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Lychee Fanta and Roti Canai in Penang

21 Sep

By Patric Baird

The Malaysian island of Penang – famously a melting pot of religions and their various cuisines and, rather less famously, the place of my birth.

For the first time since departing as a six-month old baby, I found myself not only back on Penang, but outside the maternity hospital where I had been born exactly forty years ago, almost to the minute.

I thought it would be quite funny to make a pilgrimage to the actual spot where I took my very first breath of hot and humid air, but I suddenly felt strangely at home on the island after four decades of absence.

After spending a few nights in the capital city of Georgetown, staying at the colonial-style E&O hotel where I had also spent my last night in Penang as a mewling infant before my family boarded a boat back to Blighty, we relocated to Shangri-La’s fabulous Rasa Sayang beach resort at Batu Ferringhi (foreigner’s rock).

Days spent lazing by the hotel pool, or gazing over the Straits of Malacca were but ways of killing time before the sun finally set and Batu Ferrringhi’s main attraction, the Global Bay food court, opened for business (sadly since our Penang trip, the Global Bay was bulldozed to make way for a petrol station – a crime against culinary humanity!).

Even after dark, the heat and humidity were stifling and there were only so many cold bottles of Tiger that I could stomach.

I spotted my saviour from dehydration on a stall on our second visit to Global Bay – Lychee-flavoured Fanta.

Bear in mind that at the time of this discovery, I had only ever tasted orange and, much less often, lemon Fanta (too bitter for my tastes).

You either like lychees or love them.  Nothing else is acceptable in my book as they are clearly the fruit of the gods, with their delicate perfume and sweet taste.  Admittedly, they also look like diseased eyeballs.

Paired with another food court discovery, the roti canai (pronounced channi), the combination actually became the sole reason for a return trip to Penang several years later.

I had been advised by my big brother, well versed in Malaysian cuisine (having lived there until the ripe old age of six) to look out for roti canai as the experience, as he remembered it, was almost other-worldly.

Best, but inadequately, described as pancake-shaped bread fried in butter and offered as either a sweet or savoury option, I invariably chose both with curry sauce-dipped and fresh banana-filled rotis making up a two-course evening meal for the remainder of the trip.

Roti for dinner and roti for dessert, washed down by lychee Fanta – it may not be fine dining, but it was certainly fun dining.  And well worth waiting forty years for!

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Making Tracks Through Arizona

19 Sep

The rock 'n' roll Chevvy hire car

Every road trip must have a playlist.  Our rules are simple but strict – each song has to namecheck either the state/country or a city/town/place in that state/country.  No generic ‘on the road’ songs, Hit the Road Jack or American Pie or anything like that.  For American road trips, Route 66 mentions numerous locations, and for the ultimate cheat, there’s the fabulous Johnny Cash version of  I’ve Been Everywhere.  Driving from Tombstone, via Tucson and Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, here’s what we listened to on our ultimate Arizona playlist.

The Eagles – Take it Easy (standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…)

Beatles – Get Back (Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona…)

Glen Campbell – By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Wilco – Hotel Arizona

Chuck Berry – Route 66 (Flagstaff, Arizona…)

Mark Lindsay – Arizona

Johnny Halliday – Monument Valley

Public Enemy – By The Time I Get To Arizona

Scorpions – Arizona

Steve Miller Band – Rock’n Me (I went from Phoenix, Arizona…)

Kings of Leon – Arizona

Marty Robins – Big Iron  (he was an Arizona ranger…)

Marty Robbins – Ride Cowboy Ride (Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff, Phoenix)

Waylon Jennings – Hey Willie (go back to Phoenix for a far brighter day…)

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Readymade (deep down in Arizona…)

The Coasters – Little Egypt (she had a picture of a cowboy tattooed on her spine, saying Phoenix, Arizona 1949…)

For official AZ tourism info visit: Arizona Tourism

We stayed in these hotels and we loved them:

Tuscon Westin La Paloma
Grand Canyon Plaza Resort
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale (Phoenix)
The Boulders Scottsdale (Phoenix)
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale (Phoenix)

Coconut Wine and Hot-Dogs in Honolulu

18 Sep


by Andrea McVeigh

I love coconut.  I love wine.  So a combination of both?  In a bottle?  On New Year’s Eve?  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything that comes from combining wine and coconuts, it seems.

December 31 2010 in Honolulu and the coconut-shaped (natch) bottle of Royal Chief Coconut Wine was calling to me with its ‘wine from the water of young coconuts’ come-on and 12% alcohol volume come-hitherness.

We hadn’t even opened it and I was planning how to transport bottles back to Ireland for what I was sure would be the Best Drink Ever!  Or fly to the Philippines where it’s produced.  Or sell my soul to buy more of this sure-to-be delicious tipple.

The web site says it’s perfect as a gift.  For someone you don’t like maybe.

We picked up the bottle on the way back to our hotel from a pilgrimage to PukaDog, Waikiki, on the Anthony Bourdain trail (he visited it once in an episode of No Reservations) for Hawaiian-style hot-dogs.

Puka means hole in Hawaiian, and these Polish-style doggies (meat or veggie) are slipped into the hole in a specially-baked bun and filled with a choice of four secret-recipe sauces (mild, spicy, hot and hot-hot) or one of seven relishes or standard condiments.

We hate choices, so faced with pineapple relish, banana relish, guava mustard and more, the Hubby and I went for, in hot dog terms, the vanilla option – Sweet Maui Onion Relish and a mild Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce.

And anyway, I was being adventurous with my coconut wine, right?
Well, I would have been if I didn’t have a Hanna-Barbera ‘took a slug and spat it back out again pulling a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp’ moment back in the hotel room.

Some people must like it, but I’m thinking they’re the sort of people who could take to drinking methylated spirits through an old sports sock.  Harsh, tart and not at all the sweet coconutty treat I was expecting.

But hey, it was New Year’s Eve and after the champagne had been drunk on the beach and we ran into the sea to welcome in 2011, we staggered back to the hotel and, needs must, discovered that mixing it with fruit juice and vodka made it almost palatable when you’re already 90% blotto.

See, there’s an upside to everything.  Even coconut wine.

ABOUT US

1 Sep

where we’re from

We are Patric Baird and Andrea McVeigh and we love travel, we love food and we love drink – and we love it when all three of these things are combined!

We’re married to each other, based in both London and Belfast, with a wealth of  passport stamps under our ever-expanding belts.

We’ll be writing about the places, people, food and drink we discover on our adventures.  Come on and join us y’all – the drinks are on us!