Malaysian street food : Pulut panggang (roasted glutinous rice)

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One of the best things about travelling around Malaysia is the ability to graze. It’s the same in Vietnam, with the entrepreneurial spirit of people who set-up on street corners and cook up something delicious. A business model based on word of mouth, the skill of execution and more often than not I expect, not having any sort of qualification or license to be there.

Pulut panggang is a Terengganu state snack worth finding, the shape is often like a small sausage, wrapped in banana leaf but they can be flat also.

When you see them on the street wrapped up in a charred banana leaf, much like otak-otak, you might be forgiven for walking straight past because it doesn’t look like anything worth stopping for.  But inside is a glutinous rice and dried, slightly spiced fish floss filling. The rice is steamed with coconut milk, which is a much used ingredient in the states of Kuala Terengganu & Kelantan.

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It’s a long, time consuming process to make these as they need to be steamed to make the rice glutinous and chewy, cooled and then barbecued to create a smoky, charred taste, it’s a lot of effort for a very small reward as they sell for little more than one ringgit a piece.

In a linguistic sense, the name means roasted glutinous rice, pulut being the glutinous rice portion and panggang being roasted, although it’s technically slowly grilled on a barbecue.
I asked a friend the distinction between panggang and bakar, which is used in the context of grilling fish (ikan bakar) and making toast (roti bakar)
It’s as simple as panggang is cooking over embers, and bakar refers to cooking over flames.

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Hello Bangkok, goodbye South East Asia.

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We left Cambodia on the bus to Bangkok, it was quite an experience.

We’ve had an amazing time in South East Asia, and are really quite sad to be leaving what is probably our favourite part of the world. We have been lucky to experience some great things in the past weeks, and are looking forward to moving on; but with regret at skimming the surface of Cambodia, and not getting to Indonesia. We’re going to try to travel there as soon as we’ve replenished our funds.

We’ve had such wonderful experiences, indulged in food and culture, and met great people. We’re also excited for the next chapter and new challenges.

We planned to get back to Bangkok a day earlier than our flight, partly in case of any unforeseen problems, and partly to hang out in Bangkok again. We’ve both seen plenty of this city, so we’ decided to spend our day slightly differently and went shopping. I had pretty much worn my trainers out traipsing around Asia, and I left my baseball cap somewhere so I thought best to replace these in Asia, rather than Australia to preserve some funds.

We headed to the MBK centre, a shopping centre the size of a small city. The plan was a quick march around MBK, head home for a nap via Chinatown & then go across town to a food market the local students love. Easy?

We left MBK nine hours later.

MBK has eight floors, around two thousand retail outlets, and probably over one hundred restaurants and food areas. As well as this it has arcades and a cinema. It’s immense.

So after we casually wandered around two floors and around three hundred shops we decided to get something to eat. This is a pretty hard task for indecisive people like us.

We settled on Shabu Shi, a Japanese sushi train style restaurant with individual hot pots on your tables! The conveyor belt has little plates of meat, fish and vegetables which you grab and throw into your hotpot. Jess was particularly skilled at hotpot cooking, as she continually forgot she had squid or prawns in her stock and cooked them to resemble small rubber lumps.

They also had Sushi and Tempura, all for a set price ‘eat-what-you-can-in-ninety-minutes’ agreement. Particularly good for gluttonous eaters like us who skipped breakfast. It was fun to play ‘guess what i’m putting in my hotpot’, although the fish on the bone, wasn’t so enjoyable when it came to eating, and the plastic pork sheets still resembled cling film after they had been cooked.  All part of the fun, I guess…

We wandered around several hundred more shops, bought a few bits and pieces, haggled for the fun of it, and drank iced coffees until we ventured onto the seventh floor, and found the cinema.

We had a very memorable cinema experience in India, at the Raj Mandir and wanted to see what it was like here too.

We saw Skyfall, I know it’s not a Thai film, but I LOVE Bond films, and It came out a week after we left the UK, which was particularly annoying.  We got VIP tickets as it was the only showing that day, which bought us comfy chairs, blankets and a cinema that only sat around fifty. To be honest, it was mostly westerners at the showing, but rather bizarrely we had to stand for the Kings Anthem. The monarchy is a big deal here, and after Googling I’m astounded to find out people get arrested for not standing! (sorry, it’s the Daily Mail website..)

We finally ambled out of MBK and into another large market, there was so much food, but we were just so full of hotpot we couldn’t face eating any of it. We then wandered towards music, where we strangely found a girl singing the longest song possibly ever recorded (we left after fifteen minutes and she was still going..) several girating teenage girls on the stage and a handful of half naked Thai boys dancing in front. I love this country.

It was a good day, we bought loads of stuff we probably don’t need, ate like kings and most importantly I got some fantastic pictures for my freaky mannequins collection. Next stop Sydney.

Vietnamese street food : Banh bao vac. (shrimp & pork dumplings / white rose)

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Bánh bao vac – often refered to as white rose –  is, like cao lao another Hoi An street food specialty in a town with plenty of options.

White Rose, is a translucent dumpling of minced pork and prawn, similar to size shape and texture to jiaozi, or even ravioli. The dough is light, the flavours it contains are subtle, delicate and moreish.

They, as you might have gathered are made to look like tiny little roses, I lost count of the amount of these we ate. They are topped with  with fried onions and served with a chilli dipping sauce.

Some useful phrases 

Sin chow – hello
Mot – one
Hai – two
Gam urn – thank you
Tra da – iced tea, a popular and cheap drink to accompany meals and usually available at hole in the wall restaurants

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Vietnamese street food : Banh goi (deep fried dumplings)

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We checked out another place from the guidebook recommendations. This is quite a humble little place, and they have the smallest stools I think I’ve found in all of South East Asia.

This place churns out cheap fried pastries, with various fillings including pork, shrimp and crab. They are little lumps of flavour, maybe two or three bites and you have a sweet papaya dip, along with the familiar leaves and herbs. Great little place for a pit stop snack, also, incredibly cheap!

Laos food, a not very complete overview.

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So, our time in Laos has finished. We spent some time in Luang Prabang, and then headed down on the overnight bus to Vientiane. To be honest, Vientiane didn’t hold much for us, apart from the eating. A shout out has to be made to Aarto, the drunken Finnish guy, who fell through the glass door at our hostel and left blood and glass everywhere. That was impressive.

This is Laos food as we ate it.

Larp, rice soup and noodle soup have been covered, have a read.

In Luang Prabang we ate a couple of times in the ‘food alley’ at the market. The food was cheap and excellent quality, it was actually far better than our fancy restaurant meal. Expensively disappointing. Anyway, at the market we had a whole fish, stuffed with lemongrass. It had some amazing teriyaki style glaze on the skin too, which made it sweet and crispy. My mum always says she can’t eat anything with the head looking at her. I beg to differ, as long as the head doesn’t wriggle, and it’s well and truly dead I’m fine with that.

We also had barbecued pork pieces, with a sweet glaze on. like great big bits of extra tasty bacon, and green papaya salad. Quite often known as som tam but the Lao people call it tam mak hoong. The Laos version isn’t really any different, it has all the same ingredients; unripe papaya, lime, peanuts, chilli, palm sugar, fish sauce and a bit of tomato. Sometimes in Laos they will throw in a handful of green beans too. Spicy.

In Vientiane we had another of my favourite things so far. It was very simply described on the menu as rice, egg, vegetable (not fried). I only ordered it because I was watching the woman make it for someone else, and curiosity won.  Basically, it’s a cold rice salad. the rice is balled and fried and left to cool, when the salad is made the ball is broken down with peanuts, vegetables, lime, chilli, sugar, and green herbs. You get bits of crispy rice ball outside and, stodgy middle bits too. I couldn’t work out if coconut was used in the rice ball, or thrown into the salad; but it was definitely involved somewhere. If anyone knows what this is actually called please let me know.

Another trip out to eat involved larp (duck variety this time) and Laos style chicken leg AND thigh. The chicken was marinated, and griddled in a garlic lemongrass mix; and served with a mint and garlic dipping sauce.  Sauce, in Laos is known as jaew (with a suffix depending on the ingredients…) and a pot of sticky rice to mop up the juices.

We have had the obligatory barbecued meats, and spring rolls (generally, raw Vietnamese style but sometimes fried.. You never can tell) but the other thing worth a mention was bamboo stuffed with pork. It was OK, the pork was sort of steamed inside the bamboo but it was deep fried with an egg wash, and a bit too greasy for my liking.

Generally, in the UK; I’m not keen on pork.  I’ve eaten so much here that I’m generally concerned I might turn into some kind of swine hybrid.

On an alcoholic side note Beerlao is good, 5% generic fizzy beer taste. Beerlao dark is better, 6.5% less fizzy more flavour. I never got around to trying Beerlao gold, the dark lager was too nice.

Go to Laos, the food is awesome.