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Taste of Penang through Rasa Malaysia

Penangites are spoiled. 

We have 24 hour access to an inexhaustible variety of delightful food on one small island.  When we are outside of Penang, we tend to suffer from what I call “the Penang food withdrawal syndrome’. The attack comes on around midnight when it is Penang "supper" time. Through my own terrifying experiences living abroad, I would wake up around "supper" time and storm into the kitchen, peer into the cooking pot and smell asam laksa, lift up the frying pan and flip the roti canai like a pancake, and open the refrigerator and raid my mother's leftover Kapitan chicken.  But the attack didn't happen until I woke up with my stomach growling and nothing to eat in the kitchen.

After one too many episodes, I searched for the ultimate Malaysian food site to help me fulfill my Penang food cravings. And I found it:  Rasa Malaysia!  

Rasa Malaysia is truly the home of Malaysian cooking. The website focuses on preserving authentic Asian cooking by providing recipes ranging from simple snacks to elaborate dishes. And of course the genius behind this creation is a homegrown Penang girl, Bee Yinn Low.

Through Rasa Malaysia, Bee has inspired and challenged many including myself to learn how to whip up our very own Penang style laksa, curry, popiah (spring rolls) and more. A tireless advocate for Malaysian food, Bee now has a huge following on her site with over 350,000 visitors per month, making it the biggest independent Asian recipes site on the Internet.

In this online exclusive, Bee shares some insights into her passion for cooking and her love for Penang.

Reese: Did you collect your family recipes before you started your site?  Or did you first come up with the blog idea?

Bee: No, I have all my family recipes in my head so it was basically about documenting them in words and a blog is a great way of doing that.

Yes. I was reading food blogs before I started Rasa Malaysia. I know that I wanted to have a food blog. When I first started, I randomly blogged about various subjects: eating out, traveling, Malaysian food, and sharing recipes. I noticed that when I posted recipes, readers reacted more enthusiastically, and that pretty much sealed the fate for Rasa Malaysia —a recipe website.

Reese: You're in a tremendous position to put Penang on the map. Do you have a vision of what you want to accomplish to help Penang?

Bee: I wanted to put Penang on the map of travelers, foodies, and media, especially those from the US since I am currently based here. Not many Americans know about Malaysia or Penang. When they think of traveling to SEA, they think of Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. When I told them that they should visit Malaysia, they are always skeptical, even to those most-seasoned world travelers. They don’t know what Malaysia has to offer. And that’s what I have been doing on Rasa Malaysia. I educate them about what we are—our culture, scrumptious cuisines, and diversity.

I wanted to do more for Penang because I love my little island. It has lots of potential and so many tourism assets. It’s a matter of packaging them up and marketing them, especially now that Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really is the best thing that has happened to Penang, it makes everything so much more convincing. It’s like a certification.

My vision is to become an official tourism and culinary ambassador for Penang, appointed by the Penang Tourism Board or the state authority. I will be a great candidate because of my site’s global reach and my credibility, most importantly, it’s my raw passion and enthusiasm. Of course, my extensive world traveling plus my past working experiences in marketing, PR/communications, business development and international liaison at Fox/News Corp in the United States also equip me with all the know-how to be a spokesperson for Penang tourism.

Reese: You mentioned on your site that your dream is to take Anthony Bourdain and the “No Reservations” crew to Penang one day.  Aside from food, what other sides of Penang will you show to Mr. Bourdain?

Bee: Anthony Bourdain and his crew have never been to Penang. They went to Malaysia during the first season, but went to KL and Sarawak. Anthony Bourdain said that Vietnam and Singapore offer some of the most exciting foods in the world. I don’t think it’s fair for him to say that before setting his foot in Penang. I am not saying that Vietnam and Singapore are not, but there is a reason why Penang food is world famous and has won many accolades as “the best street food in Asia.” 

Anyway, other than food, I wanted to show Mr. Bourdain and his crew the heritage, culture, and nature side of Penang. You can’t fully understand its food and cuisine without understanding what shapes them up. They are all intertwined.

Reese:  I know you can convince him to visit Penang as you have convinced so many others.  Thank you Bee, it is a great honor to have you on Capturing Penang.  We wish you all the best with your new cookbook!

Please try out one of Bee's recipes at: http://rasamalaysia.com.  She has all the solutions to those midnight attacks...

11 comments:

siewleong said...

Rasa Malaysia is one of my favourite too. Any good one is Lily Ng's blog http://lilyng2000.blogspot.com/ . It seems like a lot of these bloggers are Malaysians based overseas.

Siew Leong

debi said...

Reese,
Every time I read your blog, it makes me want to visit Penang. My boyfriend hints at taking me somewhere. Hmmm... maybe I should hint back.
Thanks for the great posts.
debi

Christina Schweighofer said...

Reese,
Your food ruminations are a treat. Make my mouth water! I checked out rasamalaysia and immediately found a kebab recipe that looked delicious and simple.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Reese said...

Hi Siew Leong - you are right, there are many Malaysian recipe blogs based in overseas..There are also equal number of food blogs based in Malaysia.

The difference is Malaysians in overseas are busy cooking and Malaysians at home are busy eating:)

Reese said...

Debi - If you managed to get your boyfriend to visit Penang, I'll be your tour guide.

Reese said...

Christina,

So glad that you found a good recipe there! Rasa Malaysia has just introduced some Malay cooking by a Malaysian who runs catering business in Dublin. I wonder if there is any Penang/ Malaysian restaurant in Austria!

Christina Schweighofer said...

There very well might be a Malaysian restaurant in Vienna. If I find one I'll check it out and let you know how the food is.

Vivienne Weindel said...

It's great that you featured Rasa Malaysia! It's a great blog for recipe that works and it's easy to follow her cooking instructions ;) I've been a great fan of hers since 2 years ago!

saraho said...

Mmmmm, can't wait to try some of these recipes. I've never eaten food from Penang, but definitely will have to add this experience to my list!
Thanks for posting this interview.

saraho said...

Mmmmm, can't wait to try some of these recipes. I've never eaten food from Penang, but definitely will have to add this experience to my list!
Thanks for posting this interview.

siewleong said...

Rasa Malaysia is one of my favourite too. Any good one is Lily Ng's blog http://lilyng2000.blogspot.com/ . It seems like a lot of these bloggers are Malaysians based overseas.

Siew Leong