Tenggol Island is a lesser-known island sitting of the east coast of Malaysia. The more well-known Perhentian Islands in the peninsular northeast and Sipadan Island off the east coast of Borneo steal the glory from little old Pulau Tenggol.
Well, when Jack and I took a trip to Malaysia last Summer, we wanted to experience the world-class diving Malaysia has to offer. Knowing of the popularity of the Perhentians, we asked our respective Malaysian friends about quality dive spots with fewer travelers. Pulau Tenggol was the response.
Our first meal fresh off the plane in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia set the stage for the rest of the trip. Mr. J Chan, a friend I met 2.5 years ago in New Zealand, was nice enough to pick us up at the airport and take us directly to lunch. J Chan told his friends that he was going to take two Americans for their first meal in Malaysia and asked what they recommended. Multiple friends suggested he take us to eat banana leaf rice and better yet, most suggested one restaurant in particular. So that’s where we went.
Banana leaf rice is a seemingly simple dish. First, your “plate” is a banana leaf, rolled out in front of you like a placemat. Then a generous scoop of rice is plopped in the middle. Next, come an assortment of curry sauces and vegetables. That’s the basic dish, and it’s meant to be eaten with your hands.
Not wanting us to miss any of the good stuff, J Chan felt it a good idea to order a bit more. So, our meal had the addition of fried spicy calamari, fried chicken, and fish. One difficult, yet fun, part of eating the meal was trying to do so the traditional way – with only your right hand. As an American, it’s not a way of eating that I’m used to, but in actuality, it’s a more practical way of eating once you get used to the correct method. (Hint: scoop the food onto your fingers, and push into mouth with thumb)
Here’s a video we filmed on Jack’s iPhone of us eating banana leaf rice. (sorry for the low quality – hit the four arrows to go full screen):