Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Alcohol-free and vegetarian meals aplenty in Penang!

Puppet Ponyo presided over our table at 
It may not look it but the kacang botol (winged bean) salad
was the spiciest of the dishes on this table!
One of my favorite snacks/desserts when back in Penang :)
The evening after I returned to Hong Kong from my most recent trip back to Penang found me once more spending time with friends at Sake Bar Ginn.  As it so happened, the previous time that I had drank any alcohol prior to that occasion also happened to be at Sake Bar Ginn a few days before my eight day Penang trip.  Put another way: I didn't drink anything alcoholic while back in Penang this time; and despite there being a particular watering hole there that I do like, it really didn't take much effort to be alcohol free while there! 
As I explained to my fairly incredulous friends at the sake bar that I've come to think of as a cross between the eponymous establishments in TV series Cheers and the Midnight Diner movies for me: I prefer to drink during meals rather than outside of them but I also tend to steer clear of alcoholic beverages when eating spicy food -- and as it so happens, a lot of my favorite Penang foods are on the spicy side.  Consequently, my drinks of choice at meal times in Penang tend to be non-alcoholic concoctions like rose syrup with lime and ice or various fruit juices.     
Something else that I noticed this time around is that I really do tend to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables when I'm back in Penang; and this even when it's not durian season!  As it so happens, I had a few vegetarian meals on this recent trip, including a banana leaf rice lunch, an ethnic Chinese fried noodle dish known as "cheap mee" because it's traditionally one of the cheapest dishes on offer in Penang and has mee (egg noodles) as its main ingredient, and a large order of the distinctly Malaysian fruit salad-prawn paste combination known as rojak.  And in addition to the many glasses of fruit juice that I drank on this recent trip, I also once again enjoyed eating more than one portion of coconut jelly as well as the flesh of the fruit that serves as its container.
More than incidentally, I also love drinking coconut water but won't drink coconut milk and was horrified to discover while living in the West that people there actually drink the latter liquid and have it as ingredients of alcoholic cocktails such as piña coladas!  Something else that shocked me -- and would similarly shock my brother years later when he went to boarding school in England -- was that quite a few people we knew in England (and, in my case, the USA too) had no idea that coconut water existed, since the coconuts found in their parts of the world didn't have any clear liquids inside of them because they already were old and dry! 

So frustrated, in fact, was my brother when trying to convince his boarding schoolmates of the existence of coconut water that he told us more than once that he wished he could bring a young, clear liquid-filled coconut, with him back to England from Penang.  Adding to his vexation was his schoolmates also not believing that coconuts were anything but brown and hairy on the outside, and -- what with it being the days before the internet came along -- his having great difficulty finding pictures of green young coconuts to show them! ;b


Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Some wines are very good match with Spicy Food. My personal favuorite is Wine made from the Pinot Noir grape. Even the cheap ones under HKD100.- would usually work.

I have tried Seichuan stuffs multiple times with Alsace Pinot Noir wines and New Zealand Pinot Noir wines. It's complicated and difficult to describe. I understand you are not a wine person. But you would have to try it sometime and see if you like it.


peppylady (Dora) said...

I don't know what it is but I find foreign food interesting.
Coffee is on

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I don't even like nihonshu or beer with spicy food. So...yeah, I don't think I'll be tempted to try wine-spicy food pairings any time soon! Actually, I think it's good that there are foods I don't like to pair with alcohol as this helps to give my liver a rest. ;)

Hi peppylady --

I find foreign food interesting too. For me, it's another window into other cultures -- and often a delicious one! :)

eliza bennet said...

I love beer with spicy food, favorite taste combo whether it is fried hot chicken or somtam with rice (only exception maybe is Indian spicy food probably because I had never drank any alcohol when I was there) Not really a beer enthusiast but throughout the years I have found that beer is best for me to consume with food.

Foreign food rocks.

YTSL said...

Hi "eliza bennet" --

Hmmm... I somehow have in my memory a conversation during which you named your country's cuisine as your favorite... ;)

Also, FWIW, I think beer is great with certain foods (e.g., yakitori, kushiage, Korean fried chicken, Scotch eggs) but I've begun to think that sake/nihonshu might well be the alcoholic beverage that pairs well with the widest range of foods, if given a chance. Among other things: sake is obviously my number one choice to go with sushi and kaiseki but I've also found that it can go great with cheese and also wagyu beef! ;b