Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - Eating In Langkawi, A Gastronomic Post

For lots of reasons (age = decreasing appetites, length of trips, etc.) the gastronomic component of our travels has seemed to decrease as a percentage of the total attention span. However, whenever we meet up with one of our offspring somehow there is the surge of gastronomic focus. So with us hanging with the Pulisha Clan, eating has taken on an increased role. And it has been wonderful

Malaysia in general and Langkawi in specific are big time international travel destinations. While Thailand gets lots of the publicity and is certainly a bigger draw in the United States, the fact that Malaysia is an Islamic country yet very tolerant means it draws from a broader geographic demographic. Just walking down the street or wandering in the resort, you are overwhelmed with the number of languages and looks you see. And it can be very deceiving. That young Islamic looking couple can turn out to be French!

One of the results of this is you get a whole polyglot of cuisines. But there is a special emphasis on Indian and Middle Eastern (at least where we were) along with the local Malay cuisine. There was also tons and tons of seafood places with tanks filled with lobsters, crabs, live fish, tiger prawns, clams, etc. And I should mention as well, you can eat like a king here for a fraction, literally a fraction of what it costs in the US. This is just one example. For our last meal, we at three big crabs, a whole duck, a whole grouper, a big plate of fried rice, two vegetable dishes and drinks for the six who were eating. the bill was $95. That's just under $16 a person. The duck alone...an entire really big duck...was $10. You can't get a scrawny duck leg in the US for $10 at a restaurant.

Okay let's get on with the cuisine itself.

We went to this one Syrian place twice. The food was like no other Middle Eastern that I've ever had. 
It all started with the fresh flat bread they baked up for each and every diner done right out in front of the restaurant and brought right from the oven to your table.

Some of the appetizers were so different, a baba ganoush with no tahini, just eggplant, onion, tomato, garlic, oil. And a yogurt based garlic spread
The ground lamb skewers were served plain or with a tomato, onion based sauce

We had a whole fried fish that was excellent and a moussaka that was more a casserole of eggplant, ground lamb, tomato, onions, garlic and spices. I told the maitre d' that they needed to do a cookbook, the flavoring of each item was so unique.

Much like Thai, I don't eat Indian much in the US because it all tastes the same and it is usually dripping with liquid. We had some Indian in KL that was wonderful and some more here. I apologize that I don't have all the names of these dishes. They were a variety of vegetable dishes with a dal made of yellow split peas, a couple of vegetable stews from different areas in India and an Alo Ghobi (cauliflower). The dishes were tight without too much liquid and flavors that were more intense and less bloating than my experience home. I liked that each dish was cooked in a crock and from the time it took, I suspect it was not just being kept warm in the back.

There was also this crazy Pappadum with almost a salsa like topping
And a chutney made from dal (the one on the upper right)

We passed a hole in the wall place that offered BBQ lamb. It was just #2, me and 2.2 and 2.3 as neither 2B nor Wife are lamb fans. We couldn't decide what to get so the guy serving us suggested a combo plate. With the rice we ordered it looked like a massive amount of food.
We ate it all.
We found out the owner is from Pakistan and hopes to go to the US and open up a place. Hope he comes to Albuquerque!

Malay Seafood
We went to this one restaurant three times. The fish and shellfish were so fresh and good.
Crab which we tried chili crab, black pepper crab, curry crab and plain grilled crab. We liked the plain grilled the best.
We also had whole fish three times - grilled and deep fried. This was also where we had the duck

Malay Coffee
I died and went to heaven when we found this tiny cart that had some tables outside called Warung Coffee. The coffee was so rich and dark. He said he leaves it on the grounds for 20 minutes. it is smooth and not bitter and potent...I mean potent. One cup. That's all I could take. And they served a great breakfast...Nasi Lemak or Coconut Rice. You get a plate with a big serving of rice accompanied by some dried crispy fish, some peanuts, and a sweet/hot sambal. You then order an egg or two with it. I got mine fried, sunny side up. Egg goes on the rice and you mix and match the components. The wife of the husband wife team fries a mean egg...I mean really. No pictures (sob!). Today was their day off. 

This has been our second trip to Malaysia. Wife and I are both in agreement that we think it is one of the really great places to eat.


alexis said...

thanks for the food deep dive. It does sound incredible!

Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

Gosh, that all looks terrific. I love Indian in all forms, so I'm glad you found a version you like.