Thursday, July 30, 2015

Following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain by having a meal at Muthu's in Penang!

Would you believe that Anthony Bourdain ate here?

 Sample some of the banana leaf rice at Muthu's
and then you'd believe!

A while back, Anthony Bourdain went to Penang and made a mouth-watering No Reservations episode chronicling his foodie experiences there.  Among his surprisingly Malay food bereft choices of places to eat were ones that were familiar to me, such as the Chinese assam laksa stall at Air Itam market and the hawker center over at New Lane.  But I have to admit that there were a few others that I hadn't previously heard of, including the banana leaf rice place that Penangite Leonard da Silva took him to and where they ate with obvious relish.

Fast forward to my most recent visit back to Penang and two family friends telling me that they had managed to track down Muthu's -- by recognizing the tiles they saw on the walls when watching (obviously very carefully!) the Penang episode of No Reservations!  And after giving due warning that the ethnic Indian eatery doesn't have air conditioning, they took me there for lunch one day.

Having become regulars at Muthu's (one of them told me that he makes sure to go eat there at least once a week!), they made a point to emphasize that we needed to go there before lunch hour for government and office workers, otherwise it'd be crazy busy there and we may not be able to get a seat at this obviously very popular eatery!  So, getting there as early to beat the lunch crowd, we managed to have a pleasantly leisurely as well as quiet lunch -- one that gave us the opportunity to chat as well as relish the taste of the food put before us!

Among the first things one notices about the place is how unassuming it is -- to the point where it's the kind of place which many people walking past it on Lebuh Acheh (or Acheen Street, as long-term Penangites are wont to call it) might not even notice is an eatery that's open to the public!  Another is that it's determinedly no frills -- what with the food being served on banana leaves rather than plates, no utensils being placed on the table (with the expectation that you'll eat with your hands), and there being very few drink choices on offer. (Forget alcohol, you can't even get regular soft drinks; so I settled for an Indian yoghurt drink to quench my thirst and bring down the "fire" of the food instead!).

But while there are people who have been unimpressed with the food -- complaining, among other things, that the rice was served cold (or, as least, luke warm rather than piping hot) and that the curry dishes weren't all that strong tasting -- I did enjoy my lunch, and thought that the crab gravy (with the other gravy available that day being made out of fish and prawn)  that I opted to have poured onto my white rice was actually quite divine!

I don't know how much the total bill amounted to, since my family friends treated me to lunch that day.  I'm pretty sure though that the meal at one of their favorite eateries was quite the bargain, even by Penang terms; and this even though they ordered a number of extra side dishes to go with the standard lunch offerings.  

In any event, the upshot is that if I lived in Penang, I could see myself returning there fairly regularly -- though once a week may be too much and I'm sure that there are proprietors and fans of more upscale banana leaf rice places, like Passions of Kerala, who may be scratching their heads and wondering why Anthony Bourdain didn't opt to eat at their place instead! ;b


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip, YTSL! This goes on the top of my to-do list. Not only do I love Indian food, but I love eating with my hands.

sarah bailey knight said...

The food looks so delicious. And "truth be known" I do sometimes eat with my fingers.

YTSL said...

Hi duriandave --

Wow, top of your list! My tip, actually, would be to make sure you eat a wide variety of food in Penang -- make sure to try Peranakan and Malay as well as Chinese and Indian! ;b

Hi sarah sbk --

Re eating with hands and fingers: well, I only have ever seen one person eat a hamburger with a fork and knife -- and that was back in the 1970s in England! :D