Penang has been dubbed the food paradise of Asia, and by some even the world, and for good reason. There is a hugely diverse selection of cheap and expertly prepared dishes on virtually every street corner in George Town. There are dozens of food courts where you can sit and have fresh juice, noodle and rice dishes, seafood, ice cream, and assorted snacks for about $1 each. Hawkers are generally very friendly and speak enough English to help you make a selection. The Red Garden was one of my favorite food courts, and it’s also where Anthony Bourdain went for delicious Wan Tan Mee (noodle soup with dumplings and pork) on No Reservations.
One of the best parts of spending a month in Chiang Mai was exploring all of the different food they had in the city. In addition to the typical pad thai and fried rice dishes, you could find an assortment of awesome curries for about $1.50 a plate. The local speciality is Khao Soi, which is a coconut-based noodle dish. I ate it at least 20 times at different places. Then of course there are the Saturday and Sunday night street markets, where you can try lots of different dishes for fifty cents each and get stuffed in the process.
I also took a cooking class with Zabb-e-Lee, which was an incredible experience. I made a ton of delicious food, including the best fried spring rolls I’ve ever eaten. The recipes were much more accessible than the fancy food I made at my cooking class in Laos and I actually think I could repeat some of it. I just need to buy a wok!