Meet Billy Law, food blogger, food photographer and cookbook author, from Sydney, Australia. The face looks familiar? Billy was also a contestant on the very popular series Masterchef Australia in 2011 (one of my favorite contestants across all seasons!), making it all the way to the top ten finalists. Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, Law moved to Australia in 1996 to study and never left. As a travel lover and passionate eater, Billy loves food in all its forms and believes one should try everything at least once, love it or hate it. He chronicles his adventures on his blog, A Table for Two, and his debut cookbook “Have You Eaten?” was published in September 2012. Here’s Penang, Malaysia, in his own words.
My Edible City
Penang, Malaysia. Despite living in Australia for over 17 years, I still have very fond memories of my home country, Malaysia, where my family still lives. Being thousand miles away from home, there are only two things I miss the most – my family and the food. Good delicious Malaysian food can be found almost anywhere in the country, and then there is this little island on the North-West coast near the border with Thailand called Penang. For Malaysians, Penang is the mecca of street food, or as Anthony Bourdain put it, “The food capital of the entire region”. You will find hawker food stands at every street corner in Penang, ready to expand your waistline with delicious street food influenced by the diverse cultures in this country. Malaysia is a food obsessed country so don’t be surprised that if you are greeted with ‘Have you eaten?’ instead of ‘Hey, how are you?’. That locals will make the 7 hours round trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang just for the food is not unheard of.
My Favorite Dish
Assam Laksa, hands down. Assam Laksa is also known as Penang Laksa, it is a specialty of this city. Many people would agree that no visit to Penang is complete without eating this famous and much-loved local delicacy. It consists of round rice noodles swimming in a dark muddy fish-based broth that has this distinctive spicy piquant flavor, soured with tamarind pulp, with a fishy mackerel aroma that is deliciously addictive. Many Penangites have mastered the art of Assam Laksa over decades, and several street food vendors have been selling the same dish at the same spot for generations. One of the most popular spots in Penang where you can taste this delicious bowl of Assam Laksa is at Jalan Pasar in Air Itam near the wet market. Be prepared to queue and wait for a table as it gets very crowded during lunch hour. Anthony Bourdain (on No Reservations, season 8) actually sat on a plastic stool at this stall in Penang, slurping the velvety smooth rice noodle and sipping the hot, spicy and sour fish broth — he was even tempted to use the word ‘Yummy’ to describe his unadulterated satisfaction. I don’t blame him.
- Learn more about Penang (and all the delicious places you should visit there) with Billy’s post: Taste of Penang, Malaysia
- Feel adventurous? Make Assam Laksa at home with this recipe from RasaMalaysia.
- Hungry now? Go on a Malaysia culinary tour hosted by Billy himself! Dates are October 31 to November 7, 2013. More information here.
Photo Credits: All pictures by Billy Law.