I cannot believe that we have been here in Penang for almost a year. We have gotten used to life here for the most part. There are still things we miss, but somehow things like the Wet Market are no longer foreign. A wet market is where the locals shop for produce, meat, fish and just about anything else you could think of. They are open early in the morning and close around 1 in the afternoon. Someone told me they are called wet markets because after all the stalls close in the afternoon everything gets sprayed down and washed. The nearest wet market to us is about a 10 minute walk from the Monster Condo. I’m going to be honest, shopping at the wet market is not my favorite thing. I am no longer uncomfortable going there, the vendors are lovely and will help you with anything you want, but I don’t love it. I do however take everyone that comes to visit there to show them because it is a completely quintassential Southeast Asia experience. Plus there are really good snacks vendors and the cafe right outside actually has my favorite Char Kuey Teow stall (my favorite local food dish).
Since the snacks are my favorite part I will tell you about them first.
This is a thick pancake like pastry that has peanuts and brown sugar inside.
This is a chicken curry puff. So flipping good, I love these little delights in puff pastry.
The other thing you can get from the Chicken curry puff man is Nasi Lemak. This is not one of my favorites but it is one of Nathan’s. I have discovered that I am not a huge fan of the things made with shrimp paste. I am weird, most people love this stuff. It is coconut rice, with and egg, and sambal (which is where the shrimp paste comes in). It is a very popular breakfast here.
This woman is making pandan noodles. Pandan is a very popular flavor here. It is found a lot in Malay and Thai cuisines. She mixes the pandan with coconut and presses them into noodles. She then puts some brown sugar and macerated coconut in the middle and rolls it up. It is a delightful little sweet treat.
Pancakes with bananas. I love these.
Last but certainly not least the roasted pork stall. Oh my word that crispy pork skin is good.
Now that we have the snacks out of the way we will get down to business. You can find some of the most beautiful produce I have ever seen at the market. Greens, and veggies and lots of fruit options.
There is a stall in the market in which you can find all the base ingredients for Laksa in one spot. Laksa is a Penang specialty. It is a sour fish soup. I am not overly fond of the sour flavor profile so Laksa is not one that I have sought out. There is a famous stall in town that I feel like I have to try just to say I have before we leave though. It is on the list of things to do.
These are 100 year eggs. They are wrapped in some kind of charcoal paste. Not going to happen, just not. I have limits. This is one of them.
There is a stall in which you can get the ingredients for curry. All you have to do is add your coconut milk, or what liquid you prefer and add the spice paste the curry lady mixes up for you. All you have to do is tell her what kind of curry you are after and she will mix paste up for you.
This is Jackfruit. It is related to the durian, but doesn’t stink and has a milder flavor. If you have never smelled a durian, consider yourself lucky. It is an awful smell that permeates pretty much everything. It is all you smell when walking around during Durian season. Most hotels have signs on their front doors saying no durians because the smell is so invasive. Some people love them, but I think they taste like sweet, red onions that are no longer fresh. The Jackfruit is quite nice though.
The produce at the wet market is both outside and inside. Now all the meat and fish is on the inside. This is the part that gets to me, it’s a little stinky and dark inside. I am not a huge fan, but it is the only place I have found to get fresh proteins. You must wash things though.
There is a woman at imports beautiful salmon.
You can find any kind of fish or seafood here. Most of the vendors will fillet for you as well.
I did not include the picture of the live chickens that are right along side the tables of chicken for sale. This is seriously the freshest chicken you will ever had. Also the chicken here is really good, it actually tastes like chicken. I will miss it when we leave. Notice the black chicken in the center. This is not for eating, it is for medicinal soups that are used in chinese medicine.
Pork is another thing that is very good here. Beef, not so much, but pork yes please. The pork part of the wet market is tucked back in it’s own corner. You kind of have to search for it. This is done out of respect for the muslim shoppers.
Now along with veggies and chicken you can get just about anything you want at the market from kitchen cookery supplies to shoes, to night gowns. It is quite a place and can be seriously overwhelming at first. Most of these stalls are outside surrounding the market building that holds the food stalls.
This is the real Penang. A short walk away from the Channel store and Monster Condos this is where you will find the local people. I don’t think you have really experienced Southeast Asia until you explore the market stalls, talk to the vendors and eat the local snacks. I will be completely honest and tell you I was completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the local markets when we first came here. The biggest lesson I have learned from living here and travel is that people are inherently proud of where they are from. They want you to enjoy their food and their city. They will help you figure it out even with a language barrier.