people should visit during their lifetime; and, it is second on CNN’s list of “The 17 Best Places to Visit in 2017.” It is easy to see why. The island has a myriad of different things to do from exploring the UNESCO Heritage City of Georgetown to a walking tour through the new Entopia Butterfly Farm to parasailing over the Straits of Malacca.
I find the island’s heterogeneous population which is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and religion fascinating. In 1786 Captain Francis Light landed on the shore of Penang making it Britain’s first settlement in SE Asia. English is a compulsory subject in Malaysian schools. Today the island is about 40% Malay, 40% Chinese and 10% Indian with a variety of other groups
making up the rest. We were at the Holiday Inn Resort for Chinese New Year which the hotel celebrated with firecrackers, Lion Dance, and the traditional Prosperity Toss. A Prosperity Toss is a plate of colorful veggies, fish, and noodles that people, using their chopsticks, toss in the air while shouting “Loh Hey” which literally means to 'move upwards'. It is symbolic of the wish for fortunes to grow during the coming year.
Penang is a honeymoon destination for Saudi couples and a winter getaway for Europeans. There are Europeans in itsy-bitsy bikinis and Arab women in swimsuits that covered them completely except for face, hands and feet; some are very colorful. There are women in abayas, some with face veils, mixed with guests clad in a variety of other outfits including saris and hijabs. Usually it is only the women who are so attired but there is an occasional male in a dishsdasha.
With such a diverse clientele the chefs need to prepare food to suit all their guests. All the food is halal. The breakfast is impressive: eggs, pancakes, grilled tomatoes, cheese, soups, salads, fruits, bread pudding, curries, rice, and even a fava bean dish called foul which was very good. Every Wednesday the Holiday Inn Resort offers a free cooking demonstration in the garden. In the class Chef Laxman, the hotel’s Indian chef, showed us how to make an Indian dish – Jingha Masala. An Englishman standing next to me said, “I don’t usually like seafood but this is delicious.” I agreed.
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped onion
15 curry leaves
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic paste
½ cup tomato puree or finely chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tbs red chili powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
25 pcs prawn or shrimp (cleaned and washed)
one-half green pepper diced
2 tbs cream (light)
1 tsp kastoori mathi powder (fenugreek)
Fresh coriander leaves chopped for garnish
Heat oil in wok or frying pan. Add garlic, onions, and curry leaves. Sauté for a few seconds. Add ginger and garlic paste. Sauté for one minute. Add tomato puree, salt, red chili powder and turmeric. Cook for five minutes stirring frequently. Add prawns and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add green pepper. Cook for one minute. Add cream and kastoori mathi. Stir and remove from heat. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve with naan bread.