November 4, 2013, by Ellie

Malaysia – foodie heaven!

Chilling on Turtle Beach – Penang

Time for a long-overdue update!  As usual I’ve been very busy trying to get the work-life balance steady. This is no easy task when you have at least 2 modules that you barely understand, an ever looming design project and an entire country to distract you! It’s become standard to find myself in the computer rooms at midnight. This is not exactly unusual over here, walk into the TCR around 10pm and you find most spaces are filled! A fair proportion of people can be found watching TV shows or whatever sports are on, because the internet in the main buildings on campus is about as good as it gets over here.

I have had a couple of chances to go exploring again, starting with a trip to Penang (I got the name of the island mixed up with Pangkor more than I care to admit…). Penang is known mainly for it’s great food, and it’s one of the easier islands to get to from UNMC. This is not to say it’s right on our doorstep though! I left campus at 6pm, got a lift with the civil engineers over to KL. Then got on the monorail to Pudu station, THEN got back on the monorail because apparently Pudu coach station =! Pudu monorail station. No idea why. We finally got to the coach station, only to discover that I was the only one who had ever been here and had any idea where we were headed (which is never good). Ended up hopping a couple of fences but we got there in one piece with an hour or so to kill. When we did eventually get on a coach, it was to discover that some guy had taken my window seat and non-broken chair…5 hours later plus a dodgy and speedy cab journey across the island and I finally got to go to sleep!


Prayer ribbons in the Buddhist temple

The next morning dawned bright and very early as we discovered our room was directly behind a mosque. The call to prayer was so loud it was as if the guy was standing at the foot of my bed with a megaphone! A couple hours later we headed down the road to find some breakfast, opting for the busiest looking place we could find. It was a good call, the place did Nasi Lemak and flaky buttery roti canai or banana roti for those less keen on curry for breakfast. Most of the day was spent walking through the jungle in the nature reserve on the island, meeting monkeys and hearing the hum of thousands of insects hidden in the trees. We made our way to a secluded beach and got a bit of long-awaited rest and relaxation done. Later that evening we sampled some of the famous Penang street food (it was good!), and headed off to Little India in George Town to soak up a bit of the Deepavali vibe and consume a week’s worth of sugar in the form of indian candies. The next morning a few of us decided to rent out jet-skis, which turned out to be great fun! The rest of the day was much more mellow, we spent it exploring the Buddist temple in Georgetown.

No bell or brakes, so we did as the locals do – bike along shouting “BEE BAW BEE BAW DING DING DING DING!” so people hear you coming!

After such a busy weekend I had a seriously packed week just to stay on top of my work. I decided that the sensible option would be to limit my next traveling to a day trip. Some of my course mates suggested a trip to a fishing village, so on Saturday morning we headed off to Pulau Ketam. Now I’ve not been keen on seafood for years, I went off it completely when I was about 10 – no idea why! Malaysia is slowly turning that around for me, quite often I just don’t have a choice in the matter. Sitting down for lunch on a fishing island was one of those occasions, so I sucked it up and we shared seafood mee (noodles), chili “bamboo” (which turned out to be razor clams) and a steamed fish with ginger…it was all delicious (except for the razor clams, couldn’t quite hack those but baby steps!). Then we got on our extremely rickety rental bikes – you pay 5RM (1 quid) for the day, you get what you pay for! – and wheeled our way across the island, stopping to admire the scenery and for the all important food breaks! First stop was at a shop that seemed to do a roaring trade in Chinese dramas. There was a show playing on the screen, we had no idea what was going on at any point but it sure was dramatic! It also served shaved ice desserts, a very Malaysian treat. We got an ABC, and it wasn’t half bad, even when we got to the bottom to find our pudding contained condensed milk, rose syrup, herbal jelly, red beans and…sweetcorn! Later we got deep fried ice creams, which are about as healthy as they sound. Unlike the ABC ice, I think these would be a pretty big hit in the UK.

Our ABC Ice Kacang in the making!

After a very long and rather soggy journey back to KL (we got caught in a huge rainstorm and missed the train by a hair), we headed to another Little India, this time in KL. It wasn’t as big as the one in Georgetown, surprisingly, but Deepavali was still in full swing, complete with VERY loud fireworks. We had a delicious Thali for dinner, served with a tiny sweet coffee at the end of the meal, and this inspired me to have a go at making my own dal yesterday. One of my friends has already been at UNMC a year, and she was kind enough to show me around the local town earlier this week including a great little supermarket with a better quality and cheaper selection of fruit and veggies. Armed with my new ingredients, I managed to figure out how to make very healthy, tasty and quick dal using just a microwave!


Ellie’s Cheat Mode Dal:

You need a large microwaveable bowl with a lid of some sort. You get your lentils. Any will do, I used red lentils. You put about half a cup of lentils and a cup and a half of water in the bowl (wash them first if they look a bit dodgy). Stick it in the microwave on full for 5 mins. Meanwhile chop some onions, garlic and ginger. When the 5 mins are up add the onions,garlic, ginger, plus some turmeric and garam masala. Add chili if you’re into that sort of thing. I also added cardamom and onion seeds but I am a spice fiend, it’s nice but not essential. Top up the water if it looks a little dry, give it a stir and stick it back in the microwave for 10 mins on 60% power. Check halfway through to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Finally add salt when it’s done to taste. Enjoy!


Thali in Little India, yum!

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