There are few places in Southeast Asia boasting as tight a knot of ethnic diversity as the northwestern Malaysian state of Penang. The most prominent observation, and one you can't fail to notice from the moment you set foot there, is that it's full of different faces. And I absolutely loved that.
Looking one way, I could have been in south India again: dark skin, bright cloth, Tamil phrases. Our taxi from the airport passed a sprawling Indian celebration of some sort – I suspect a wedding – spilling out from the Indian Palace restaurant, right over the street and into the twenty-four hour McDonald's forecourt. It was a sea of sarees.
Look the other way and there are shop fronts covered in Chinese characters that would be any other city's Chinatown. A whole host of languages are spoken, foods eaten, faiths followed and cultures expressed.
It’s no secret that the cross-pollination of ethnicities and cuisines is an age old recipe for very good eating. And there are few better examples of this than Penang, where arguably some of the best street food in this part of the world can be found.
Here are some of the key dishes to seek out: