Jan 23, 2013

Winter break: Introducing Penang

In which we make a plan to eat

We're off to Penang

This time last year, we were taken by surprise by the fact that the famously hot Sichuan province actually had a winter, and we spent our January break shivering around Chengdu. We had fun, but we could have had more fun. Fun that didn’t involve wearing coats indoors.

So this year we knew we wanted to go some place warm. And, over the summer, while watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s foodie travel show “No Reservations,” we knew it should be Penang. The food looked delicious and everyone was in shorts in the wintertime. This was enough for us to book a flight.

And then we set about finding out what a Penang was.

This balmy food paradise is a state in the country of Malaysia, a peninsula that dongles down from Vietnam/Laos and ends at Singapore. The country’s famed for its (these days) peaceful coexistence between its Indian, Chinese and Malay peoples. It has a subtropical climate, meaning 80s+ degrees in January!

Bundled for the Luzhou cold

Most of Penang is on a small island off Malaysia’s west coast, and 50% of Penangites are of Chinese decent. The British colonized the island in the 1800s, leaving behind a legacy that includes architecture and language; Most people can speak English. Among people who know, Penang is renowned for its cuisine, and there is no shame in planning a vacation around eating there.

Which is good, because that’s what we did. We spent the last few days before our departure — when China was experiencing record cold temperatures — bundled up in as many layers as possible trying to decide what to eat first.