GEORGE TOWN: Penang has once again topped the chart as a world food destination over other places including Bangkok and Paris with the endorsement of world-renowned food writer, James Oseland.
Oseland, 53, is an American food writer, magazine editor and reality cooking show judge who is currently in Penang until July 20 with the mission to find the best food in Penang to be featured in his upcoming book.
The journalist-turned-food writer since more than 20 years ago, said that interest in cooking had always been in him as it was the only way that made him closer to his father.
“My mom wasn’t a great cook but my dad is. Hence, by cooking, our relationship became closer as we share the same interest,” he said in an interview at The Ghouse’s residence in Jalan Makloom, here, today.
Oseland who is in Penang for the fifth time, his first being in 1982, said that even as time passed, the food quality here was still the same despite the surroundings having changed a lot with more high-rise buildings than before.
“It is wonderful how the food is being cooked; the atmosphere is simply amazing and the competition between eateries to serve the best food makes them maintain the quality.
“If I have to choose the top three places in the world as a food destination, Penang would definitely be the first, followed by Mexico City and London,” he said.
For his new book which he expects to be published in the next two and a half years, Oseland said he would focus on traditional home-cooked food as it was the best way to understand one’s culture.
“As time passes, the young generation, especially, has no interest in learning the original recipes as people tend to take food for granted. That is why I want to document these recipes to ensure that the culture will live on,” he said.
Since his first day in Penang on July 15, Oseland said that his favourite food here so far had been Penang-style nasi campur, nasi kandar and hawker food such as chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls).
While here, Oseland has also learned how to cook ‘nasi kenduri’ with Sabrina Ghouse, a local chef who cooks for weddings and other celebrations.
On how he planned to keep the food taste authentic, as Westerners and Penangites had different ways of cooking and different tastes, Oseland said he had a gift of remembering how every food tasted and knew if it was different from others.
As he will be leaving Penang in two days before heading to Kedah and then flying off to Indonesia and Timor Leste, Oseland who could speak a little bit of Bahasa Melayu said, “Pulau Pinang sentiasa di hati” (Penang is always in my heart) and has vowed to come again after he completes his book.