In this interview, Mark Ng, a food experience partner with Simply Enak, shares his insight on the food scene in Penang and makes
What do you do?
I was in the IT consulting industry for a good 10 years before taking a jump into the tour guiding and the tourism industry. I am a tour guide that takes a special interest in food, its movement with people, cooking methods, ingredients and history. I use food as a subject to talk and share with people about Malaysia and showcase the diversity we have to celebrate in this country.
How did you get into this industry?
During my consulting days when working on projects that consist of team members from all nationalities, being the only local in the team, I ended up taking my colleagues out for food and party after a long day of work. That pretty much sparked the idea (after doing it for 10 years while working as an IT consultant). I took a leap of faith when the last work assignment got way too stressed out and that prompted me to give this food-focused tour idea a try.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
Once there was a couple who signed up for a food tour but did not want to consume anything. They were just interested to see what people eat. When that happened, we had to change the itinerary from feeding the tummy to feeding the mind. So, we loaded up the tour with a lot of information, which the customer clearly wanted.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job is the opportunity to meet all sorts of people (and enjoying good food of course).
The worst part is having to constantly work out to maintain a healthy body and mind.
What’s one of the scariest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The scariest incident happened during a tour when one of the customers with severe allergies to all sorts of nuts (anaphylaxis) accidentally consumed a sip of beverage with a nut syrup. Everyone went into panic mode but thankfully, the syrup used did not contain any traces of nuts. It was just flavouring and sugar. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief.
The perfect day off would be…
… cooking up a meal with some friends, enjoying a good meal over good food and good drinks.
A day in the life of a Food tour guide is to eat, explore, learn, share and repeat.
What do you do for fun?
I love to cook and visit local farms and other food-producing areas. If I’m not around food, I like to hike and be close to nature.
What’s something you’d like people to know about being a food tour guide as a profession?
Losing weight is the hardest part of the job.
What’s something you’d like clients to know about Simply Enak?
We are all certified tourist guides who love to cook, eat and host. We are passionate when it comes to all things food and proud to be living in a blessed country like Malaysia. We organise food-related tours and experiences for tourists as well as corporate jobs.
We’ll have to come on a food tour to find your secret spots to eat in Penang. Any places you like to dine when you’re in KL?
I like to explore street food as well as a few good restaurants and bars in KL. I usually get in contact with my friends who are in the food industry and they will take me out to explore new eating spots. My go-to is Santai in Taman Tun for nasi lemak and laksa Johor (only the weekends), Entier at Alila Bangsar, Yong Tau Foo at Madras Lane within Chinatown and Trigona bar for the honeycomb cocktail.
How would you compare the KL food scene with that of Penang?
The finer food scene in KL is a step ahead of Penang however, in Penang, we do have access to top-quality seafood and local produce. With regards to the Chinese food, in Penang, most of the Chinese food here is of Hokkien influence while in Kuala Lumpur, it is more towards Cantonese cooking.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
We will be launching a new tour in Penang which involves whisky pairing with street food. We will also be attending ITB (the world’s largest tourism trade show in Berlin) to promote Malaysia as a food and culture destination.
Find more interviews similar to this one with Mark Ng here, and check out the latest on the food scene in Penang here. Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings on the culinary scene around Malaysia here.