The island of Penang, located in the north of Peninsular Malaysia on its west coast, is known as the food haven of Malaysia. Penang cuisine is the result of the multicultural society of the country; and the variety of food can be found all over the island– at roadside cafes, hawkers stalls, food courts and local mamaks (coffee shops). Even for locals, one of the must-do things on a visit to Penang is to eat.
I recently made a weekend visit to Georgetown, the historical center of Penang, and spent the day looking for the best eats in the area. Some were recommendations from local Penang friends, and some were suggested by people I met in the city. As I only had one day, I could only taste the surface of all the fantastic food available on the island– but at the end of the day, my appetite was satiated, my stomach was stuffed and my buttons were almost popping!
Here is the list of food I had the joy of eating on my one day food trail in Penang.
During my visit, I stayed in a hotel in the center of Georgetown, and it was a great location because many of the city’s great eats are around this historical center of Penang. I was craving for Penang Prawn Noodles early in the morning, so it was the first thing I hunted down.
Penang (Hokkien) Prawn Noodles
The Penang Prawn Noodles, or locally known as Hokkien Mee or Har Mee is noodles soaked in fragrant prawn broth, and served with prawns, beans sprout, hard-boiled eggs and fried garlic; with a spoonful of chilli paste on the side.
The stall that I visited on Jalan Macalister in Georgetown, the Ah Soon Kor Har Mee, is really popular among the locals– and what I loved about the dish here is the additional ingredients of mantis prawns and roasted pork. And their broth is extremely flavorful too. Price for a bowl ranges from RM4-7 (US$1-1.50).
Ah Soon Kor Hokkien Mee
Address: Sea Horse Cafe, 162, Jalan Macalister, Georgetown, 11400 Georgetown.
Opening Times: 6.30am-1pm daily, closed on alternate Mondays.
After walking around the vicinity, I decided to stop for brunch at the famous Curry Noodles stall on Lorong Seratus Tahun, which translates to the Hundred Year Lane; just down the road from Ah Soon Kor Har Mee.
Penang Curry Noodles
Curry Noodles, or better known as Curry Mee, is a very popular Malaysian hawker fare. It is a soupy mixture of curry and coconut milk, poured over a bowl of noodles with fried bean curd, prawns, squid, cockles, bean sprouts; and in some places, cubes of pig’s blood. In Penang, the soup is sometimes white or clear colored; with a special chilli paste added in according to the level of preferred spiciness.
The Lorong Seratus Tahun Curry Mee is well-known for the richness in their broth and their generous portions of ingredients. I especially enjoyed the big chunks of pig’s blood and the extra serving of prawns. A bowl costs around RM4.50-RM8.50 (US$1-2).
Lorong Seratus Tahun Curry Mee
Address: Khean Pin Cafe, 55, Lorong Seratus Tahun, Georgetown.
Opening Times: 7:30am-2:30pm daily, closed Thursdays.
After spending the late morning visiting the many historical buildings dotted around the city, I was famished and decided to head to the famous food area along Jalan Penang.
The Penang Laksa, also known in other places in Malaysia as Asam Laksa, is a thick and sour fish based soup dish. The main ingredients of laksa are rice noodles, shredded fish (usually mackerel); and sliced pineapple, cucumbers, tamarind, lemongrass, mint, onions and chilli; as well as thick prawn paste on the side.
Just as its name suggests, the Famous Penang Road Laksa stall is very famous. It is located inside Joo Hooi Cafe, which is usually packed to the brim during lunch. The stall serves an extremely thick, fishy and tangy broth, just how I like it. A bowl here costs RM4.50-5 (US$1). A few other popular dishes served in the cafe are the Char Kuey Teow and the Rojak.
Famous Penang Road Laksa
Address: Joo Hooi Cafe, 475, Jalan Penang, 10000 Georgetown.
Opening Times: 11.30am-5pm daily.
Right next to the Joo Hooi Cafe is a lane filled with rows of stalls– just look for the one with the longest queue and you’ll find the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol.
Chendol is a popular Malaysian dessert that is served throughout the country. This dessert is made out of coconut milk, green (colored with pandan leaves) worm-shaped rice flour jelly, palm sugar and shaved ice– the perfect dish to cool down on a hot day.
Different stalls add in different additional ingredients in their Chendol; and the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol serves theirs with red beans. The stall was founded in the 1950’s and is a local institution– and since it has remained almost unchanged since those early days, there are no chairs and tables around. So do what the locals do and eat it by the sidewalk. If that doesn’t feel comfortable, you can have it at Joo Hooi Cafe for a small fee of 50 cents.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol
Address: 27 & 29, Lebuh Keng Kwee, 10000 Georgetown.
Opening Times: 10am-7pm daily.
My afternoon was spent wondering around the back lanes of Georgetown– and after a quick visit to Fort Cornwallis, I dropped by the Esplanade Park Food Court right next to it. Almost all the customers of this food court are patrons of a very famous fried noodles stall located inside.
Fried Noodles is a pretty common dish. Fry some noodles on a wok and add in ingredients such as vegetables and sauce for taste and voila! That’s a plate of simple fried noodles.
However, the Mee Sotong, or Squid Noodles at the Hameed ‘Pata’ stall is one of a kind. The noodles are fried in huge portions and divided into plates according to prices, RM5-7 (US$1-1.5). You can choose to have your noodles dry, or soaked in thick sweet gravy. The noodles itself has a strong charred taste to it (you either love it or hate it); but what people come for is the absolutely delicious Sambal Sotong (squid in spicy sauce) that is added on top of the dish.
Hameed ‘Pata’ Special Mee
Address: Esplanade Park Food Court, Jalan Padang Kota Lama, Georgetown.
Opening Times: 11.30am–8.00pm daily, closed on Sundays.
Even walking along the beachfront can get me hungry. An hour later, I was craving for some Pasembur– and the best place to get it is at the Padang Kota Lama Food Court. The entire place is filled with stalls and stalls selling Pasembur.
Pasembur is the Malaysian version of a salad dish. It is made of thinly sliced cucumber and radish; with your choice of extra ingredients like prawn fritters, fried bean curd, fried fish cakes, hard-boiled eggs; and topped with a sweet and spicy potato or peanut sauce.
The Hussain Pasembur is the most popular stall at the Padang Kota Lama Food Court, which can be seen from the number of customers in front of it. I was there early so I didn’t have to wait in line, and was spoiled for choice with the number of ingredients on display in front of the shop– they even have whole crabs and king prawns. Each ingredient ranges from RM0.50-15 (US$0.1-3.5). I loved the generous amount of potato sauce they flooded onto the dish.
Address: Stall 29, Padang Kota Lama Food Court, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, 10200 Georgetown.
Opening Times: Noon-1/2am daily.
Last meal of the day! Malaysians love their late night suppers– we tend to eat every hour of the day. Alot of mamaks (local Indian coffee shops) open 24 hours to cater to our never-ending appetite. My friends brought me to Kapitan because it is their favorite place in Penang for a delicious plate of Nasi Beriani.
Biryani, or locally known as Nasi Beriani, has Southern Indian origins, but has been adapted to Malaysian tastes and is now a popular local dish. The rice used is basmati rice; with an added mixure of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and saffron, just to name a few. It is a vegetarian dish; but is commonly served with meat like chicken, beef and mutton.
Kapitan is famous for their Nasi Beriani, served piping hot in a claypot. There are a variety of meat available– my favourite is the Lamb Beriani. The lamb is tender and succulent; and the rice is fragrant and flavorful. Add some curry on top of it for some extra uhmph! Another popular dish here is the Tandoori Chicken.
Address: 93, Lebuh Chulia, 10300 Georgetown.
Opening Times: 24 hours.