I have been around a bit, visiting many countries in my life, trying different cuisines – Italian, French, Mexican, Japanese – but nothing comes close to the ones you can find in Penang. ‘Food paradise,’ they say, and I humbly agree.
This distinctive hodgepodge of Malay, Chinese, Nyonya and Indian flavours has garnered much popularity over the years among Penangites, which is how inhabitants are called, and tourists alike, now that more and more people are drawn here by the opportunity to savour a scrumptiously cheap plate of local delicacies.
Across the region, hawkers’ stalls bloom like smiles on children’s faces, effortlessly, thanks to their broad offer and fair prices. Nonetheless, it is not all about street food, but cafés and bistros too, and mamak and fine-dining restaurants. A little something for everybody, and every pocket.
As a matter of fact, it is really easy to lose the way amid the humongous offer. That is why I have decided to write down a list of typical dishes, a Penang food guide, to help those of you who want to sojourn out in the area.
Char Koay Teow
This speciality is made with flat rice noodles stir fried with soy sauce, and a number of side ingredients such as bean sprouts, belacan, cockles, chilli, Chinese chives and prawns. It is served in many cities across Southeast Asia, including Singapore, but the Penang’s version is something you will never forget.
Where to have it: Siam Road Charcoal Char Koay Teow
Address: Siam Road, off Jalan Anson, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Another must-try is Laksa Penang, a spicy soup with noodles that combines Chinese and Malay cuisine. The ingredients are chicken, prawn or fish, and can be based either on sour asam or coconut milk curry, and garnished with cilantro, cucumber, mint, shallots and sweet pineapple. Just to give you an idea of how good it is, CNN Travel ranked this dish 7th among the most delicious foods in the world.
Where to have it: Air Itam Asam Laksa
Address: Air Itam Market, Jalan Pasar, 11500 Air Itam, Pulau Pinang
Next is Hokkien Mee, a recipe originated in the province of Fujian, China. The one you find in Penang, which comes with fried shallots, hard-boiled eggs, small prawns and chilli paste, is quite different from the Singaporean or Kuala Lumpur’s version, yet it is absolutely sublime. You should try this.
Where to have it: 888 Hokkien Mee
Address: 67-A, Lebuh Presgrave, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Originally from Penang, and popular across Northern Malaysia, Nasi Kandar is basically steamed rice combined with several side dishes such as beef, chicken, lamb, fried prawns or squid, brinjal, okra or bitter gourd. Definitely a satiating meal.
Where to have it: Deen Maju
Address: 170, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
A simple, traditional dessert out of Indonesia, Cendol mixes shaved ice, coconut milk, gula melaka and kidney beans for a refreshing pleasure. The perfect way to finish lunch or dinner in irresistible fashion.
Where to have it: Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
Address: Jalan Penang, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang
The meaning of the name is ‘mixture’ in Malay, and that is exactly what Rojak is: a blend of fruits and vegetables – papaya, green mango, pineapple, rose apples, cucumber and guava – in a sauce of crushed peanuts and black shrimp paste, with pieces of fried crullers added to the mix. Especially recommended to those who enjoy tasty salads.
Where to have it: Rojak Orang Hitam Putih
Address: Jalan Pasar, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Unique to Malaysia and Singapore, Curry Mee is a rich soup with tofu, cuttlefish, prawns, cockles and pork. The chilli paste and mint leaves give it a special flavour that stays with you forever.
Where to have it: Sister’s Curry Mee
Address: 612 T, Jalan Air Itam, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang
An assorted combination of Chinese-style pork sausages, rolled with bean curd skin and deep fried, you can also add on tofu, eggs, fish balls, cucumbers, fish cakes or whatever you fancy for a tasty appetizer or snack. To enhance the flavour, it is usually served with chilli sauce, which gives it an awesomely spicy touch.
Where to have it: Kedai Kopi Kheng Pin
Address: 20, 16, Jalan Penang, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Holiday Inn Resort Penang
The place I stayed when I visited the area is the Holiday Inn Resort Penang. The hotel’s location is convenient as it’s right next to the renowned Batu Ferringhi Beach and the famous night market. Just about a 30-minute drive from the hotel, there are lots of food options in George Town and Ayer Hitam, where I tasted most of those supreme delicacies.
Besides food, sporty people can try para sailing and many more sport activities, such as renting a bicycle to tour the island, practicing their tennis style or playing a match, working out in the gym, or just relaxing by the pool and experiencing a traditional Malay massage.
The rooms are clean and beautiful, with views over the Malacca Straits, and they come with LCD TV, stereo, wireless internet, mini refrigerator, and other useful items. Rooms are quite large as well, suitable for all kinds of travellers: couples, families, and they are also perfect for people who enjoy travelling alone.
Address: 72, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11100 Penang, Pulau Pinang
Phone number: +60 4 886 6666
About the author:
Jade Huang is a content writer for Consider Digital who enjoys travelling and going on random food expeditions. Besides getting lost in nature or hunting for the best bowl of Laksa in town, she takes great passion in strength training at the gym. She also believes in having balance in life, like noshing a plate of salad with a glass of Frozen Margarita.