Being known as foodies, Malaysians can be pretty picky with food. Ask any Malaysian the question of which state has the best food; and watch as hell breaks loose. Even with seemingly endless debate about which state reigns supreme; everyone would agree that Penang deserves an honorary mention. Penang food is incredible!
Bearing a peaceful and resort-like image, Penang has become a vacation spot popular among locals and tourists alike. Being an island, Penang prides itself in their seafood. It is often incorporated in dishes such as Hokkien Prawn Mee, and Char Kway Teow.
Also the home for Peranakan Chinese, Penang is famous for its Nyonya cuisines. Besides that, the street food of Penang is another notable aspect of Penang; where hawkers and vendor stalls fill the streets—selling cuisines that range from savoury noodles to sweet desserts.
So let’s get on with exploring the 15 food you must eat when you visit Penang!
1. Char Kway Teow
Despite its complicated name, the dish is a relatively simple one. It is a dish with soy sauce based stir-fried flat rice noodle dish. Then, mixed with shrimp, Chinese sausage, bean sprouts and eggs.
Though Char Kway Teow is a popular dish that is available in almost any hawker stores across Malaysia; many would agree that Penang’s Char Kway Teow has the edge above the rest. The fillings may differ depending on stalls. Examples of popular Char Kway Teow Stalls in Penang include: Siam road Char Kway Teow at Jalan Siam and Tiger Char Kway Teow at George Town.
2. Asam Laksa
Like a marriage of flavours, Penang’s Asam Laksa is a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy. Characterised by a translucent noodle and sweet-savoury mackerel broth; Penang’s Asam Laksa broth may vary in its flavour—having a stronger fishy taste in some than others.
Even then, most locals would agree that Asam laksa is another iconic food in Penang. Some famous Asam Laksa stalls in Penang include Air Itam Laksa, and Shell Station Laksa @ Farlim. These stalls are both in Air Itam.
3. Hokkien Prawn Mee
Usually served with a combination of yellow mee and bihun; Hokkien Prawn Mee is a delicacy which consists of spicy and palatable broth filled with the sweet flavours of prawn. Although having originated from Penang, Hokkien Prawn Mee has now become available in other states.
With variety comes variations, as Hokkien Prawn Mee stalls vary in their thickness and flavour of their broth. Some prominent Hokkien Prawn Mee stalls in Penang include Green House Prawn Hokkien Mee at Jalan Burma and Hokkien Mee @ Bridge Street at Lebuh Panti.
4. White Curry Mee
Although not as well-known as its more colourful counterpart, the Penang White Curry Mee has been popularised by the Peranakan of Cantonese origin. Characterised by its rich, creamy broth that is accompanied by a chilli paste; the unique appearance of the White Curry Mee is something that you can rarely experience outside of Penang.
At first, many may be confused as to how to consume the dish. Fret not — with a mix of the chilli paste into the cuisine; its appearance would gradually take on a red tint. Hence, bearing a resemblance to the more common Curry Mee. Some famous stalls in Penang include Hot Bowl White Curry Mee at Jalan Rangoon and Bee Hwa Café at George Town.
5. Char Hor Fun
Another famous Penang food is Char Hor Fun. Being characterised by its smooth slithery noodle, and egg-based broth; Char Hor Fun is a famous dish that has numerous variations, often referred to Wan Tan Hor in KL. Even so, many would agree that the Penang version stands out among the rest.
Although having similarities, the main difference between Char Hor Fun and its other variations is in its noodle. Char Hor Fun uses the thinner noodle. Example of a notable Char Hor Fun stall in Penang is Kooper at Jalan Air Itam. Also, Char Hor Fun @ Beach Street at Lebuh Pantai.
6. Koay Chiap
Compared to other popular Penang dishes, Koay Chiap is a lesser-known one. Those outside of Penang may have not even heard of this dish. It is almost impossible to find it in any other states except Penang. That shows how rare the dish is!
To put simply, Koay Chiap is a dish that consists of light herbal soup with braised duck. It also includes various parts of the duck such as skin, intestines, and blood. It can either be eaten with rice or noodles and is usually accompanied by a special chilli sauce. The bare mention of the ingredients of this dish could put off many; but, it is still a dish that is superb on the palate. It is suitable for those who want to venture off their comfort zone too. Some acclaimed Koay Chiap stalls in Penang include Wah Meng Kopitiam Jalan Air Itam, and KY Eats at Lembuh Kimberly.
7. Indian Mee Goreng
Being a popular hawker dish in Penang, the Indian Mee Goreng is a fried noodle dish that is characterised by its tomato flavoured gravy with a tinge of lime. Although Mee Goreng can be found in mamaks of other states, many would object that it is simply not the same.
Being delicious and highly addictive, Indian Mee Goreng is sure to hold you captive and wishing for more. Some well known Indian Mee Goreng stalls in Penang include Mee Goreng Bangkok Lane at Jalan Burma and Jones Road Mee Goreng at Jalan Pasar.
8. Apom Balik
When you’re hungry for a little dessert after a meal, Apom Balik serves as the perfect dessert that satisfies that yearning. Having numerous variations, Penang’s Apom Balik is characterised by its thin crepe-like appearance and its contrast between the crispy edge and spongy insides.
Although Apom Balik is usually perceived as a sweet dish, there are savoury versions of it as well, where some even offer toppings such as pork floss, mayonnaise, and cheese. A famous stall that provides this in Penang would be Aki Pancake at Super Tanker food court. On the other hand, famous stalls for the classic Apom Balik include Pisa Corner Apom Telur at Bayan Lepas and Calypot Apom Manis @ Swee Kong Coffee Shop at Pulau Tikus.
9. Mee Jawa
Mee Jawa is a famous Penang-Nyonya inspired noodle dish; despite having the name Jawa in it, its origin stems far from Java. This dish is usually inclusive of yellow mee submerged in rich tomato-based gravy topped with condiments such as boiled eggs, boiled potato, prawns, grounded peanuts, and more.
Often being compared with Mee Rebus, the difference lies in the flavour and thickness of the gravy. Mee Jawa’s sauce has a more runny texture and has a more zesty flavour—as it is tomato-based—as compared to Mee Rebus. Some pre-eminent Mee Jawa stalls in Penang include Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng at Lebuh Chulia and Batu Lanchang Market Mee Goreng at Lintang Batu Lancang.
10. Bak Kut Teh
Being a dish that originated from the Hokkien migrants during the British colonialism in Malaysia, Bak Kut Teh is a favourite food amongst Malaysians. Despite being off the famous hawker food list, Penang’s Bak Kut Teh is still a popular delicacy.
The smell of hot, simmering herbal soup and the tender pork ribs dipped in sweet sauce and chilli is sure to cause anyone to salivate. Some accessible Bak Kut Teh stalls in Penang include Zealand Bak Kut Teh at Persiaran Gurney and Ah Keat Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Air Itam.
Easily spotted by its trademark green jelly, Cendol is a traditional local dessert loved by both children and adult alike. Immersed in a generous serving of coconut milk, the crunchy shaved ice topped with beans, jelly and a trickle of gula Melaka, is the ideal sweet delight for a hot day.
Depending on the stall, each may have their very own concoction of Cendol, where some might add other toppings such as sweet corn and nuts. Some famous Cendol stalls in Penang include Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul and Penang Road Famous Chendol, both situated at Lebuh Keng Kwee.
12. Kway Teow Th’ng
Simple, and warm, Kway Teow Th’ng is a soup-based noodle dish that is easy on the stomach—being a breather from all the other spicy dishes in Penang. However, this does not mean that this cuisine is bland as the broth is flavourful, and often topped with chewy fish balls.
With each stall having their recipe for the broth, unique variations of Kway Teow Th’ng exists in Penang where certain ones are topped with duck meat or coagulated duck blood. Some prominent Kway Teow Th’ng stalls in Penang include Uncle Koay Teow Th’ng at Lebuh Cintra and Loh Kei Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng at Jalan Perak.
13. Nasi Kanda
Being a favourite Northern Malaysia dish, Nasi Kandar is a staple dish in Penang. This dish is characterised by its mildly-flavoured steamed rice topped with sides of your choice. Even then, most would agree that the essential component of this dish lies in its curry and gravy.
Depending on the stall, the flavour of this dish would differ, but you can never go wrong by going for “kuah banjir” (a mix of gravies). Some well known Nasi Kandar stalls in Penang include Restoran Haeediyah at Lebuh Campbell and Line Clear Nasi Kandar at Penang Road.
14. Penang Rojak
Differing from the Indian Rojak that we are familiar with in mamaks, Penang Rojak does not include tofu or potatoes. The Penang Rojak is more of a mixed fruit salad topped with a thick, dark sauce made of “hark oh”—a shrimp paste.
Though this may differ depending on stalls, this dish is usually inclusive of green mangoes, pineapples, jambu air, and guava. As an addition, the Penang Rojak is often sprinkled with crushed peanuts for extra crunch. Some famous Rojak stalls in Penang include G.P Soon Rojak at Gurney Drive Hawker Centre and 101 Rojak (Ho Wei Jeng) at Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah.
15. Nyonya Kuih
With a touch of Peranakan heritage, the Nyonya kuih comes with little changes from the Malay Kuihs. Several famous Nyonya Kuihs includes the Kuih Lapis—a rainbow 9-layered Kuih, and Ang Ku Kuih that is usually given out in celebration when a baby is born. Common ingredients used in Nyonya Kuihs include coconut milk, gula Melaka, and coconut flakes.
Having a colourful appearance, Nyonya Kuihs are not only appealing to the taste buds, but also the sight. Some notable stalls in Penang include Li Er Café at Jalan Burma and Kuih Culture at Lebuh Kimberly.
Now you have the best guide for must-eat food in Penang. For more local food guides, do check out Lokataste.com!