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Friday, February 08, 2008

Offbeat Travelogue: Bad Laksa Day

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Second day of Chinese New Year...

Image hosting by PhotobucketWalski and the Mrs decided to go into Georgetown, Penang, as we normally do when we're back up on the Pearl of the Orient, in search of food.

If there's one thing that Penang is best known for, it's the wonderful food. Of all types... For some, it's the Nasi Kandar that's second to none. For others, it's the Char Koay Teow.

For Walski, nothing is more definitively Penang than the Asam Laksa.

By far, the best Asam Laksa in Penang (per Walski's taste buds, anyway) can be found at Lorong Selamat, the street that connects Jalan Burma with Jalan Macalister, some 3 blocks or so away from Penang Road.

As luck would have it, they weren't open. And so the two of us went across to the New World Plaza, just across Jalan Burma.

Image hosting by PhotobucketNice food court, but the food there today was only so-so...

The Mrs has had the Asam Laksa there before, and said that it wasn't too bad. And so we walked across to the plaza, which occupies the quadrangle bordered by Jalan Burma, Lorong Swatow, and Jalan Hutton. Pretty nice place, actually. Very well set up, with a few nice restaurants, a Starbucks, and of course, a food court, where our Asam Laksa lay in wait. Yummmm.... or so Walski thought.

Here's a food hint: unless you're a tourist, and you only know of Gurney Drive, there's not very many choices for good Asam Laksa on the second day of Chinese New Year in Penang.
(more of Walski's bad laksa day, in the full post)

As it turns out, the laksa was pretty bad.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Asam Laksa, however, was a lot worse than so-so. It was crappy.

So bad, in fact, that neither of us finished our respective portions. It was watery, pretty much tasteless, and didn't have any fish bits whatsoever. And if there were any, they sure did disguise themselves very well. Either that, or the fish decided to go on strike. Like RapidPenang. And have still refused to come back to work...

Image hosting by PhotobucketIf it's watery, and with little or no fish bits, it's crappy Laksa

The Mrs has a theory - the Asam Laksa was bad because it was the second day of Chinese New Year... And the folks at an adjacent table (as we overheard) said pretty much the same thing: that the Asam Laksa was pretty bad.

In retrospect, though, there were a couple of clear signs that we were going to have a Bad Laksa Day.

Sign #1 - The stall owner did not speak Hokkien, but Cantonese instead. In Penang, this is almost a sacrilege (okay, okay... it's not really). All good Asam Laksa stall owners converse in Hokkien. Call it Walski's Laksa Rule #1.

Sign #2 - The signage above the store indicated Assam Laksa. You do not ever, ever spell Asam with 2 s-es. As such, the Ass-am Laksa did indeed taste like the rear end of something - Walski won't even try to guess what.

Fortunately, the Ice Kacang (with bananas and ice cream) and Char Koay Teow tasted half-way decent. Not great, but at least it didn't end up tasting like it came out of someone's... nevermind.

Always the optimist, however, there's always tomorrow - our last day in Penang. Hopefully the folks at Lorong Selamat will start their food operations again by tomorrow.

Walski doesn't know if he can take another Bad Laksa Day...

Walski's "He doesn't have anything against Gurney Drive" footnote: Don't get him wrong - Walski has nothing against Gurney Drive. Except that it's really touristy, and the prices are a little higher than what you'd get elsewhere. But if you are a tourist to Penang during Chinese New Year, it is definitely your best bet for decent food. Of just about any variety that Penang has to offer. Just to be sure, Walski and the Mrs actually went there yesterday, on the First Day of Chinese New Year. And apart from being hit on the head by a stray umbrella (don't even ask), it was a joyous culinary experience... definitely better than the ASS-am Laksa we had today.