*NM the font sizes- blogger struggles. Words still accurate, though.
Walking through the streets of Georgetown on Penang island at 10AM I was already pouring perspiration, having to constantly wipe my eyebrows to keep the salty, smoggy sweat from running into my eyes. I was on a mission to Ah Leng char kway teow- reputedly* (*see- internet) one of the better spots on in town for the local famous pork fat wok-fried noodles. As I pushed through the heat and my appetite grew I began daydreaming of my soon-to-be lunch. That unmistakable combination of burnt rice noodles and caramelized sugar from the screaming hot wok, the moment when a spoonful of sambal hits the carbon steel and sends its eye-watering exhaust airborne, slips of sweet chinese sausage and fresh plump prawns resting atop the mound of steaming, lard-slicked glory. These visions became more and more intense the closer I made it to Ah Leng..until I spotted it- closed. I had been walking for close to an hour, and now was faced with only a shuttered metal sliding door. I spoke to a lady out front who told me he was on 'rest' until Saturday. Not closed up for the day, not sold out--but vacation. Good for him.
But back to me- I was still sweaty and still hungry. Now without a destination. I fretted for a moment then thought to myself-
Why am I relying on other people's pallate to tell me what to eat? Mine works damn fine and its rarely steered me wrong. I've eaten enough and seen enough and read enough about food to know pretty well how something is going to be just by looking at the situation- whether it's the level of care the vendor puts into the preparation or the makeup of the patrons eating inside. Screw it, from now on my senses will lead the way- not some internet 'must eat' blog that only raises expectations to unrealistic levels. Random, back door discoveries season your meals with more flavor than any top top list could manage.
As I continued onward I stopped in at a nearby cafe serving up 'asam laksa' which I had spotted on the walk over. I ordered a small bowl and a white coffee, wiped my brow yet again and took a seat on a red plastic chair.
Asam laksa is another prime example of the greatness of Penang cuisine. A tamarind and shrimp paste savory/sour broth is topped with sliced cucumber, pineapple, fresh herbs, shaved ginger flowers and shredded mackerel. I sipped the warm, piquant broth and all was right again. The mild heat from the chilis tingled my throat as the umami notes from the fish and tamarind caused my mouth to salivate. I chewed on the soft slippery noodles with wilted mint and shallots as the ceiling fan kept my sweat momentarily at bay and realized once again that there are discoveries just about everywhere to make in this world. Why not be the one to make those discoveries instead of following a trail someone else has blazed. Searching for that pre-packaged dining experience won't ever compare to the unknown.
So stay on the lookout, stay hungry and above all- Stay Global.