Food and Family

Because we travel constantly and life is one continuous string of new experiences, it would be easy for visitors to our site to dismiss our stay here in Penang as yet another stop on the traveler’s trail. It is not.

Penang is a vastly more personal experience for us because we are meeting our Malaysian family, the family of my stepfather Ken, for the first time. For years, we have heard stories about Ken’s mom, Jimmy, Ken, Mei Ling, David and Stephen and their respective families. Getting to know the people behind these names is unquestionably a highlight of our travels so far. They have greeted us with open arms and more food than anyone could ever possibly eat in a lifetime. Oh my god, people, you’ve never seen so much food!!!

We ate and ate and talked, and then we had a snack before we went to dinner. After dessert, we stopped to try a local specialty. The next day, we ate and ate some more. I have literally never eaten so much food in my life – and I have loved every bite. In Chinese culture, food is a warm welcome. And nobody has ever greeted us so warmly before… ever.

Johann, a family friend, treats us to a lunch feast at Look Yuen Restaurant

Every single member of the family went out of their way to stuff our stomachs. David must have shuttled us 1000 km back and forth from street hawker specialties, to a small town boasting the perfect Assam Laksa, to the best dim sum in Butterworth, to a seafood extravaganza along the coast. Mei Ling, who I strongly suspect is psychic, would come running out with delicious treats every time I even thought about food. (Martha Stewart watch out. If Mei Ling ever gets a TV show in the States, your days are numbered.)

Pigging out on dim sum in Butterworth

Every brother treated us to a special meal to celebrate our visit and the New Year. Every sister-in-law prepared something spectacular to stuff our bellies. Ying Ying went out of her way to make sure we sampled each dish. Matthew filled us in on the associated traditions. So much food, so much generosity.

Kim organizes a huge gathering (three tables) of the extended
family. Sister Poh Poh has me cracking up all night!

Even Ken’s cousin Kim, who happened to be visiting from London during our stay, took the time to organize a huge dinner in Georgetown to celebrate the New Year with the extended family. What a crazy, hilarious, and entertaining group of characters. I just cannot get over how amazing Ken’s family is and how warm they have all been. To prove that we are not exaggerating, here is more photographic evidence of some great family and some serious eating.

Jimmy’s family (clockwise): Ying Ying, Matthew,
Yan Yan, Lai Yin, Yim and Jimmy

Laughing and performing the traditional
New Year’s salad tossing for prosperity

Ken’s family (clockwise): Eddy and girlfriend Yee Ling, Ah Lian, Ken,
Joo Nee with with husband Ah Soon and daughter Chloe Boo

Studying street food with David, Stephen and Sharon in Butterworth

Mei Ling waters the garden while we stuff our faces 🙂

Stuffing our faces in Ken’s family garden

Stephen’s family: Taegan, Stephen, Tristan, and Sharon

Ken and Freda with Johann and wife Gaik Peng

Eying snacks between meals

Ken (Fatt) and his mom rest their stomachs in
the garden while pausing between meals

New Year’s vegetarian breakfast in the family kitchen

8 responses to “Food and Family”

  1. You crack me up! I can just imagine the great time you had. I’m SOOOOOO happy for you two. You needed some family time.

    So, no beach-side swimsuit photos of your well-fed, slightly more rotund physiques? Hmmm . . . ?

    My brother-in-law has always encouraged me to eat more, reasoning that if I eat a little more each time . . . . well, you get the idea.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Yep, all beach shots in the near future will have to be carefully composed to hide our new stomachs 🙁

  2. avatar Ken says:

    I am so glad you & Thomas get to see my family and my family to get to see you both. They already considered you guys part of the family when Freda and I got married.
    I think that my brother Ken’s quest to see wild boars in the town of Taiping is another pretext to visit his favorite restaurants.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Ken cracked us up taking us to Taiping to look for wild boar in the middle of a rain storm. But you’re right, I highly suspect it was all just an excuse for another meal at that roadside restaurant.

  3. avatar Kim Ho says:

    Laurelle,you sound like a fun girl to be with.I will be going back to Penang again next year to celebrate CNY and hope you could be there too.
    Never mind the fat bellies after all that food.
    Us girls have a secret weapon to pull them back to shape.SPANX.Well Tony you have to wear a sarong to hide the bulging stomaches.IF David Beckham can wear one,why can’t you.

  4. avatar Matthew says:

    Hi Tony & Thomas! Loved each of your commentary! Really glad to see you guys and looking forward to our next meeting. Where are you guys anyway?

  5. avatar Vanisha says:

    I have just randomly stumbled upon your website and your comments really made me laugh! I’ve just come back from a trip to Malaysia with my Mum (who is Malaysian Chinese) and I was reading Butterworth and thought I’ve just been there, I didnt see many travellers/tourists there they all stay in Georgetown! and then i read on…! Brought back similar memories of being stuffed, at some points force fed, by family with every local delicacy, as I look out of my office window at the snow! Yes, its March and its snowing in London…! What I would do now for a bowl of hot laksa followed by ice kachang…

    • avatar Tony says:

      You can say that again. I could seriously use a couple more days stuffing my face in Butterworth. Oh, laksa sounds so good!!!

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