Though the whole vacation was pretty much all about food, we figured we should squeeze in some obligatory sightseeing. We dragged ourselves out of the temperature controlled hotel room and headed to Kek Lok Si
, the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Besides, we heard there was some good food to be had in the area, so we were in!
At the base of Kek Lok Si, there is a small town called Air Itam
with streets of open air markets and restaurants. We were clued in on a great place (via CKLam
) for Assam Laksa
and walked around in search of it.
"Um, Jared is this the place? It has 'Laksa' printed in giant letters and two large vats of red soup". And indeed it was!
double, double toil and trouble
fire burn, and cauldron bubble
We sat down and watched as the chef spooned some of the assam soup into the bowl, and then slowly pour some of the clear parts of the soup only to pour another ladle into the bowl and repeat. Um, that could only mean the "meatier" parts of the soup must be yummy, right?
Penang Assam Laksa
Wow, so this was really good. I mean, really good. This bowl of spicy and sour fish noodle soup, combined with fresh mint leaves, chopped shallots and chili is one of the best things we had during the whole Malaysia trip. The soup is thick and flavorful. Those two vats were probably boiling away for days. We also watched as the chef added more water and let it continue to reduce. I would have eaten a second bowl, but the tropical heat decided to give me an unwelcomed smothering sweaty bear hug, rendering my appetite .... nonexistent. Instead we opted for a to go "bag" of sugar cane juice and forged ahead to Kek Lok Si.
So, the path to Kek Lok Si is kind of confusing. It starts at this unassuming tiny path sandwiched between two stores/restaurants. It sort of looks like a sketchy covered alleyway flanked with touristy souvenir stalls on either side. We were weary walking in but some of the vendors assured us we were going the right way and also invited us to check out their merchandise. Not to be fooled, we kept on climbing the seemingly endless stairs. At long last we arrived at the first of many temples that make up Kek Lok Si. We took a break and shot this picture with Mr. Asparagus (by @SteffBomb
Mr. Asparagus was tired from ambling up the many many stairs too!
this little buddha went to the market... this little buddha stayed home; and this little buddha got a little tipsy, his speech was a little slurred. (ok don't kill me for that one)
incense & the obligatory shingles you can purchase and sign to help with the renovation
So one of the biggest reasons to walk up the many many many stairs of Kek Lok Si was to find at the top a GIGANTIC Kuan Yin, bodhisattva of universal compassion. After we paid for the tram ticket and made our way to the top, we said a big WTF. It was apparently under construction as they were building a parthenon-ish structure around the statue for protection. That's great and all, but... this is the picture we got. Sigh. oh well!
We descended the temple a little disappointed, so we were hoping to grab some snacks at the open market, but all the shops seemed to be closed. Luckily we found one just-about-to-close restaurant selling Char Kway Teow. Yesss! This dish was on our long list of things to eat and though Jared claimed to be full still from the Assam Laksa and the sweltering heat, I dragged him in there for a small plate. And I think he's glad I did!
Char Kway Teow
We first noticed the lady in front stir frying rice noodles and eggs in a extremely hot wok. We knew from the smell and the heat of the wok that this noodle will be delicious. So we sat down ordered a nice iced coffee and asked the lady in front for a plate. Char Kway Teow consist of, of course flat rice noodles, shrimp, oysters, Chinese sausage, eggs, bean sprouts, chives and some soy sauce. The noodles were cooked perfectly and not too oily or salty. According to mega food blogger Rasa Malaysia
, people from all over the world would come to Penang to try this dish, and she is right. I am sure there are better stalls out there that we didn't try, but the one we did try was pretty darned good. You can now find a recipe of this dish as a home cooked version from Rasa Malaysia