Penang has undoubtedly some of the best foodie finds in Malaysia. From street food to fine dining, it’s worth the calories but hey, who’s counting anyway? Our Penang food guide features ten delicious bites that keep the locals and tourists coming back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths).
#1 Asam Laksa, Oh Boi!
Where: Pasar Air Itam Laksa, Air Itam
Scoring points for authenticity (the family-run business has been around for 61 years) and taste is our top pick from the pool of countless laksa stalls you’ll find in Penang. Maybe it’s the spicy kick in its broth, the generous helpings of mackerel and fresh vegetables, or perhaps the friendly second generation chefs, that have won over the hearts of asam laksa-lovin’ foodies far and wide.
#2 All You Can (and Should) Eat
Where: Sarkies, Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Lebuh Farquhar, Georgetown
Buffet-style dining with ever-changing themes – it’s like a party! For entertainment, there’s a live three-piece jazz band, but there’s also the cooking stations where five or so chefs whip up Asian, Mediterranean or western cuisine with much gusto and speed. The barbeque station is obviously where you’ll find the cool kids.
#3 Yeah, Oh-kuey (Get it?)
Where: Char Kuey Teow hawker stall, intersection of Anson Road and Siam Road, Georgetown
It’s practically an unofficial commandment of Penang tourism – thou shalt have a plate of char kuey teow, and thou shalt like it. A good serving of char kuey teow can be found everywhere in Penang, but when it comes to tantalising your taste buds with something a little different, and slightly spicier, get in line for this uncle’s popular, and seriously unhealthy (but everything delicious is, right?) noodles topped with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), cockles, chives, bean sprouts and chunks of crispy fried lard.
#4 Sugar, (More Sugar), & Everything Nice!
Where: Lebuh Keng Kwee, off Penang Road, Georgetown
It’s a battle of the cendol, with literally, “Penang Road Famous Cendol” by the Loh family in one corner, and “Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol” by the Tan family in the other. They’re both just as delectable, which is why we’ve placed them both in our list. What’s not to like about two times the gula Melaka (palm sugar), coconut milk and syrup? Both stalls have been around for decades and have (to our opinion) perfected the craft of Malaysia’s favourite dessert.
#5 Mix, Match & Makan
Where: Joo Hooi Cafe, Penang Road, Georgetown
The fanciest of fancy fruit salads are just called rojak here in Penang, where you might refer to it as rojak buah anywhere else in Malaysia or Singapore. The dish can be eaten as an appetiser, entree or dessert – what else would you call a mix of fruits and fried dough dressed in shrimp paste, chilli and lime? Sprinkled over with crushed peanuts, Penang rojak makes no sense…but it just works.
#6 Muy Deliciosa
Where: El Faro, Burmah Road, Georgetown.
Surprisingly, Penang has some really good Spanish cuisine too. To go with your tapas is an extensive selection of Spanish and other Euro wines. The signature dish, which is truly spectacular, is the pork belly on a bed of sauteed cabbage and tossed with raisins and lime juice. A close second is the seafood paella, a dish we give props to any chef for attempting (not an easy one!), for its fresh locally-sourced seafood.
#7 Egg-quisite Brunch
Where: Living Room, Macalister Mansion, Macalister Road, Georgetown
This colonial mansion is also home to one of Penang’s finest brunch spots. Set in the quirky Living Room, pastries are fresh out of the oven, and Twinning’s tea are strongly aromatic. A favourite on the menu is the “Truffle Egg White Omelette”, served on a slice of brioche toast with sauteed mushrooms and Momotaro tomatoes. Yes, it’s every bit as delicious as it sounds.
#8 It’s Getting Hot in Here
Where: Sister’s Curry Noodles Paya Terubong Road, Air Itam
Who doesn’t love comfort food for the tummy and soul? They say ‘love’ is the secret ingredient to truly good cooking, and judging by the kind hearts and warm smiles of Penang’s favourite sisterly act, we can’t disagree. The sisters of Teochew, now in their eighties, have been selling their curry mee for 60 years, famous solely through word of mouth and social media.
#9 All Good Things Are Deep Fried
Where: Kheng Pin Cafe, Penang Road, Georgetown
Like Uncle Lau’s ‘omakase’ Loh Bak; a deep fried snack that comprises of marinated pork rolls, crispy prawn fritters, bean curd, fish balls, sweet potatoes and yam. Don’t be fooled by the vegetarian ingredients – everything is fried in batter, and served with a special gravy for dipping that’s really just chilli sauce and egg whites.
#10 Eggs-perimental Omelettes, Anyone?
Where: Seng Thor Coffeeshop, Lebuh Carnavon, Georgetown
Penang’s got a hold on the pearl-holding clam shells so it’s no wonder oh chien is yet another fine example of Penang street food. These succulent morsels are fried (of course) in rice flour batter, egg and chives, and believe us, you’re not going to want to share it. Mr Lim, the owner of our favourite oh chien stall, says he’s got the perfect recipe handed down from his father. Too true, Mr Lim.