Like a lucky Dream
by
Jochen Kern

Malaysia / Penang 1991 - 1994


THE INCREASING PUBLIC RELATIONS CHAPTER

or after FIJI

 

Personally, I was not too keen to move to Penang’s Shangri-La Hotel (situated in Georgetown, the capital of the Pearl of the Orient), which to me, looks like a lost white sheep amongst the surrounding architecture. The hotel is located at Magazine Road, and sandwiched between the local Chinese traditional two-story buildings and the sixty three story high Komtar tower - the first ‘non fitting’ edifice or translate politely, ‘architectural break through’ in Penang.


Taipusan in front of Shangri-La George town

The seventeen story hotel is flanked by a ‘half-ournd-tennis-ball-like’ building, call the ‘Dome’. To me this must be the most senseless building, if you consider the prime real estate is encompasses. Moreover, its1,200 capacity hall is utilised, maybe once or twice a year. However, I believe that the entire Komtar complex (including the Geodesic Dome, and the Shangri-La Hotel) was builds more as an exhibition piece, to show up the other states in Malaysia. In any case it was quite comfortable to use the facilities... albeit China town lacked a little charm.
Chinatown is an exciting place. The buildings and handicrafts of Chulia Street, the majestic Temples like the Khoo Kongsi or Mike’s friend, the Drunken God - CHEA KONG - which was very exciting for me. Imagine, finding a temple where beer is served free, where one may enjoy a drinking session with god himself and to be able to communicate with ‘perfection’ (only if he is in a trance 3 days a week). This is really something.


cooking class at the ball room / the first Commis rotisseur competition / Shangri La staff party "so Greeeen"

Night life in town on the other hand, consists of the Hong Kong Bar or 20 Leith Street, Casablanca, the Metropole (the only strip-club in town... at midnight only) or the Chusan - a typical Chinese night club with tons of girls.
The markets, like the ‘thief market’ or the wet markets in the morning, will open your eyes to hard work, the importance of food and of social clans on the island. The ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you’ greetings in other countries is somehow translated to ‘have you eaten already? ‘in Penang. A multilingual society, with languages like Bahasa Malaysia (the National language, Tamil (the Indian language or Hokkien (the main Chinese dialect in Penang), one can see that Penang is already a truly international cosmopolitan island, with four races and religions - Islam, Hinduism, Buddishm and Christianity coexisting in harmony and at peace with each other.


with Eric Lim & Evelyn at Chinese Junk / football for the Hotelier cup / a Beer with Rene Hartmeyer /
a diploma from Bruce Lee Penang chef's association.....all that fun......realy great!

But it wasn’t always this way. The island state’s most recent history paints a different picture. There is, officially, no problem with racism. This is partly due to the guidance of the government and to the unwillingness of the people to repeat the follies of the past.
Because of its Chinese majority, (Penang is the only state in Malaysia with a Chinese Chief Minister) and location (close to the border of Thailand and open at the end of the straits of Malacca to the Indian Ocean), this island state is currently one of the most productive states Peninsula Malaysia, a jewel of the country.
The Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Penang is also called the silicon valley of Asia, with Americans, Europeans and Asian factories setting base here. This profusion also means thousands of job opportunities of the masses - thus making Penang one of the few places in this earth with the lowest unemployment rate. All in all, it is a rich and wealthy state. Oddly enough, this small former British colony is ruled by a Governor and not a Sultan like the other states of Peninsular Malaysian.
The difference in the races lie not only in the colour of their skin, but also in their mentality towards work and life. The Chinese may be attributed with shrewdness and a thorough understanding of all things unscrupulous. The Malay’s, with their happy, easy and clean lifestyle and the Indian’s, being the minority, a fervent believer in smart survival. Luckily all of the various communities have instilled within their hierarchy a sense of community pride, culture, personalities and tradition. Ahh... Penang is truly a haven of food and peace.


with Steve Parker at the lego Flag / bayview chaine function by power cut / Friend Carvietzel, Benz,Weibel and the French Musketier at Penang visit

The variety of food on this island is unbelievable. With cuisine ranging from Malay and Indian to Chinese, Nyonya, Continental and other Asian delicacies. The locals, or Penangite’s, eat at least 4 times a day. Be it at a hawker centre (street kitchens) or at individual hawkers which may be found spread all over the island. And the food is of superior quality, unlike other countries where the only way to great food is either at a restaurant or your wife’s cooking.
The hawker kitchen is the highlight of social gatherings, a venue for daily, weekly, monthly or yearly social events for the poor and the rich alike. If possible the people of this cuisine rich island could possibly go on eating round the clock. I suspect, that this aspect of their culture was ingrained in them from the days of their emigrant ancestors who probably underwent hardship and strife whilst on their journey from their homeland.


Karl , Ingolf Sossner / Billy Chen , Takashi Kono & Jeniffer Yong at Street One / my friend Cheah

A moment without food would be a sign of poverty. Unlike myself where food is of no importance... sometimes I have neither the time nor the penchant for a meal. Meal time to a Penangite is more important than customer service or other business responsibilities. That is probably why eating and business seem to go hand in hand in Penang.
Our restaurant in the hotel is, in my opinion, only a venue for ‘showing off’ or for corporate entertainment - like a business discussion or entertainment of business partners. Penangites are very cost conscious when it comes to food and if you compare hotel prices with the hawker fare... you can’t really blame them. A bowl of fried noodles (and the best tasting) costs just RM1.50 outside, while a similar bowl in a hotel would cost in the region of RM9.00. Now, do you think for one moment that the average Penangite gives a damn about comfort, service and air conditioning, when all they really want s a filling and nutritious meal. What is ironic though is the fact that they are willing to treat their dates with a RM1,000 bottle of brandy, just to maintain ‘face’, but not RM9.00 for a bowl of noodles. I write this to explain the difficult market that a city hotel faces, where 20% of our sales are to expatriates and the remaining 80% to local guest.

the whole brigade of Shangri-La Penang                                                            

The Tourism industry in this four star hotel had nothing to contribute to the revenue earning. Why, even their money appeared to shrink in value, when compared to wealthy Penangites, who think nothing of inviting 1,000 people to a wedding reception. Proof that, saving FACE counts very much in this society. Generations will definitely talk about his wealth but are in fact fooled by his stingy and cost conscious attitude.
Business in Georgetown had been absolutely marvelous these past three years as the country was booming in many aspects.
My Cordon Noir gourmet circle was yet another example of luxurious social activity who don’t mind paying or "top" dinners. Being a cook has allowed me to gain much exposure in both the mass media and local society. I must say that it’s been really fun!
Mr.Eric Lim was the best General Manager I ever had and the whole management team was great as well.

The local Recipe

George Town Pasar Malam Satay

IN CORIANDER , SESAME OIL , PEANUT OIL , LEMONGRASS , SALT AND TURMERIC MARINATED & SKEWERED LEAN CHICKEN , BEEF , LAMB OR SHRIMP SATAY.

GRILLED ON CHARCOAL AND SERVED WITH FANTASTIC PEANUT SAUCE , ONION AND CUCUMBER CUBES.

THE SAUCE CAN BE VERY COMPLICATED PREPARED!

BUT HERE IS THE EASY WAY!

SAUTÉ IN PEANUT OIL CHOPPED INGREDIENTS LIKE GARLIC , RED ONION , RED CHILLI , PEANUTS , GINGER , CORIANDER POWDER , LEMON GRASS AND PALM SUGAR TO BROWN COLOUR . FOLD WITH PEANUT BUTTER AND PRE-PREPARED SHRIMP PASTE ( BALACAN) . FILL UP WITH A DASH OF VINEGAR , SWEET THICK SOYA SAUCE AND CHICKEN STOCK.
BOIL FOR TWO HOUR TO A BROWN THICK SAUCE , SEASON WITH SALT & WHITE PEPPER AND YOUR SATAY DIP IS READY.

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