market in Tanjung Bungah and he wanted to give it a try.

The stall was not hard to find. Just follow the foul odor to a stand where there is little business. We purchased a couple of servings and brought it home to share with neighbors. Kevin tried  one piece, made a funny face and refused to eat any more. My neighbor Cheah and I finished the rest, without a problem.

For those who like Limburger cheese eating stinky tofu probably won't be a problem. For others, the smell, which can be described as similar to baby poop, may cause vomiting or at least a vow to never eat it again. It is one of those foods, such as durian or Limburger cheese, that you either like or hate. There is no in between. For anyone living in or visiting Penang I highly recommend, no I dare you, to try it. At least it will give you something to talk about with friends back home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Retired in Malaysia's New Look

This evening I unveiled the new design of Retired in Malaysia. I hope everyone likes the new design and finds it much easier to read and navigate. I would like to thank my now husband Kevin Chan for his design and also the use of one of his photos, which is the panorama of Gurney Drive at sunset.

Kevin is an amateur photographer and a now a full time student at RIT in Rochester, NY.

The Start of a Long and Annoying Few Years

There is a small plot of vacant land, in front of Tanjung Park Condominium and across from Island Plaza, which for quite some time had been planned as the site of a new shopping center and luxury condominium towers. I noticed yesterday that the land is now started to be cleared for construction.

Part of this vacant plot of land was home to several species of lizards, birds and other small animals. There was also a very large monitor lizard living there, which occasionally wandered around the sidewalk and drains.I even wrote an article on monitor lizard, which at one time was captured and then set free.  Now all of that wildlife trying to hold on to a little bit of their home, will be gone.

Beside losing the wildlife the residents of Tanjung Park and neighboring Fettes Plaza and Residences will have to endure a long period, of dust, dirt, mud, noise, traffic and inconvenience. Some residences of Tanjung Park will lose their view of Gurney Drive and the sea to a view of another building just a couple hundred feet away. No more open windows and no more quiet strolls around the area. For those with respiratory problems the construction period will be difficult.

I certainly will not enjoy this severe change to my every day life and I am sure my neighbors will not either. Unfortunately that is the price we have to pay for so called progress.