Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review - Red Garden Food Paradise, Penang, Malaysia

Not too long ago I booked a ticket to Penang, Malaysia. I had no clue what to do there, but Air Asia had a cheap flight from Bangkok, and I’m always up for an adventure. I arrived in Penang early in the afternoon and quickly realized there wasn’t much to do. Luckily, I had company so my companion and I grabbed an overpriced beer and sat outside. The only real research I had done on Penang involved watching a clip of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so eating seemed like the best option.
the view from our room in Penang
 Red Garden Food Paradise was steps away from our hotel and boasted some of the best local hawker stalls so we gave it a shot. I knew a popular dish in Penang was Asam Laska, so we went out in search of this local delicacy. Asam Laska is a sour, fish based noodle soup spiced with chilies. The temperature level can easily range from painfully hot to you aren’t going to leave the hotel room tomorrow hot. Both of our dishes ended up as the second. 
the inside of the market
From pizza, to rice, noodles, chicken and oysters they have it all at the Red Garden Food Paradise. I got a spicy prawn and noodle dish for around $2 USD and my dear travel partner braved the Asam Laksa for about $1.50. I remember the lady cooking even questioned my choice of the spicy prawns, which should have been a dead giveaway that I was going to be in pain soon. The stifling hot weather combined with all the heat from the outdoor stalls, plus the enclosed eating area didn’t make for the most comfortable dining experience. However, cold Tiger beers and freshly squeezed juices are available from waitresses and were a must to cool our burning mouths.
spicy prawn noodles
I would recommend Red Garden Food Paradise to anyone passing through Penang, but be careful about what you order. Both the Asam Laska and the noodles with prawns made both of us sick for a good three days afterwards. While I may be a more adventurous eater compared to some, authentic Malay food must require some training. After 24 hours in bed we were ready to leave for Kuala Lumpur and try our luck somewhere else. I can see why this is a popular tourist spot with the live entertainment and cheap eats, but I would certainly take precautions going forward. I always make a point to try the local cuisine, but if I find myself at Red Garden Food Paradise again I’d pass on the spice, but welcome other (blander) dishes.

Find me: No. 20, Leith Street, 10000 Penang, Malaysia.