Monday, September 21, 2009

Penang Pop-Over and the Culinary Tourist

Why are there magazines on food and travel? Wasn't foreign food, until recently, merely a component of travel, like killing natives off with foreign diseases; a by-product of other evolutionarily more lofty aims like crusading or discovering new countries for self-glory and mercenary profit?

Is culinary tourism, where food and drink are the motivation and goal of a tourist's experience, a Western/developed world construct where the Freudianly infantile obsession with putting things in one's mouth is experiencing great popularity in televised cooking shows, food magazines and food blogs. Or is foodie travel part of the move to authentic local experience from the Disneyland-ification of the 1980s, (street) food being an intimate insight into another culture, its city and suburban life, its domestic, national and global cultures, its perspectives on social issues?

To add to the junkpile of thesis-misses, what about the anthropology of breakfasts? How much does the first meal of the day and its contents tell us about the ideologies and worldviews of the consumers and the stratification of society:

Breakfast, Clove Hall, Georgetown, Penang Breakfast, Clove Hall, Georgetown, Penang
Fruits, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and tea for breakfast, Clove Hall

Nyonya Dessert, Clove Hall
Nyonya dessert, Clove Hall

Corner of Toh Soon Coffeeshop, Lorong Campbell, Georgetown, Penang Yuan Yang Ais, Toh Soon Coffeeshop, Lorong Campbell, Georgetown, Penang Kaya Toast, Toh Soon Coffeeshop, Lorong Campbell, Georgetown, Penang
Yuan Yang Ais and Kaya Roti Bakar, Toh Soon Coffeeshop, Lorong Campbell

Herbal Duck Soup, Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus
Herbal duck soup, Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus

Popular pancake van, Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus, Georgetown Pancake, Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus, Georgetown
Pancake, Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus

Or what about the social economics of back-alley vegetable sellers cf fresh food sections of supermarkets that might elicit a wave from Adam Smith's invisible hand:
Vegetable sellers, Pasar Pulau Tikus
Vegetable sellers, Pasar Pulau Tikus

Or the evolution of local dishes and ideas of preparation and confluence of ingredients? For example, while char kway teow is a dish common to both sides of the Causeway (just that it is much much better far north of said Causeway),
Char Kway Teow, Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Penang
Char Kueh Teow, Goggle Auntie at Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat - shiok

Goggle Uncle Char Kway Teow, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Penang
Char Kueh Teow, Goggle Uncle, Lorong Selamat - many lard bits, too salty and MSG-y

Char Kway Teow, Joo Hooi Coffeeshop, Penang Road, Georgetown
Char Kway Teow, Joo Hooi Coffeeshop - darker, nice but less depth than Goggle Auntie's

char koey kark, that delicious child of fried carrot cake (the rice flour type, chye poh and all) and char kway teow, is known only in Malaysia:
"Seafood Char Koay Kark", Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus Char Koay Kark, Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus
Char Koay Kark, Outside Kwai Lock Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus

And what about the anthropology of eating spaces? There are coffeeshops galore in Georgetown but unlike the coffeeshops of Amsterdam or New York, they appear functional: a shelter under which to rest, a table to put food on and a chair to sit on while eating, yet the banter between hawkers, the cheek-by-jowl living seems to do something for community...

Joo Hooi Coffeeshop, Penang Road, Georgetown
Joo Hooi Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang (Penang Road)

Mushroom Chicken Noodles with Fried Wanton, Eng Loh Coffeeshop, Jalan Gereja (Church Street), Georgetown
Mushroom Chicken Noodles with Fried Wanton, Eng Loh Coffeeshop

Roast Chicken Rice, Eng Loh Coffeeshop, Jalan Gereja (Church Street), Georgetown
Roast Chicken Rice, Eng Loh Coffeeshop

...because by contrast, New World Park - old Swatow Lane hawkers bundled into a sanitised environment seemed dead. The stallowners sat in their own stores listening to flies being electrocuted and yawned (safely).
Curry Mee, New World Park, Georgetown, Penang
Curry Mee, New World Park

(We had our last local meal at Kek Seng Coffeeshop. A great send-off. Everything was yummy and good. (You will notice that "good" appears three more times in relation to this coffeeshop. Yes, the culinary adjective department is looking to hire. Only A.A. Gill, whose Table Talk we took turns giggling at and reading to each other choice nuggets from, need apply.) Was there some sort of culinary curation involved?)
Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Penang Road, Georgetown
Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang (Penang Road)

Assam Laksa, Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Penang Road, Georgetown
Assam Laksa - a very good introduction

Chicken Rice and Roast Pork, Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang, Georgetown Extra order of roast pork, Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang, Georgetown
Chicken and Roast Pork Rice
The roast pork was fantastic. Have never liked the stuff because it's always tasted of pig that has been left to decompose in a sewer. But this was good. It was later pointed out to me that this was because it tasted like smoked pork and crackling, therefore kosher (sorry) to my angmoh-fied palate.

Kueh Pie Tee, Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang, Georgetown
Kueh Pie Tee - this was so good we had seconds, then took away another lot for afters.

Or what about pontificating on the colonialist underpinings of the use of ice, a state of water not known to the indigenous people of southeast asia?
Durian Ice Kacang, Kek Seng Coffeeshop, Jalan Pinang, Georgetown
Durian Ice-cream Ice Kacang, Kek Seng Coffeeshop

Ais Kachang, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Penang
Ais Kachang, Lorong Selamat

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chedul and Ice Kacang, Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road, Georgetown, Penang
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chedul and Ice Kacang, Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road

Teochew Chendul, Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road Ice Kacang, Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road
Chendul and Ice Kacang, Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road

Lee Brothers Ice Kachang, New World Park, Georgetown, Penang
Lee Brothers Ice Kachang, New World Park - of all the samples, this had the smoothest, finest ice

Or, if we are to talk meaningfully about "good" and "bad" dishes, an objective way to compare and calibrate different palates.
Zealand Bak Kut Teh, Gurney Drive Special Basins for Rainwater Leaks, Zealand Bak Kut Teh, Gurney Drive
Zealand Bak Kut Teh, Gurney Drive
Zealand bak kut teh came highly-recommended but seemed little better than the rainwater collecting in their special standing buckets.

Or an international anthology of night eating spots and a categorisation of the common methods of supper food preparation:
Lorong Bahru (New Lane Road), Georgetown, Penang
Satay, Lorong Bahru Chicken Wings, Lorong Bahru
Rained Out, Lorong Bahru
Lorong Bahru (New Lane Road)


Or how about the use of fast food as a barometer of globalisation and also a common denominator with which to measure the stubborn differences between cultures:
KFC, Penang McDonalds Apple Pie and Boh Tea, Penang International Airport
KFC at a real mansion off Jalan Burmah, McDonalds' Apple Pie and Boh Tea at Penang International Airport

But as our budget flight on Tiger Airways suddenly accelerated as it came in to Changi Airport then banked suddenly and heavily left then right, then aborted the attempt to land completely ("turbulence from the plane in front" said the pilot), some things seemed clear:
"Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food" says the world but God will destroy both, one and the other. "All things are lawful for me" says the liberated Christian, but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. It would be pitiably futile to have one's whole life consumed (ha!) by an obsession with soon-to-be-passé tummy and food. "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

11 Clove Hall Road, Georgetown
11 Clove Hall Road, Georgetown 11 Clove Hall Road, Georgetown
Saffron Suite, 11 Clove Hall Road, Georgetown Saffron Suite, 11 Clove Hall Road, Georgetown
Clove Hall
11 Jalan Clove Hall
If having your accommodation described as "sensitively conserved", "lovingly restored", "heritage", "privately-owned", "boutique" and yet "wifi-enabled" gets you all in a tizzy. And you've never found a use for those tedious minibar, coffee/tea, in-room safe facilities that so beset faceless mega-hotels.

Toh Soon
Jalan Campbell (Jalan Pinang end)

Kafe Heng Huat
108 Lorong Selamat
Goggle Char Kway Teow Auntie, Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Penang Goggle Char Kway Teow Uncle, Lorong Selamat, Georgetown, Penang
Goggle Auntie - with trademark goggles and red beret. Not to be mistaken (how could you!) for Goggle Uncle who, according to the internets, set up shop at her old spot.

Joo Hooi Coffeeshop
Jalan Pinang (Penang Road)

Eng Loh Coffeeshop
Jalan Gereja (Church Street)

New World Park
Jalan Burmah



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3 Comments:

At September 22, 2009 9:49 pm , Anonymous Whitetruffles said...

I like this! :)

 
At October 02, 2009 10:31 am , Anonymous pixen said...

You sure made me missed Penang so much!

 
At October 11, 2009 7:24 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carolyn Steele on how food shapes the city

 

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