Breakfast at a corner cafe a few blocks from the hostel doing brisk business. The customers are all locals; in one corner a man is slurping up soup noodles with eyes afixed to an open newspaper, two women are gossiping over iced coffees, a large group of teenage girls are crowded around two tables outside. It’s not fast-paced, as in people don’t rush past, but they move rhythmically, suggesting familiarity and ease with routine whether server or patron. After pondering the options, I choose an iced coffee and otak otak, a steamed, strongly spiced, egg-based mousse/custard with white fish fillet chunks and layers of wild pepper leaves. The coffee is rich and sweet, and I watch the coffee vendor masterfully churn out cup after cup — poetry in motion. The process is repetitive but captivating.
My companions turn their noses at this oddly multi-textured creature. My first bite is hesitant and deliberate, but I warm up to it with each successive chomp. It is not as fluffy as the beloved steamed egg dish of my childhood, but I like the firm fish chunks and the slight tongue-numbing effect of the fragrant pepper leaves, which create a lasagna-like layered innards visual that appeals to me.
The others opt for: fish ball noodle soup, a puff pastry filled with tomatoes and onions, and nasi kandar.
After wandering around Georgetown for a bit, we hike over to THE chicken rice place recommended by Rasa Malaysia.
Obviously, there’s no waffling over what to order — the question is not what, but how much.
We get one big order of roast chicken and one small order of the steamed. Each comes in a healthy bath of soy sauce and is liberally sprinkled with fresh scallions. Both are money — every piece of meat is moist, tender, and bursting with juiciness. The roasted chicken has that roasted somethingness that gives most roasted meats that extra oomph, but I like the steamed variety for the intense essence of chicken that greets your ‘buds and the spotlight on the freshness of the meat, which sings. The rice is aromatic and almost flaky, an unassuming but ideal complement to the star of the show. The broth was light and just flavorful enough. A memorable meal for sure.
After taking in some more of the town and taking what became our daily pre-dinner repose, we decided to stay close to the hostel for dinner and found an Indian place around the corner. It was standard Indian fare, good and filling, with a standout tandoori chicken — the first tandoori chicken I’ve had that I enjoyed. My previous experiences of tandoori were dry, burnt, and flavorless knobs of meat, so I was pleasantly surprised by the indulgent succulence of this dish.