Kumi nang bergonya! “Eat, don’t be shy!”
Those unfamiliar words jumped out from the opening page of a vermilion leather-bound menu, a reminder that I was no longer in traffic-choked Jakarta but the easygoing Malaysian city of Malacca. Sitting in a rattan cane–backed dining chair, I looked up to see pastel-colored walls decorated with replicas of historical prints and old photographs; wooden fans spun lazily from the high ceiling as the nighttime breeze filtered in through half-open windows. This was Melba at the Mansion, the upstairs restaurant inside a heritage-themed hotel called The Majestic Malacca, and I was about to get a culinary introduction to Kristang culture. Read more
Some of the most memorable travel experiences are those we encounter by chance. And so it was on a sultry August day in Penang, Malaysia, when Bama and I found ourselves staring into two heavenly bowls of curry mee at a quiet hole-in-the-wall on Lebuh Keng Kwee. This street food favorite was an ocher-hued coconut curry soup laden with yellow egg noodles, succulent cuts of chicken, crunchy beansprouts, fresh mint leaves, and porous tofu puffs that absorbed the rich, spicy flavors in the soup base. Read more
It’s too late when I notice my pot of duck stew boiling over. In those split seconds between Bama’s warning and the time it takes for me to put down the camera, the damage has already been done.
Quick as a flash, Pearly Kee rushes over to turn down the heat. By now the excess liquid is bubbling and steaming on the hob, with a minor cascade dripping down the drawers and pooling on the floor tiles. “Too much water,” she says. The embarrassment must be evident on my face, because Pearly is telling me not to worry while she wipes down the mess. Read more
Peering out of our window on the seventh floor, the house looked far smaller than it did from the street. But its romantic window shutters, tiled roof and walls painted in indigo blue were still magnificent. Although The Blue Mansion was just behind our hotel, it took Bama and I four days of slow deliberation before we stepped inside for a guided tour. Read more
“How much? Ten Ringgit?” I fork out a note to the silent man clasping a stack of faded blue tickets. Gruffly, he hands me one with the change. Standing outside Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), I feel as though I have just landed in Indonesia. The lush carpet of greenery from the air, marked with endless rows of oil palms; the equatorial heat piercing through the billowing, crumpled clouds; the gentle maelstrom of organised chaos… all this is reminiscent of a half-forgotten childhood vacation. Read more