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Food, Food, Food : A KL-ite weekend in Penang – Day 3 – The Final Fete

Sunday, 10.00 a.m. – The final 12 hours.

The bright morning sun was upon us having woken up at 9.30 a.m. And despite the continued feasting from the day before, our visitors were still craving for the best Assam Laksa on the island, one of Penang’s best loved delicacies. So, off we went to seek it out in Air Itam.

So what makes or breaks a bowl of Assam Laksa? IMHO, I think its three things :

  1. The prawn paste. You got to have good, pungent Heh Ko otherwise the dish itself loses some oomph.
  2. The balance of spiciness and sourness. Anyone can make things spicy by throwing more chillis into their soup base, but its no use when everything just burns your tongue. And if it is too sour, it might just turn your stomach. The art is getting everything just nicely balanced so that its spicy enough to get your nose running and tangy enough to keep you slurping the soup until the last drop.
  3. The thickness of the soup base. This is achieved with plenty of deboned mackerel so that all the fishy goodness coats every strand of Lai Fun noodle. Which is why there is that urban legend of the tissue paper in Assam Laksa!

Looking at the gigantic mound of Lai Fun noodles that this very popular Assam Laksa vendor has infront of the stall, he must know something, right? Nothing really speaks like an empty, gleaming bowl after being polished off by Assam Laksa fans…

With appetites sated, I could not think of a better way to enjoy a bright Sunday morning than spend it marveling at one of the largest religious monuments in South East Asia up close.

12 noon

Kek Lok Si Temple – The Temple of Supreme Bliss

I have been a visitor to Kek Lok Si for most of my life, mainly as a tour guide.  So while there are plenty of blogs that give you the background of Kek Lok Si Temple, I’ll spare you that and give you my take on the “highlights” of the Kek Lok Si Temple experience:

  1. Browse the weird novelty souvenirs on the path up to the temple – Amidst the touristic t-shirts, caps, key chains and nutmeg products there is something really unique to Kek Lok Si…fake poo made out of plastic. Don’t ask me why they sell it there in abundance, but it has been here for years and I guess take heart that some pranks do withstand the test of time.
  2. Feeding the tortoises at the “Liberation Pond” – A tiny bundle of water convolvulus, RM1. The joy of feeding hungry snapping tortoises, priceless. It is apparently an act of “spiritual liberation” when a captured turtle is set free in this pond. Obviously, not for the little critters!
  3. Counting the 10,000 Buddhas in the “The Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas” – I doubt you will get very far with this exercise unless you make the 7-storey walk up the pagoda, but it is nice to take a break in front of the big fans on the ground level of the pagoda while you contemplate the exercise.
  4. Travelling in a moving refrigerator – RM 2/way to go up and down the “Incline Lift” is a great way to share body odours!
  5. The view at the top of the hill – Which is more inspiring, a 30 meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin or the isle of Penang laid out beneath you reaching all the way to the Straits?
  6. Get your name on a piece of tile forever more – Contribute to the reconstruction of the temple complex by purchasing a piece of tile or brick and get your name on it. Cheapskates beware, they only allow one name per tile!
  7. Admire three certified record breaking feats all in one place – Malaysia’s tallest pavilion at 89.23m, Malaysia’s tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy statue at 33.67m and Malaysia’s tallest granite pillars at 42.24m. The thing that I marvel at is the sheer amount of bronze that envelops the statue. The cost of the octagonal pavilion which shelters the Kuan Yin alone cost RM 40 million! This is the reason why you see commercialism all the way up to the top of the temple, the temple committee obviously needs to recoup the construction costs.

1.30 p.m.

Low Eng Hoo Coffee Shop at Lorong Selamat

Hungry from our exploits at Kek Lok Si Temple, we headed for the final session of feasting on street food. The criteria was to get a good mix of authentic hawker food all in one place (nope, Gurney Drive does not cut it). So we journey a couple of shops away from the famous Lorong Selamat Char Kway Teow to the lively Low Eng Hoo Kedai Kopi dan Ice Kacang.

I have to say right off the bat that the Char Kway Teow here is tasty, lives up to a high standard and comes with good service. There is no primadonna airs which you may have to put up with at other more famous CKT outlets. In fact, they have a positively westernized method to service customers…you get a number to display on your table so that your server knows your place in the queue.

In addition, this modest kopi tiam has a great variety of excellent street food fare. From the photos, you can see that we really indulged in all we could get our grubby paws on. CKT, Curry Mee, Otak-Otak, Lobak, Chendol, Ice Kacang, Or Kueh…anything that was close at hand we ordered. After all this was the final fete…

So, after slightly more than 48 hours of fastidiously stuffing our faces, the feasting was over. We managed to cover 4 of the 5 want to eat items with the exception of Kiam Chai Boey! But it is always good to leave something to motivate oneself for the next visit to enjoy Penang’s food delicacies.

7.00 p.m. – Petaling Jaya

SMS from Ms. Ki Ya : “Thx, we enjoyed very much. now comparing da SS2 food. sucks big time…eww…how to adjust back da tastebuds?”

Oh yeah,  I am sure pretty sure that these friends of mine will be back before long…

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