Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Experience of a Lifetime in Malaysia

I am really lucky to have a cousin who has lived in the far East for most of his adult life and in Kuala Lumpur a good few years and especially lucky that they invited us to stay with them on a trip to Malaysia.

We have been treated to a cultural and culinary experience second to none.... obviously they know where to go and which places to eat (very important consideration in the Farnworth household) and we have been blown away by the lovely country and food. Apparently as we Brits are obsessed by the weather, the Malays are equally obsessed with food and there is a huge variety of food of Malaysian origin and also influenced by China, India, Burma, Indonesia, Japan to name but a few and we have been fortunate to sample a fantastic selection of all these cuisines.

The weather has been quite good as KL can be very overcast and humid but fortunately we had some very good days. We started our trip in KL and after a day to get over the jet lag, flew to Penang an island about a 4 hour drive (and 30 minute flight) away. We stayed at the Shangri La Rasa Sayang, a lovey hotel with beautiful gardens and had a fabulous sea view and lovely tropical beach

We were in Penang for the Chinese New Year and enjoyed a "Nonya" meal on New Years eve. Nonya is the name for the cuisine derived blending Chinese ingredients with Malay spices and cooking methods and many areas have their own very specific regional variations of dishes using aromatic herbs and spices native to the regions.

Everywhere is decorated in red and gold for the Chinese New Year, restaurants, hotel entrances, shopping malls, streets all very colourful and symbolic.

We also had Yee Sang a dish which symbolises abundance and prosperity and which is only eaten at New Year. The dish consists of shredded vegetables and fish (often salmon) and then an array of spices all different colours and along with the vegetables all symbolising different things. The idea is for the whole party to toss the Yee Sang while offering wishes of good fortune and prosperity. This is the year of the monkey... there are 12 animals and I am the year of the monkey too. This doesn't necessarily mean good luck in the Chinese Year but we tossed the Yee Sang (the higher they toss, the messier it is and the more wishes of good fortune the better) for all it was worth and then ate it!! Really good and I have brought some packs of the spices home with me to do a version of it.

We returned to KL for a couple of days then off again on our travels to Singapore.... what a fabulous city!! A police state with cameras everywhere but so clean and smart with the most stunning architecture. Rather more expensive than KL but we had to do afternoon tea at Raffles didn't we?

This is such a beautiful place and the afternoon tea was delicious... only problem was we had eaten Fish Head Curry with all the trimmings for lunch and were out again for dinner so didn't quite do it justice!!

After dinner we visited a bar 83 floors high and open to the elements, what an experience!! Views of the whole of Singapore at night, spectacular!!

We loved Singapore, a very green city. lots of flowers... planted strategically so that the trade winds waft the scents into the centre of the city, so Eastern!!

We returned to KL and visited the Petronus Twin Towers. Interestingly from ground level, they don't appear so high but once you are 86 floors up believe me they are high!!

As we approached the end of our stay we took a trip to a place called Ipoh where the water is much sweeter than other areas of Malaysia and the food produced there takes on a different flavour. Another foodie heaven!! Ipoh is North of KL and in contrast to the scenery on route to Singapore which was flanked by palm trees but fairly flat, the terrain further North is quite mountainous and more interesting.

We had a couple of delicious meals on the last two days one at a place called Modern Chinois (as the name suggests it is a modern take on Chinese food) and another at a Sushi bar which is known to have the best Sushi outside Japan. Our final meal was a very modern quirky restaurant where they served Eastern style burgers amongst other things.

During our time there we have eaten deep fried squid, jelly fish, fish head (though not the eye!!) razor clams,  crab (Australian Mud crab), intestines, truffles, Wagyu beef and vegetables and fruits I've never heard of, We've had curry and rice and noodle soup for breakfast, eaten most things with chop sticks and I think overall have thoroughly embraced everything on offer to us, It has been such a help having my cousins to choose the food as we wouldn't have had a clue about what to pick and would most certainly have played safe and probably chosen what we know.

KL is a very modern city and the roads throughout Malaysia are fantastic though most of them are toll roads and quite expensive (petrol on the other hand is around 30p per litre!!)  Food in the main is much cheaper than the Uk and as a result a lot of the inhabitants eat out and the restaurant scene is huge with whole shopping mall floors dedicated to food. We had delicious Dim Sum and barbecued pork in one of the Malls and the food was really excellent which is not so typical in the Uk. Other goods were just as expensive as in the UK and of course the designer stores are there in abundance with price tags to match.

Though we have been to the far East before I think this trip showed me really how different the culture is and how in the East so many things including food have meanings. As we were there for Chinese New Year this was even more apparent, the whole event is steeped in strong tradition and the people return to family homes for their celebrations which can last about 3 weeks.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Barbara and Jeremy for their wonderful hospitality... nothing was too much trouble and they took precious time from work to help give us a taste of their fabulous country and lives, it was a treat to spend time with them... we owe them one!! They plan to come to us in September so need to get the pork pies, black puddings and cream scones ready!!  

On a final note my cousins have both a Thai maid and a driver... this isn't unusual in Malaysia as wages are low and staff are very affordable. The Thai maid looked after us wonderfully and her cooking was absolutely fantastic!! She prepared the best curry I have ever eaten as well as some other beautiful dishes, she took care of our washing and ironing and we came home with only a couple of days washing (sheer bliss!!). She has worked for them for over 12 years is extremely happy with my cousins and has declared she would work for nothing as they are her family. Similarly their driver has worked for them for 12 years and is very happy in their employ and ferried us here there and everywhere, so a big thank you to them for helping to make our stay even more comfortable.

Now back to reality and the weather.... didn't take long to get into that preoccupation again!! But a visit to the beach today was a real delight... cold but lovely and sunny and lunch in a cafe overlooking the sea with a final snap of little puppy having the best of times!!


  1. What a brilliant experience for you - I'm expecting some eastern inspired artwork from you soon, I'm sure you have lots of ideas in your head !

  2. Gosh Judith, a blast from the past, we had our honeymoon at the same resort 26 years ago!. Glad you had a great holiday

    1. Really!! I have spoken to two other people since we came home who also stayed there... small world!!


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