Early June 2016
I visited this tiny town in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia called Nibong Tebal. There aren’t that many things here, but it’s a place important to my boyfriend, so he showed me around.
The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach with good food.
He did just that. =)
First meal: Assam Laksa (main), Ice Kachang (dessert)
Assam means plum, Laksa is the name of the noodles. The Laksa here in Nibong Tebal is different from the one in Penang (see this post earlier). And Nibong Tebal isn’t a big city of heritage and tourism, so Assam Laksa isn’t listed as one of the best food in the world. The taste here is lighter, and more spicy. I really love that hint of sour taste from plum that goes perfectly with fish. It’s such a family favorite that when Nibong Tebal store closes (for any reason at all) and my boyfriend can’t get his bowl of the week, he would tell me “I have no reason to live anymore”. Exaggeration, I know, in terms of expression. But it’s to show how much he loves it. 😀 It’s cute.
So if you travel to Penang, take a bus (or something) to make a day (food) tour to Nibong Tebal. Find this address
164, Jalan Che Ahmad, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
It’s a wet market (if you have been to Southeast Asia often enough, you would know. Wet market is where locals sell fresh produce, especially meat and fish, etc.). From the entrance, it’s the first stall on the right. (On the left, there is another stall selling the exact same stuff, but trust me, right is the direction to go).
I’m not a good spicy-food eater. To be honest, I’m terrible at it. So accompanied my bowl of Laksa was another big bowl of Ice Kachang. This is the Singapore spelling – my habit. In Malaysia, it should be Ais Kacang. Ais is Ice, Kacang means beans. They have lots of red beans as the base, then mixture of jelly, chendol (that green thing with weird texture in the bowl), rose syrup (bandung), gula melaka syrup (palm sugar), and something else I can’t name. The ingredients do vary in different places.
The ice saved my tongue from feeling the heat. So a few spoons of Laksa, then when I can’t take the spiciness level anymore, a few spoons of Ice Kachang. It’s a funny sight to see. This was ordered from the same stall. There must be a reason they sell this two together. 😛
Second meal: Crab Porridge
Welcome to *drum rolls*
Address: 1962, Jalan Che Ahmad, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
This restaurant is really famous in mainland Penang. We ordered a few things: boiled baby octopus, some grilled local fish that’s only available in the region, stir fried vegetables, grilled marinated chicken, etc. and the star of the menu – crab porridge.
I love seafood. My mother is from a coastal town and I have seafood everyday. I must say, what’s offered here in this restaurant is superb. I like the freshness, the seasoning, and the order and timing that they bring out the dish.
It’s a pity I couldn’t read that much Chinese (though I’m trying everyday). I spent around half my mealtime staring at the menu, trying to decipher what they mean, and of course, my boyfriend was constantly bombarded with the question “what’s that 3rd character on the 4th picture from the left? yeah that one.” and alike. I must have been the most talkative person there that night. But when in Rome, do as Romans do. I eat at a local restaurant, I’m in their country, I should learn their language too. Til next time…
The crab porridge was brought out last, when we have almost finished all the other “side dishes”.
I like crabs. The good thing was that I ate this one with the people I’m rather comfortable with, because bending crab legs, breaking the meat and eating them all using your bare hands isn’t what anyone have in mind for, say, first date or important customer meeting. Totally family-style restaurant.
I love the broth. It has a generous amount of black pepper, and they use Garland Chrysanthemum leaves as the main vegetables. Both are my favorites.
I don’t really like the porridge itself, however. I mean it’s pre-cooked rice, being cooked again in the broth, with the crabs. I would prefer my rice to be…rice, in a separate bowl, instead of faking its identity to be porridge.
I like my porridge cooked from the rice grains, with perfect amount of water since the beginning. It’s how I grew up to know about porridge and congee and that’s my preference. I still remember when I first encountered with the precooked-rice-porridge, I was so surprised. I soon learned that they are 2 different styles of cooking porridge, and that depends on the regions, and the recipes. Now that boils down to personal choice.
It was a good food trip, that makes me want to return for more. 🙂