One Night In Ipoh
Traveling long distances in the UK requires careful consideration of food stops. If you find yourself without food, and in desperate need of some but haven't done your research, I'm afraid you'll probably be subject to one of our service stations. Pray it's one of the new ones because if it isn't. God help you. Maybe I'm being a bit too dramatic but my last experience of a service station on the A1 was not a good one. My choices were McDonalds, Costa and another shop offering 'home cooked' and 'healthier' food options so I opted for that one. Cheese, pickle and salad baguette. Cost me about 5 quid. The salad had seen much better days and had to be removed. The baguette was soggy. The 'pickle' was more of a smear of sweetness. It was a sad experience.
I was reminded of the contrasting experience of eating in service stations in Malaysia. The choice of food on offer was fantastic. Lots of small, individual stalls selling many kinds of vegetable curry, rice, noodles, grilled fish and fried chicken. Just point to what you fancy. Most of it was delicious and these places were packed full of people. We were told that some people come here specifically to eat. Imagine if that were the case in the UK?!
The food in general in Malaysia is fantastic. I have been reminiscing about it quite a lot recently. Malaysian food is a wonderful mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian. There are also a few hints of Portuguese, British and Dutch influences.
My most fond memories of Malaysia are probably the food experiences. Who am I kidding? My most fond memories full stop are food experiences.
In Malaysia we just seemed to stumble across excellent food. Maybe we were just lucky but they seem to just provide really tasty food everywhere. No frills but big flavours. I especially loved the seafood restaurants, mostly Chinese, with hundreds of dishes on offer. Chilli clams and crab being a speciality. Also guaranteed to please are banana leaf curries. Malaysia has a lot of Indian immigrants from Tamil Nadu so the Indian food is heavily influenced by this region with a lot of vegetarian dishes.
One occasion where we stumbled across some lovely food was finding ourselves in Ipoh by accident. We had been miss-sold a bus ticket which brought us into the city in the middle of the night with no onward travel possible. We booked a hotel and made the most of the next day in the city which turned out to be a great place for tourists: lots of heritage, a historic tin mining town with a British past and a distinctive food culture not found anywhere else in Malaysia. This includes Ipoh white coffee, Heong Peng (pastry with a sweet and sticky filling) and probably most famous of all, the Ipoh Beansprout Chicken. A delicious but delicate dish of chicken and beansprouts made with sesame oil and soy served with chilli and white rice.
Malaysian street food is also a great opportunity to stumble across some more fantastic food. Stalls selling BBQ meat, satay, noodles and rice are everywhere. They have so many different dishes it is hard to pick just a few favourites but one of them has to be Laksa. This spicy coconut noodle soup is probably my favourite Malaysian dish. Usually served with sambal and calamansi (small sweet limes) so that you control your own levels of spice and sourness. Roti Canai was also a firm favourite for us (on a restricted budget). Flaky fried Indian bread served with curry or daal. Delicious.
Street food is serious business in Malaysia. Just ask the young vendor in Melaka who tried to sell phallic shaped waffles. He was shut down after 2 weeks of trading, officials stating that he could 'tarnish the image of Melaka as a tourist attraction'. I wonder how well this would go down at one of the street food markets in is country? Read more about that particular story here.