the hinata diaries

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Langkawi eating report

Just got back from 5 days in Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands in northwest Malaysia, about a 90 mins flight from Singapore. My mind and body are still radiating heat, and I've settled into comfortable denial of ever having returned.

Langkawi's largest island, Pulau Langkawi, is a charming expanse of rainforest, mangrove and paddy fields. Most tourist life is centered around the island's numerous resorts, which range from stunning (e.g. The Datai) to very basic. We encamped at Pelangi Beach Resort, by no means the most glamourous on the island, but comfortable, well-equipped, smack on the beach and reasonably affordable.

On the way over, I entertained visions of dining at rustic nasi padang stalls by the beach, lazily choosing between colourful dishes laden with spice and gravy. My plans were thwarted by (i) a sudden inability to move more than 10 metres from my cozy deck chair at any time and (ii) the blanket of heat and humidity that swathed us during the day, making it impossible to even think of eating anything remotely heavy.

So here's my little eating report, bolstered with the odd random pic. Not too productive considering the numerous choices available, but honestly, I could've been content eating hotel satay by the beach each and every meal :)

The quaint local beachside stall

The rather disturbingly named Laksa Tsunami was a little food truck by the beach smack next to our hotel. While the ambience was close to what I'd been seeking for - beachside, little white truck, local flies buzzing around, dense with the pungent smell of overripe fruit - the laksa unfortunately wasn't. The gravy was like a tablespoon of proper laksa gravy topped up with 2 cups of drainwater, the noodles were pale and dry (gluten-free perhaps?) and the ingredients decidedly mysterious. A likely food poisoning source if ever I tried one. End of the day, I'm just glad I survived without any detriment to my digestive system.

The sexy boutique restaurant

Bon Ton, former owners of the KL restaurant that bears the same name, is a boutique resort consisting of 7 traditional Malay villas, an outdoor cocktails-and-tapas deck overlooking paddy fields and a Moroccan-style restaurant/lounge complete with chill-out music. It's also home to the Langkawi Animal Sanctuary, and consequently plays palace to 140 cats and 70 dogs (our host assures us he knows each and every one of them).

The sunset here is nothing short of spectacular:

The menu, while at city prices, is a tantalizing mix of Malay, western and Moroccan flavours. My starter of BBQ Rock Lobster Tails with Satay Sauce, Served on a Guava Salad blended sweet grilled lobster flesh with creamy peanut, spiced with tart guava, red onion and pepper. (Apologies for the photos, I blame the romantic lighting!)

As a main, I opted for (after much deliberation - everything sounded good) Prawn & Pineapple Curry with Basil & Mint Sauce served with Yellow Rice and Ladies' Finger, while Philippe had the Seafood Platter of Grilled Rock Lobster with Chermoula Butter, Snapper Fillet, Pepper Prawns and Calamari with Lemon Harissa Aioli. Dessert (not pictured as we ate it too fast) was Steamed Apple, Macadamia and Butterscotch Pudding with Gula Melaka Ice Cream and Apple & Ginger Compote. Add to this mix a delightfully spicy Muscadet and a heap of martinis prior, and you have two very happy (and very stuffed) campers.

The ubiquitous "we serve everything" quasi-local cafe

Further inland, across the street from our resort was Padi Cafe, the entrance of which is postered with copies of an extensive menu listing everything from burgers to sweet 'n' sour prawns to chicken tikka masala. Which usually sets off warning bells in my head, but hey we're on holidays, what the heck. It did offer a serene view of rice fields dotted with pretty realistic scarecrows.

I had vegetable pakora and a chicken curry (I think it was called Chicken Merah Masak, but given my Malay I could be horribly wrong and just insulted your mother). It all looks fairly pretty, but is really just passable and not much more. It's a good option if you're travelling in a group and everyone wants something different, but don't expect the culinary adventure of a lifetime.

The real deal... finally!

We decided to spend our last day in Langkawi onboard StarDust, a lovely timber-decked yacht with full sails and wooden steering wheel, exploring the mangroves and smaller islands off Pulau Langkawi. As you can see, despite a small drizzle in the morning, the day couldn't have been more beautiful by the time we set sail.

The most pleasant surprise of the cruise, though, had to be the lunch prepared by the captain. We expected nothing more than a paper box with rice and a titchy fried kampung chicken thigh, but instead were treated to a spread of the best local food we'd had all trip, including a luscious beef rendang, sticky sweet prawn curry and a fiery but addictive pepper chicken. Needless to say, we all ended up sunning our bellies for the rest of the afternoon.

And, with that, the trip report is over! After Chiang Mai and Langkawi in the span of three weeks, I'm really itching to go on more short breaks... hopefully soon... In the meantime, I still feel the sun on my head and the sand in my toes...


  • Wow! What spectacular photos! I love the sunset and the "boatside" photos - it made me wanna pack my bags and bugger off to Langkawi.

    Was this a commercial diving trip or something? I've always wondered how people cook on boats, especially after seeing a pix of the atas kitchen on Sha's blog.

    By Blogger MM, At 9:13 PM  

  • Hi mm,

    Yeah, I'm still wishing I was back on Langkawi! You really feel like you've gotten away from it all, even though it's just a short break.

    And nope, it wasn't a diving trip, just a regular cruise around charter. Our meal was probably all prepared on shore beforehand, I can't imagine the captain making so many dishes at one go... Although I have seen some boats with fully togged out kitchens that even come with chefs to cook fresh for you on board, gorgeous! Will have to check out the atas kitchen on sha's blog, how perfect would that be to serve freshly cooked food on deck with the waves and the wind??? *sigh*

    By Blogger hinata, At 12:40 PM  

  • Hey, hey, you actually know peeps with on-board chefs? Here in Singers? Er, can introduce me or not as I am thinking of doing a story about how you cook on boats ... inspired by Sha's pix again. It was amazing, there was this stylish yet utilitarian looking (does that even make sense?) grid of some sort around the range to hold the pots & pans in place. Very ingenious.

    By Blogger MM, At 5:30 PM  

  • Hey, hey, you actually know peeps with on-board chefs? Here in Singers? Er, can introduce me or not as I am thinking of doing a story about how you cook on boats ... inspired by Sha's pix again. It was amazing, there was this stylish yet utilitarian looking (does that even make sense?) grid of some sort around the range to hold the pots & pans in place. Very ingenious.

    By Blogger MM, At 5:30 PM  

  • Hi mm, the yacht I went on was called rising tide, their website (albeit dated) is below, with the contact details of the captain. We had a chef come from blue ginger to prepare dinner. I'm guessing many of the ingredients were prepped before, but the kitchen (you can see pics on the site) did seem pretty comprehensive. Have fun, and I'm looking forward to that post!

    By Blogger hinata, At 10:11 AM  

  • Thanks so much for the info but the link does not seem to work? Alos, that sounded like a really great experience!

    By Blogger MM, At 2:42 PM  

  • Hi, strange - site was working fine last week... Here's a parallel site that seems to be ok -

    By Blogger hinata, At 10:17 AM  

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