This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander on 26 January 2014.
When you are in Penang, one of the activities you are encouraged to do is to eat. The streets of Penang is filled with people chattering on the side of the street with a plate full of goodness. From savoury food to sweet desserts, there is something for everyone. Asian food is always exciting, it’s more than just a bite to fulfill the stomach, there’s always a lot of colours and tons of flavours involved, which I can never get enough!
I found the food in Penang to be delicious and cheap. A drink should not cost more than 2 RM while a full meal should be around 3-5 RM, unless of course you eat inside a fancy café. Hopefully this guide can help you find some mouth-watering food when you visit Penang.
This is a noodle soup with a sharp soury taste. Asam means sour and its source of sourness is from the tamarind which is the star of the dish. Inside this dish is fish, red onions, red and green chillies, pieces of pineapple and cucumber. The sauce in the green spoon is shrimp-paste which adds an extra zing into the soup.
Price: 3-4 RM
CHAR KOAY TEOW
This is my absolute favourite dish. It is made from rice noodles stir fried with chives, bean sprouts and eggs. I have eaten some variations in Penang where they also add sweet pork sausage, prawns and cockles. There are plenty of them sold in Penang,
Price: 2-4 RM
If Assam Laksa is a soury noodle soup, Curry Mee has a more salty curry taste. It has a thick broth and is filled with noodles complete with tofu, fish ball, cuttlefish, egg and of course chilli paste because you can’t eat without chilli in Asia. It is the perfect meal to be eaten with your friends on the side of the street in the middle of the night, trust me I’ve done that!
Price: 3-4 RM
I am not a mutton fan myself, but my friend, Timothy, ordered this Mutton Biryani which has so much flavour. The tender mutton is eaten with yellow rice and mint chutney.
Penang has so many cultures going on, Chinese, Malay and Indian. I love this as it enriches the food scene. I love Indian food as it is never shy to add strong spices into its dishes. I have to say this Mutton Biryani costed me a little more than the other food but if you gotta have Indian food every once in a while.
Price: 5-10 RM
Nasi Goreng or fried rice is a seemingly-easy dish that can be found nearly everywhere in Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore especially. Although it looks simple, it is quite hard to have the balance of flavour into the rice. Recently I ate an amazing fried rice near Bayan Lepas, Penang consisting of rice, fish cake and huge, juicy prawns. It is easy to find fried rice on the road of Penang, but only a few are so damn delicious.
Price: 3-4 RM
Well, you don’t come to Malaysia and skip Nasi Lemak, that would be a sin. The most authentic nasi lemak is wrapped in banana leaf and shaped like a small pyramid. It is sold in small portions (and you should have more than one, no one’s judging). The rice is cooked with coconut milk and you should have a dollop of sambal and your choice of side dishes. I love mine with fried anchovies, egg and a samosa. Full blown yumminess.
Price: 1-4 RM
CHENDOL & AIS KACANG
Both drinks are icy and refreshing. It is the drink you can have in the middle of the afternoon…or just about anytime you want. Cendhol has green jelly shaped like worms with ice, coconut milk and melted palm sugar. Some variations of cendhol may have nuts and ice cream.
Ais Kacang is basically an explosion of sweet things. It has red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly mixed with shaved ice and syrup. Oh forget the calories and dig in!
As an Indonesian, I do find some of the Malaysian food to be similar but different in flavour. And I’m glad we are different in flavour as this is one of the things that excite me when I come and visit Malaysia. Rodjak is filled with pineapples, sour mangoes, cucumber, tofu, bengkoang and other fruits. It is topped with a special sauce made from shrimp paste, palm sugar, chilli and water. It is just delicious.
I am addicted to teh tarik and always have it whenever I am in Singapore or Malaysia. In Penang though, they say the best teh tarik is found on Penang Road where you can also find the most famous Nasi Kandar. Unfortunately I was too full to have their tempting Nasi Kandar, but the teh tarik is the best one I have ever tried (and I’ve drank a LOT of them). “Tarik” means pull and that is how you make the tea, it is a combination of black tea and condensed milk and then pulled. It’s just heavenly!
So where to start in Penang?
- Chulia Street is brimming with food hawkers at night. I love the atmosphere and also the different kinds of food offered. I tried Char Koay Teow and Curry Mee here.
- Penang Road is also an amazing place to start, check out Penang’s famous Nasi Kandar and Teh Tarik here.
- Keng Kwee Street is a small aisle just off Penang Road and this is where the famous Chendol is sold. Try their Assam Laksa and Rodjak here too!
- New World Park is a mall which looks quiet at the front but go to the back and you’ll find an amazing selection of street food. My friend told me they used to sell on the side of the street and then this open-aired mall was built and these sellers were put inside the mall. Their Ais Kacang is delightful here.
- Gurney Hawker Centre has maybe the most hawker stalls put together. The locals say it is “too touristy” but I love eating here!
So, have you been to Penang? What’s your favourite bite?