Last Updated: July 5, 2018
The streets of Penang city (especially Georgetown) are renowned as a food paradise mainly due to its diversity in ethnicity, culture and religion. Its multi-ethnicity brings forth such celebrated variety in Penang’s street and hawker food. There is no lack of food options here, and is difficult to find a store that falls short of a rating lower than “delicious”.
Even many Singaporeans agree that Malaysian food just tastes better. Maybe it’s the water there. Forget about the comforts of air conditioning and be prepared to scour every nook and cranny of Penang streets for these best must eat local street foods in Penang, Malaysia.
A familiar dish for Singaporeans. Char Koay Teow is a national favourite in Malaysia and Singapore. Of Course, Penang has their fair share of famous char koay teow stalls with their own signature taste. What I appreciated most from Penang-style Char Koay Teow is the flavor of ‘wok hei’, and the freshness of the ingredients. Also, going for the duck eggs option did give a richer taste to each mouthful of noodles. I can’t vouch for Lorong Selamat’s Char Koay Teow to be the best in Penang, but it is definitely worth a visit.
Tiger Char Koay Teow @ Kafe Ping Hooi: 181 Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town, 10450 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Char Koay Teow @ Yi Garden 怡园茶室: 150-152, Jalan Macalister, George Town, 10300 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Ah Leng Char Teow @ Restoran Tong Hooi: Jalan Dato Keramat, Kampung Makam, 10150 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Penang Koay Teow Th’ng or Koay Teow Soup typically comes with slices of pork, fish/eel balls, fish cake and a tasty broth with flat rice noodles; the soup stock is typically boiled from chicken or pork bones for more depth in flavour. Some variations include using duck meat instead of pork, while a dry version may also be requested.
This noodle soup also comes with condiment of sliced fresh red chilies in garlic and soy-vinegar or lime for an extra zest to go with the simpler tasting ingredients.
Pitt Street Kway Toay Th’ng: 183 Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town, 10300 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Kway Toay Th’ng @ Joo Hooi Cafe: 475, Jalan Penang, Georgetown 10450 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
A proud signature dish of Penang, Assam laksa is a rich and spicy, fish-based soup noodle broth of tamarind juice, chilli paste, lemongrass, topped with prawn paste and mackerel/sardine flakes. It has a tangy, wholesome flavor from the tamarind which some may find it too overpowering.
I believe it falls under the category of acquired taste where you would appreciate the rich broth more with each spoonful. They are normally served with either white or yellow noodles, while some stalls have a choice of thick or thin bee hoon.
Laksalicious: 123 Hutton Lane, 10050 Penang George Town, Malaysia
Air Itam Laksa: Jalan Pasar, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia (Beside Air Itam Market, Closed on Tuesdays)
Jelutong Food truck: 93, Lorong Ipoh, Taman Jelutong, 11600 Pulau Pinang Malaysia (A food truck behind the Jelutong Post Office)
A variety of deep-fried seasoned strips of pork loin meat wrapped in beancurd skin, dipped in bowl of starchy braised sauce (Lor 卤)- the penang version tends to be on the sweeter side. Other Lor bak ingredients like fishcake, egg, sausage and tofu are also available in the mix.
These meat rolls are similar to the Hokkien ngoh hiang using the unique aroma of “five-spice powder.” A whole plate of fried goodies may be overwhelming but it is still a pretty good choice for a mid-day snack or late night supper sharing dish.
Loh Bak @ Kheng Pin Cafe: Jalan Penang, Georgetown, 10050 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Loh Bak @ Restoran Hai Onn: 53-55, Jalan Burma, 10050 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Rojak is considered a colloquial representation of variety and mixture. Commonly found in Malaysia and Singapore, it is a salad of bean curds, fritters (you tiao), bean sprouts, cuttlefish and assortment of fruits covered in a thick syrupy peanut sauce. Freshly tossed with pineapple slices so sweet you would widen your eyes in surprise.
The sauce of the Penang rojak I had at Gurney Drive was such an eclectic delight I could not figure out what their secret ingredient was.
Tan Swee Hoe Rojak (Stall #52) & G.P. Soon (Stall #39) @ Gurney Drive Hawker Centre: 172, Solok Gurney 1, Georgetown, 10250 Jelutong, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Mee Goreng is an Indian Muslim dish. The famed Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng presents a substantial plate of noodles with generous portions of cuttlefish, potatoes and beansprouts. It is stir-fried with a tangy concoction of tomato, chilli and soy sauce. This would be a pleasure for those who favor quantity over quality. Nonetheless, a plus point for fancy display of wok skills and rhythmic tossing of noodles.
Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng: 280, Jalan Burma, Georgetown, 10350 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Another Indian Muslim dish that was claimed to originate from Penang, fragrant rice topped with different curry-based meat or vegetable dishes of your choice. Covered in similar fiery-red orange but the curry for each dish actually did taste different. Do beware as they use their chili and spices very lavishly. There is a whole street selling Nasi Kandar around Little India of Penang, along Lebuh Queen and Lebuh Chulia.
Hameediyah Restaurant: 164, Lebuh Campbell, George Town, 10200 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Line Clear: 117 Jalan Penang, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
How can anyone forget the famous dessert in Penang. A bowl of shaved ice filled with chewy green rice flour jelly (chendol), red beans, fresh coconut milk and a splash of gula melaka (brown sugar) syrup.
It is easy to spot the famous store for there is a never-ending queue outside Joo Hooi Cafe. Also, it is rather fascinating looking at the speed of preparation by the vendor. The quality however may not be as consistent – during the second trip there, the coconut milk tasted diluted and there was not enough gula melaka. This ice cold dessert is nonetheless a wonderful respite from the blistering tropical heat.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol @ Joo Hooi Cafe: 475, Jalan Penang, Georgetown 10450 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Pushcart Chendul Stall: 100 Lorong Macalister, George Town, 1140 Pulau Pinang (Junction of Jalan Macalister & Jalan Burma)
If you are not a fan of coconut milk dishes, ice kachang (also spelt in Malaysia as ais kachang) is a combination of shaved ice and a mixture of red beans, grass jelly, sweet corn, assorted fruits, generously drizzled with rose syrup and condensed milk.
What is special about the ice kachang at Kek Seng is that they have additional toppings of agar-agar (jelly) and homemade durian ice cream. It is wonder how all these multifarious ingredients could result in a delish dessert.
Ais Kacang Restoren Kek Seng: Jalan Penang, 10450 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Swatow Lane Ais Kachang @ New World Park: Lorong Swatow, 10050 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia (Closed Mon, Thurs)
Also stylized as Apam or Apong, Apom is a thin crepe-like snack with a soft flour centre. It is normally sold as street snacks by both Chinese and Indian vendors. There are multiple variations of Apom; an addition of egg, bananas, coconut shreds or even brown sugar to the flour centre. These options diverse enough to keep customers coming.
Each crepe is freshly made in a pan using traditional methods over charcoal fire. Apom is a sweet snack that could be enjoyed by all ages.
Indian Apom Manis @ Kedai Kopi New Cathay: No 317E, Jalan Burma, 10350 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Who doesn’t appreciate a round of good and cheap dimsum? Around for more than a hundred years, Aik Hoe Restaurant serves both traditional dimsum and interesting creations like marinated eggplant yong tau foo and “nam yue bao” which is similar to kong bak pau. Also, they do serve pretty good egg tarts, especially good when they are freshly out of the oven. The dim sum at Aik Hoe isn’t out of the world delicious, but it will be great to experience a lazy weekend morning with the rest of the locals.
Aik Hoe Restaurant: No. 6 & 8, Lebuh Carnavon, 10100, George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Leong Kee Tim Sum Restaurant (龙记港式点心): No 61, Jalan Kimberly, Pulau Pinang, 10100 Georgetown, Malaysia
Curry mee is extremely popular in Penang, with a high number of stalls offering their own The most basic curry mee however always contains a few main ingredients like a mix of yellow egg noodle and vermicelli, prawns, cockles, cuttle fish, tofu balls and pork blood (which is banned in Singapore by the way), which is all doused in a sea of curry gravy.
The accompanying sambal chili is usually a critical factor in adding spiciness and that addictive kick with every sip of curry.
There is also a Penang White Curry mee variation, which adds coconut milk to the curry for a fuller, slightly sweeter flavour.
Lorong Seratus Tahun Curry Mee 百年路加哩面: Lorong Seratus Tahun, Georgetown, Georgetown, 10400 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Curry Mee @ Kedai Kopi New Cathay: 425, Jalan Burma, Georgetown, 10350 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Lok Lok is a kind of communal steamboat in Penang, but every ingredient is skewered on a stick so it doesn’t sink or float around in the pot of boiling water in the middle – just grab your stick out of the water once it’s cooked. Yes, since its communal, you will get random strangers seating with you and sharing the same hot pot of water to cook their ingredients.
A variety of ingredients like fresh oyster, mantis shrimp, crab sticks, fish/meat balls, mushrooms and even pig ears can be found amongst the spread laid out on the table for Lok Lok. The shop owners will periodically com around to refill ingredients. Locals recommend mixing the different sauces available on the table together (Satay, chili, garlic etc) for a personalized taste.
Sticks are colored differently which indicates a different price; at the end of the meal, the total number of sticks and their colors are tallied to come up with the total bill.
Lok Lok@ Pulau Tikus Market: 250, Jalan Burma, 10350, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Lok Lok@ Padang Brown Food Complex: Jalan Johor, Tapak No. 9, 10400, Georgetown, Penang
Fried Oyster Omelette, or also known as Oh Chien in Hokkien, is a popular street food you can find all over Penang. What really sets it apart from say Singapore’s version is the fresh oysters used, and the fried rice flour batter and eggs that produces a lighter, crispy finish rather than being overly gooey and heavy.
The accompanying chili is on the sweet side though, and I still prefer Singapore’s spicy sour chili that comes with the oyster omelette. Just the fragrant eggs batter and plump oysters alone will be enticing enough to finish the entire plate though.
Oyster Omelette @ New Lane Hawker Centre: Lorong Baru, George Town, 10450 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Oyster Omelette @ Yi Garden 怡园茶室: 150-152, Jalan Macalister, George Town, 10300 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Penang-style Wanton mee tends to use a firmer, springier egg noodle and is tossed in a cleaner tasting sweet-savoury dark sauce. The mee is then topped off with lean char siew slices and boiled pork wantons. You can order this in a soup variant as well, but I’d recommend the dry version to truly savour the intricacies of each stall’s sauce recipe.
The selling point between each stall is really how well the noodles are made and cooked, how much flavour is packed in the sauce and the quality of wantons. Penang style wanton mee is markedly blander than Singapore or even Thai style wanton mee even though origins are similar.
Wanton Mee @ Tai Wah Coffee House: 86, Jalan Argyll, 10050, Georgetown, Penang
Wanton Mee @ Sin Yin Nam Cafe 新映南餐室: Jalan Macalister (New Lane/ Lorong Baru), 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia