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No one expects a silent “k”… or dessert squid… or yodeling… or line dancing.
March 15, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Malaysia, Penang, Tastes

One of the highlights we always look forward to in a new city is finding the local night market. A good night market can have anything from pirated DVDs and other knockoff goods, to really excellent local crafts, artisan teas, and of course, always, hawker food stalls. Since we’re both novices to Malaysian cuisine, we were especially excited to scope our Penang’s Red Garden Night Market.


The food court of the market is something of a feat of organization. A large square is lined around the edges with dozens upon dozens of hawker stalls. In the center of the square hundreds of tables are each numbered. You choose a table, and then note your number. After ordering drinks from the beverage runners who seem to just appear tableside out of thin air, you then begin your patrol of the stalls and place your orders, giving the hawker chef you table number. Almost as soon as you’ve found your table again, a runner appears with your food.


The array of choices--most of which are completely new to us--is dizzying

On the train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, we had the good fortune to sit near a local couple who generously offered us the names of the best Malaysian dishes that we simply had to try. Chief among them is a dish called “Nasi Lamek” – a dish we later learned is primarily eaten at breakfast, but is nonetheless available at the night market. It’s a tasty concoction of rice, cold fried chicken (or beef, or seafood), dried anchovies, roasted peanuts, and a spicy tomato sauce. Delicious! The other that came highly recommended is Rojak (the “k” is silent… which explains why we had such a hard time ordering it). It’s an… interesting… dish that, for us anyway, was a tad less tasty. It’s a dessert delicacy, containing cut unripe fruit pieces (not all of which we could identify) topped with a thick tamarind sauce that quite resembles barbeque sauce. Also included are chopped peanuts, some kind of fried thing we suspect may have been deep fried fish cartilage, and squid. Dessert squid. Which snuck its way into Jess M’s mouth, as it was well camouflaged by the sauce.


The squid is an unadvertised... treat... for your dessert.

Other dishes available at the night market include clay-pot biryani (yum!), every kind of Laksa (noodles in a thick fish-based soup stock), and porridge (which comes in a number of varieties, including frog and raw fish).


We did not try the raw fish porridge. No. Noooooooooo.

As if the food was not enough, the Red Garden also offers an unexpected entertainment line up. On ceiling-mounted televisions, American All-Star Wrestling can be viewed from your table. Or, if you prefer something musical, the “band” (a keyboard player and a singer) will regale you with covers ranging from Gloria Estefan, to Patsy Cline, to a yodeling medley. Yes, yodeling.

The real treat at Red Garden, however, is the line dancing. To Garth Brooks. Apparently, line dancing is very popular in Malaysia, and enthusiasts at the night market turned out to show their considerable chops.


Penanger's tear it up to "Achey Breaky Heart"

For more some pictures of our visit to Penang, CLICK HERE.

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  1. Ladies,
    Good morning, or night, wherever you are. I am a friend/relative of your friend Noel. She recommended I check out your travel log and, so, that is what I have been doing. There is not much else going on in California. Unemployment is such that any decent job is flooded with applicants, and I’ve never been much of one for crowds. Pretty much the best thing going in terms of time passage the past few days has been studying the clouds for signs of radiation, and reading your stories, both of which are fascinating, if somewhat dangerous to my health.

    So, at that, I’ll just give you a little nod and a boosting shove. Keep going. Keep putting it out there, getting to the sauce of life. It’s good reading, and vicarious-forming…

    Cheers from the weirdly Dutch village of Ripon, CA.
    Corby Anderson

    • Hey Corby! We met in Venice about a hundred years ago. Great to hear from you, and so glad you’re liking the blog. Hope you’re doing well.

    • Corby -

      I am Jessica’s brother – and Noel may remember an oddly awkward kid from about 15 years ago…I am in L.A. and know the joy of searching for work in California. If I can do anything to help, which may not be much, don’t hesitate to ask.


  2. Absolutely fantastic pics. I’m with Corby in that I am so vicariously traveling through the blog. I ALMOST feel like I’m there w you too, which would rule. Miss you more than you know. I have no internet at my house rt now (long story), but hopefully that is way temporary and I can fix it by the end of the week…
    Love you, muah!

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