Malay Peninsula(Western Malaysia+Singapore) is a wonderful landmass to travel, with bountiful spectacular destinations of all genre with warm hospitality, welcoming residents and world class tourism infrastructure but the cuisine of both Malaysia and Singapore(closely related) might be scary for the vegetarians. Cuisine of Malaysia is a blend of mostly indigenous Malay cuisine and Chinese cuisine sometimes influenced by the Tamil or the Mughlai delicacies. Aptly the food habit is dominated by the presence of meat, egg, fish,prawn and shrimps.I was mentally prepared for traveling into the “No Country” for the plant eater and taken ample cakes, biscuits and ready to cook meals in my luggage as the disaster management measures. Indo-China or South East Asia is known for its spices and the spice trade which brought the explorers from Europe to India as well as South East Asia.
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Air Asia in flight menu is a prelude to what was in store. Mouth watering aroma of spices disappointed me only to find out only sandwich and French fries are in store for me that too in an appropriate mid air prices.KLIA2 Airport offers all global chains like Starbucks, Burger King, Mc Donalds etc.On reaching the shores of Malaysia and after seeing Putrajaya, I felt to try out some food seriously. There are several food outlets but I could only find out Dunkin Donut(RM3) and a can of Coke suitable for me.In the evening in Kuala Lumpur spotted a roadside hawker selling fritters. The Banana Fritters(5 for RM1) fried in palm oil was really nice. There are numerous eateries(restoran) in KL selling Nasi Lemak, Laksa, Nasi Kandar, Satay etc which spreads aroma but having mostly meat/fish or egg/shrimp etc. 7-Eleven stores comes handy in such situations where one can get confectioneries(chips/cookies/nuts/biscuits/chocolates/drinks) at reasonable prices.But beware of Anchovies, it is often mixed with nuts/cashews and look like Kurkure by appearance which is actually dried and preserved small fishes, the wisdom, I could finally discover later after biting(eeyak) it. Next day, I had pre booked(easybook.com) a veg breakfast in the bus journey to George Town(Penang) from KL Sentral. The bus arrived sharp at 8AM but without any veg sandwich. I had too satisfy myself with a extra bottle of water and the black coffee. Nobody ever heard of coffee with milk/sugar in Malaysia/Singapore. There are numerous Kopitiams(Coffee Bars) apart form big chain cafes like Starbucks/Old Town across the country serving various options of teh(tea) and kopi(coffee). Coffee and Tea may not be measured by a cup rather often by glass and vivid combinations.Milo and Coconut Water are also favorite beverage across this part of the world.
In the evening while strolling in front of the Tropical Spice Garden near Batu Ferringhi Beach of George Town, I got a glimpse of the famed Cendol, most famous dessert of Malaysia in a road side stall. It was a treat to the taste buds and tastes like Faluda Kulfi(nearest analogy I can imagine). Cendol is made of coconut milk, jelly noodles,red beans, Melaka Sugar, Shaved Ice and many unknown syrups). A Glass or Bowl of Cendol is quite heavy for the stomach and can easily serve as lunch or dinner.Driven by curiosity purchased a bun with jelly from a shop called Roti Bengal serving various kinds of breads and buns.
George Town is a town where people come for eating and really there seems to be more eateries than homes in the town. Penang Cuisine is world famous and dominated by the Perankan(Chinese settled in Malaysia) delicacies like Char Kway Teow, Asam Laksa, Mee Goreng, Hokkien Hae Mee, Wanton Mee etc.I had discovered a shop of Bangladeshi where I could source all known Bengali food product from Sandesh, Chanchur, Murir Moa, Aam Kasundi near the Komtar area, but that was only for emergency bail out procedure.In the dinner, I found a roadside burger cart on the Burmah Road. On request, they could make a Veggie Burger(Soyur) with a Cheese Slice for RM3 and it was good.
While sight seeing in George Town , I stumbled upon a Krishna Temple where I had fruits as Prasad. Then spotted quite a few Indian Restaurants in Little India. Went inside the Sarvanana Bhavan and had a delightful Indian meal with Singara(Samosa), Puri Subzi and Roti Canai(Malaysian derivative of Indian Bread like Roti/Parota). Later in the day, got a taste of the famous Durian fruit through the ice cream. Durian is a native of this part of the world and infamous for its obnoxious odor which turns humans crazy leading to criminalize possession of Durian in public in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia. At the same time, it is famous for its heavenly taste and earned a moniker”King of Fruits”. A Durian’s nearest kin is our very own ripen Jackfruit(Knathal) spiky in appearance and fleshy/pulpy inside.Durian holds a eminent position in the culture of South East Asia and one can notice it in the streets of the towns.
While waiting for a flight to Langkawi in Penang Airport, breakfast was once again the Dunkin Donuts along with Black Coffee.In Langkawi, on the road along with the Pantai Cenang beach there are restaurants and food joints serving all cuisines of the world including Indian restaurants.I was determined to try a local delicacy and entered the Happy Happy Cenang Restaurant and finally could figure out a Malay Veg item – Malay Style Fried Noodles. It was spicy, tangy and delicious. Walking down the street, found a fruit shop and could not resist a mango in March. Here I got a touch and feel of a real Durian. Also saw two fruits called Mangosteen and Dragon Fruit which was unheard before.
Next Morning breakfast was usual bread, butter and French fries. Enjoying the Mangrove Boat Tour astonishingly spotted the Bangla Restaurant ~ One and Only in Langkawi near the Underwater World Langkawi. It is actually a Bangladeshi Restaurant serving Bengali, Hyderabadi and North Indian cuisine. Here I ate a sumptuous lunch with homely rice, Cauliflower Curry and Okra Curry. Enjoying the cools of the Panorama Langkawi atop lofty heights of Gunung Matcincang tried to taste the Japanese Food in Happy Happy Cenang once again and it turned out to be a misadventure as I could hardly swallow the Beancurd and the Japanese Fried Rice.
Back in KL Sentral day next, a Subwich(RM7) saved me.There are ubiquitous Subway and Mc Donalds though vegetarian options are very limited and unlike India, vegetarian means only cucumber, lettuce leaves, tomatoes etc. In evening, I managed to taste Ais Kacang or ABC(Ais Batu Campur), another Malaysian super dessert in the Kasturi Walk of Central Market. Similar to Cendol, it contains Gula Melaka, Red Beans, syrups, shaved ice etc. Moreover it contains a base of ice cream which can be off different cocktailed flavor and the final product is awesome.
Next Day, in KL was quite happy to the taste bud as I spotted a Malay Veg Platter in the KLCC Food Court and in the evening Veg Murtabak(Stuffed Paratha) in Sri Devi Restaurant in Little India. In the KL Bird Park, I discovered pop corns can be sweet and dipped in jaggery. A walk in the Kampung Baru, the traditional hawker center of KL , saw varieties of biscuits, sweets etc and managed to taste a few.
White Coffee is the product I saw everywhere near the Ipoh town and bought one from the duty free shop at Langkawi. It is originated in Ipoh and was modified later in different towns like Penang and Melaka.This time while transit through KLIA2 while returning Kolkata from Singapore took a packet of Penang White Coffee and Durian Chocolate as the romance with White Coffee and Durian continues.
Singapore is no different while all big brand food chains are present everywhere, still difficult to find vegetarian options.Briyani and Roti Prata are Indian derivative Singaporean items could be found in many places.Bread Ice Cream is a new thing I spotted in Singapore and it is not bad. Starbucks, Mc Donalds, 7-Eleven stores comes to the rescue and off course, the Little India can offer plethora of Indian food from Pakoras to Banana Leaf meals.
Discovering a new frontier through the mouth and abdomen is another great way to engage, live and love the destinations. Not all food item is for everybody but adapting to alien food habits is a great teacher in life.
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