CNY 2020 – Day 18 – Langkawi’s Food Scene

One of the reasons we’ve enjoyed our stay in Langkawi so much has been because of its food scene. We’ve had very few disappointing meals. Whether you’re looking for something local or foreign, there are an endless number of restaurants to choose from.

Local Food

A tasty grilled Malay fish

Malaysian food is flavourful, colourful and diverse. Roti Canai is like a sort of Indian pancake that can be served with chocolate, fruit or curry sauce (kind of like an Asian Crepe). Nasi Lemak, Malaysia’s national dish, is made of rice soaked in coconut milk, served with dried fish, peanuts and chili sauce. Satay is a kind of bbq served with a peanut sauce. These are all traditional foods you can find in Malaysia, and they are all delicious.

Nasi Lemak: I’m in love with this dish!
Roti Canai. Soooo good! The ones with banana are my favorite
Nasi Goreng Pattaya is another delicious way rice is served in Malaysia. They wrap your fried rice in a thin egg omelette and then add sweet chili sauce
Nasi Goreng with chicken. Fried chicken is also a staple on the island. I’ve probably eaten a bit too much of this over the last few weeks

Mostly we’ve been going to small, family run places, but there are some chains too. The House of Lamb is run by local Muslim Malays and specializes in BBQ lamb and chicken skewers. They have a couple of locations on the island. We’re definitely going to be going back!

Lamb chops, lamb skewers, chicken skewers, Lamb Shank, corn, salad, potatoes and rice. A perfect combo for two!

Asian Food

Salted Duck Yolk Calamari

There are plenty of other Asian restaurants on the island, although we haven’t actually visited many of them because most Asian food is available in Suzhou. Chinese restaurants are probably the most common Asian restaurant in Langkawi, which makes sense given that in a normal year, there are tons of Chinese tourists visiting during Spring Festival. Of course, this year has been different.

Everyone is staying home because….

There are plenty of Indian, Korean, Thai and Japanese restaurants on the island too, so there definitely isn’t a lack of choice!!

Western Food

Crepes: Life

If Malaysian food is too spicy for you, or if you’re looking for something familiar, there are a few good Western options on Lankawi island as well. There are at least 2 restaurants serving crepes and both are run by French expats. There’s plenty of Italian food on the island as well, and you can even find several Mexican restaurants in Langkawi!

The Crepes at “My French Factory” are sublime!

If you’re in the mood for something out of the way and a bit more upscale, Mangoes is also a great option! It’s run by an Australian lady and you can get a great burger or even roasts and Chicken Cordon Bleu there! Good, homemade style Western food!

Dave enjoyed an enormous burger
I had the chicken cordon blue. The lighting wasn’t great, but the ambience in the restaurant was so nice. We had a view of the ocean and because we were off the main strip, it was nice and quiet.

Middle Eastern Food

So far, my favourite meals on the island have been at middle Eastern restaurants. Most of the ones we’ve seen have offered a mixture of middle Eastern dishes and my favorite restaurant has been Hadramawt.

Their lamb mendy and falafels are some of the best I’ve ever had. This restaurant is so good, in fact, that we’ve been there twice in 10 days.

Lamb Mendy is slowcooked in a way that makes the meat more tender than I really thought possible
Falafel & hummus

There are other restaurants as well that serve very tasty middle Eastern food. The Syrian restaurant we tried on one of our first nights here had some great combo plates.

An assortment of all my favourite middle Eastern appies! Yasmin restaurant was a delight.

We’ve still got some time left on this beautiful little island. We’re looking forward to all the other restaurants we’ll try!

Day 14 – Same Same, but Different

One of the cool things about traveling is that you get to see all the different varieties and flavors each country has.  A good example of that is India’s Maharaja Mac.  They don’t eat beef in India so McDonalds had to come up with an alternative to the Big Mac.  This chicken burger was the solution.

Dave tried it and liked it a lot!  It was too spicy for me!
Subway in Singapore also had variations in their local menu!

South East Asia has all sorts of flavors that Canada doesn’t… And sometimes I don’t understand why we haven’t brought these flavors out west!  The cookies and cream dairy milk found in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is one of many examples.

Sooo tasty!!!

In Singapore they also have salted caramel Magnum bars, which are to die for!!

My first treat in Singapore!

There are some strange variations too. Salted egg yolk is a really common flavour in this part of the world. You can get salted egg yolk calamari, crab and even potato chips!

I’ve heard they’re pretty good!  We tried the salted egg yolk calamari and that was REALLY good!

There are other strange flavors of chips too!

Also…chips made of chicken and fish skin
Chili crab is basically Singapore’s National dish. It doesn’t surprise me that they have these as chips!

Popcorn is also a lot more variable than you’d imagine. I’m a fan of good old fashioned butter and salt, but in Asia, they have all sorts of sweet popcorn.

This one actually sounds pretty good

Even quick meals are more diverse in Malaysia! Back home we have Mr. Noodles and Kraft Dinner but they go beyond that here:

This is brilliant!
They even come in a bowl, unlike the packaged food I’ve seen in North America (which were convenient for hiking and camping but not if you’re hungry and on the go)

Of course, I can’t forget about candy! We make a point of bringing back strange candies for our nieces and nephews every year. They seem to enjoy trying new stuff!

Dunno if I’ve ever seen anything like this in Canada!
Hazel nut and green tea kit cats…

Every once in a while I find “normal” stuff from back home too. China doesn’t have a lot of imported foods so when I find sour cream and onion chips, I get excited!!!

I’d settle for Lay’s if I had to but…..
They even have Ruffles!!!
I’ve never seen anything like this in China. They have their own version of jerky, which is also quite tasty…. It’s just different

Traveling is fun! Who knows what we’ll see next!

CNY 2020 – Day 1 – Bonus Holidays

I’ve never been much of a fan of Shanghai. It’s polluted, crowded, expensive and it takes forever to get anywhere. Unfortunately, there is no airport in Suzhou, which means that any time we travel, we have to go to Shanghai.

We’ve been to the Bund only once.

Things have become better in the past couple of years, since we discovered some great restaurants and Shanghai’s vibrant expat scene.

Turkish appies in Found 158. We also very much enjoy the Vietnamese restaurant down there called Cyclo

The Hop Project was a game changer for us. They serve gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches on sour dough bread. I’ve never seen this in Suzhou.

Now, we spend the night before our flights in this megacity, to enjoy food and atmospheres we don’t really get in Suzhou. It’s become a bit of a bonus vacation for us, something I never really thought was possible.

Spanish Tortilla. Love!!!

Meatballs

Chorizo soaked in red wine

Fantastic sangria

Last night we had an especially cool experience at our favorite Tapas bar in China, Tres Perros. From its music to its clientele, Tres Perros takes me back to Spain. The food and drinks are on point and the atmosphere of the bar is just like we experienced last year as we traveled around Europe.

Their Churros and flan are decadent

Even some of the Chinese staff speak Spanish and they all speak some English. Last night, while we were enjoying our dinner, one of the waiters came by and explained that he had a friend who had been in an accident and who had lost his leg. He asked if we could help him out at all. Before I knew it, everyone over at the table next to us was ordering him food, drinks and just having laughs with him. They were Spanish expats and it was a wonderful thing to see. They didn’t pity the disabled man. They just treated him like he belonged there and that he was welcomed there. It was a beautiful reminder that there are amazing people in the world.

They were a very fun crowd.

Shanghai has won me over. It took a while but I’m glad we’re friends now. After all… Who doesn’t want bonus vacation?

Day 4: In Defense of Robusta Beans

Vietnamese coffee is some of my favorite coffee on Earth. It’s strong, rich and delicious whether served hot or cold. One of the first things we did when we woke up our first morning was to find some coffee.

Two coffee lovers

So, it always annoys me when I see those signs that Starbucks has everywhere claiming that Arabica beans are far superior to all others. In fact, most Vietnamese coffee is made with Robusta Beans… Which happen to be delicious!

Now, Starbucks is an important part of my survival living abroad. I’m not knocking the Coffee Siren or her magical Arabica beans, but to state that Arabica is “better to drink” is simply wrong. It might be smoother and lighter, but if you want coffee that’s going to kick you in the pants and get you going, Robusta’s your bean!

A little bit about beans

Of course, there’s more to coffee than just the type of bean it’s made with. One crucial element of Vietnamese coffee is the sweetened condensed milk that’s served instead of regular fresh milk. It adds to the richness of the Robusta bean, packing your coffee with flavour!

This is how coffee is often served in Vietnam. They also bring you a bucket of ice for if you want it cold. Because Robusta Beans are so strongly flavoured, adding ice doesn’t water down the coffee the way it does with Arabica beans

There are also all sorts of specialty coffees served in Vietnam. My personal favorite is coconut coffee. They freeze coconut cream and blend it in with the coffee to make a sort of frappe. It’s delicious!!!

Egg coffee is one of Dave’s favourites. During wartime, dairy became scarce in Vietnam, so people started whipping eggs to create a meringue of sorts. It’s still served in Hanoi now, and you can find it in some cases further south as well.

We don’t seem to have any photos, so here’s some stock footage of this delicious Vietnamese specialty!

Today, Dave something new: a salted cheese coffee. We aren’t 100% sure not, but it’s likely made of a mixture of cream and cream cheese, frozen together into cubes and then added to iced coffee.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!!!

Even instant coffee here is more bearable! The only coffee we avoid in Vietnam is the weasel coffee. This isn’t because of how it’s produced, but rather because of the animal cruelty involved in producing it.

In the wild, civets eat coffee cherries as part of their diet, and then they poop them out, mostly whole and interact. Apparently, these beans taste great, so naturally, people have found a way to industrialize it. Unfortunately for the civets, they’re often kept in terrible conditions and are force fed the berries with little other food, more or less making the poor things sick. I won’t touch civet coffee based on the ethics behind how it’s produced

Vietnam has taught me that there’s more than one way to make a good cup of coffee. At this point, as long as my caffeinated beverage doesn’t come at the cost of an animal’s well-being, I’ll try any coffee Vietnam throws my way!

Tomorrow we head to Ho’ian!!

Day 20: Cooking Classes

Dave and I share a love of perogies, so naturally, they were one of the first things we ate when we arrived in Poland.

Unlike in Canada, the Polish fill their perogies with a variety of things. They have potato and cottage cheese, like in Manitoba, but they also have mushroom & cabbage, lentil and even other meats. They are simply delicious!!!

A classmate preparing cheese and potato perogies. We also made cabbage and mushroom (my favourites!!)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Dave and I really enjoy taking classes when we travel. In Indonesia last year, we learn how to make jewelry out of both coconut shells and silver. This year, we learned how to make perogies.

Dave, flattening the dough for perfect, delicate perogies

We booked an “experience” through Air BNB, with a local lady named Marta. There were several other people offering classes through the site, but Marta’s was most appealing because she uses fresh and home grown ingredients. She’s also very clearly passionate about food

Marta is an excellent teacher!

It turns out Air BNB is just a very small part of what Marta does. Her passion for cooking and eating local food led her to create a website called Eataway, which hooks tourists up with local people who want to make a bit of money by feeding tourists authentic food.

Our class made some pretty amateur perogies, but as the day continued we got better. In the last row, the second from last one is mine. I’m quite proud of it!

It’s become a very popular website, and I encourage anyone who travels to check the site. They are set up all over the world, so if you’re on the road, and want to try some local food, check them out here!

Rose Marmalade was “injected” into our donuts

The class was so much fun! There were 8 of us there with Marta. She taught us how to make both Perogies and Pączki (Polish donuts). She also made us the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life!!!

She also poured salted caramel all over it. It was delightfully light and fresh tasting!

It really pays off taking classes on holiday. You meet great people, learn about culture and local life AND you support small businesses (instead of big tourist traps). I recommend Eataway to anyone travelling foodies!

Our Pączki

Making the Pączki

Beet root soup is delicious! And it has dumplings in it!!

One last glimpse into our day of fun. Apparently, to properly make Pączki, a bit of violence is involved. Watch as our classmate Tobias, “punches” the dough into submission!

Day 17: For the Love of Coffee

Living in China can be tough for a coffee lover. Our best option as far as price and size goes is, sadly, Starbucks. Most coffee shops in China make watered down, tiny cups of something that resembles coffee but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Luckin Coffee was suppose to revolutionize coffee in China… But their prices are higher than Starbucks and their coffee is weak. They also ONLY do delivery, so you don’t have the option of bringing your own reusable mug, which I dislike greatly.

In Europe, however, we’ve been spoiled for choice. We’ve had to change the way we drink coffee, of course. In Canada, I’d order myself a 20oz Large Double Double at McDonald’s twice a day. If they had a bigger size, I would probably order it!

Can you make that a double double?

In Europe, they don’t do drip coffee. They mostly do espresso, cappuccinos and cafe con leche. And their cups are small. But delicious.

I didn’t take pictures of EVERY cup of coffee I’ve had, but I did take one of my first cup in Madrid. T’was excellent

Price is also a factor in China. Starbucks is double the price in China as it is in Canada, but it’s STILL better value than any of the local chains! You can get a Venti (20oz) drip coffee for $5 Canadian at Starbucks, but anywhere else, you pay $7 for 12oz. It’s crazy.

To get my favourite specialty drink at Starbucks, I pay more than $8 Canadian!

In Europe, we’ve been enjoying our €1.50 coffees a couple of times a day and we’ve been loving it. Today we found a coffee shop in Warsaw that specialized in coffee from all around the world. For about $3.50, I enjoyed a perfect cup of Guatamalan coffee in a cozy atmosphere.

Seen here: Cozy atmosphere

I’m done rambling about coffee now.

Correction: FOR now….

For those of you who don’t know why we’re in Poland, my favourite band, Blue October, is playing here in Warsaw tomorrow night!!!! We added Poland to our spring festival itinerary, just so I could meet the band and see them perform live!

I’m guessing tomorrow’s post might be about that….

Day 15: Markets

Although Dave would probably disagree with me, I consider markets to be a must-see whenever we travel. Our last night in Barcelona was spent on the tourist Street “La Rambla”, where we discovered one of these buzzing tourist hot spots.

People come to La Rambla to shop, eat and drink

The reason I like markets so much is not because I enjoy shopping. It’s more because I like seeing what different countries offer in their markets. While you’ll find wooden carvings of elephants in Thailand, you’ll find knotted bracelets in Indonesia. Even from city to city, you see differences. Luang Prabang, for example, is famous for its giant slippers!

People sell these slippers all over the place in Luang Prabang, but we didn’t see them anywhere else in Laos

In Spain, it was no surprise to see smoked meat, spices and olive oil for sale in the markets.

Of course, there were some surprises too. We didn’t think Spain was known for its candies but they were for sale everywhere in the market. I imagine locals also visit and stock up on their favourite sweets.

There were also a kiosk or two that really surprised me (and I don’t find many things surprising after living in China for nearly 6 years).

I think these are sheep heads. This kiosk also sold stomach and all sorts of other organs

I can never stay in these markets for long because they tend to be pretty crowded, but they’re usually an interesting and quick stop.

Compared to Asian markets, this one was downright empty!!!!

Day 16 will be up soon!

Day 8: Pinchos

Food is such an important part of the way Dave and I travel. One of the only activities we booked ahead of time for Spain was a Tapas Crawl (where you go from bar to bar and sample different snacks). It was spectacular and taught us about all the different Tapas we like.

One of my favourite Tapas dishes yet. It had cheese, jam and bread. It was delicious!!!!

Last night, we tried another common Spanish way of eating: Pinchos

Excellent variety!

The idea is that bars put out a variety of food with tooth pics in it. There are usually 2 kinds of toothpicks. One is for cheaper Pinchos (usually 1€) and the other are for higher priced ones (1-1.80€).

Shrimp was a more expensive item, whereas tuna or eggs were cheaper

You get full before too long, and you get to try a variety of different foods, which suited me just fine!!!

Croquettes are basically stuffed with ham, mushrooms, cream and butter. They taste like cheese sticks, but I was shocked to learn that they have 0 cheese in them

Our first stop was the best of the 3. They had a bunch of dishes with quail eggs, which I really enjoyed. As long as the bar is busy, everything moves out quickly and fresh stuff is brought out often.

They brought out these bad boys fresh and hot. Delicious!!

Not a meal for people who don’t do bread haha!

Quail eggs and sausage! Yum!

I am loving Spain! I feel like this is where I belong:

– They love snacking

– They eat and sleep late

– They love eggs. Served all day, everywhere

– Cheap and delicious coffee

– Dogs everywhere! Big dogs. Big mutts! They’re well behaved and trained.

I don’t know if I’m going to leave. I might just stay here…. 😂

Spanish omelettes are one of my favourite foods here so far!

If you want to try this style of food in Barcelona, I highly recommend hitting up Blai Street or Carrer de Blai. There are more than a dozen restaurants and bars serving food in this style!

My only word of caution: bring an appetite!!!