I consider Penang as a food paradise and one of the greatest food cities in the world. This mainly because of the different ethnicity tied to each and every food. The city used to have one of the busiest trading ports in the region which made the place a melting pot of culture, community and food then this heavily reflected on their culinary art and technique.
It’s no wonder that the place was given the title of The Food Capital of Malaysia. Not only is it the birthplace of most Malaysian hawker and food stalls, but it also houses world recognized must try cuisines. In this trip, we tried some of the most famous restaurants and stalls that is a favorite by both locals and tourist alike.
Roti Bakar Hutton Lane
Just beside the Police Headquarter was an open space buzzing with people. It is considered as one of the most famous Roti Bakar (Grilled Bread) stall in Penang. We arrived early but then almost all the tables were taken. I heard it can even get more crowded as tourists and locals have their first meal of the day in this food stall.
What we ordered was a simple roti bakar with cheese slices in the middle served with two soft boiled eggs on the side. It was simple but it was definitely filling. The charcoal toasted bread was warm, fragrant and had a slight crunch to it. The cheese added more flavor and saltiness to the meal and it went perfectly well with the soft boiled eggs.
This is a classic, old school, century old stall, and it just felt that time had stop and left the place untouched.
Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee
An amazing lunch stop over the wide array of Penang choices. This place is a must visit – if you’re lucky you can even see the workers create their famous and traditional bamboo pressed egg noodles. One worker will sit at an end of a long bamboo pole and start to seesaw up and down which turns the dough into a smooth and thin sheet. Another worker will cut the sheets and as a result thin fine noodles are produced.
The noodles have a very different texture from the usual – it was thin but stringy, and it was a pleasure to slurp down. The broth was clear and smooth but it was very savory. The noodles came with few slices of meat and packed dumplings to my surprise. The whole meal was flavorful and probably one of my favorite eats in the whole trip.
Waiting under the scorching heat, and eating while standing can be draining. If you want a change of scenery, this is for you. The ambience gives off a quiet, cool and homey atmosphere. It felt very welcoming. It’s almost just like eating at someone else’ home. The staffs are very good at their work, they are very friendly and they are Filipino (much to our surprise? Nope). Did I mention that the whole place was blasting with air condition?
We had the chicken curry, beef masala, tomato rice and lentil rice. The prices were a bit more expensive than the ones just outside the restaurant, but it was more than worth it. The servings were huge and the different flavors were amazing!
I find the curry’s spice level to be a bit mild but it was packing with flavor. I simply can’t help but drizzle the sauce all over my rice. The chicken pieces were huge, soft and it just removes easily from the bones. The beef masala on the other hand was a lot spicier than the curry and the meat was very tender. It went perfectly well together with the rice which I honestly thought to looked fancier than I expected, but in fairness there was just the perfect amount of spice and fragrance.
(Self?) proclaimed to have the best naan in Penang. It is a huge restaurant and it was very busy, we probably sat there far too long before someone approached us and took our orders despite our hands waving in the air. Which funny enough, also happened to some other tourists who came when we were eating.
We had the chicken lani butter naan and the chicken lani cheese naan. I expected the naan to have more cheese however the amount of cheese was too little and the taste was too subtle for me. However, they grill the chicken perfectly and it was very tender. The service might be bad but the food was delightful.
Ayer Itam Penang Assam Laksa
If you happen to visit Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple, always make time to drop by one of the most infamous eats in Penang – the Penang Assam Laksa. Crowned no. 7 in the top 50 foods to try by CNN, it’s no wonder this place is always full of people may it be tourists or locals.
They make the broth out of mashed fish in tamarind stock which gives it a thicker and sour base. They served it with chillies, herbs and onions. It is very spicy and you can just see everyone sweating as they enjoy this simple meal. The staff was working in complete harmony, it was a craft well mastered. It was definitely a perfect complement to the noon heat.
Nasi Kandar Imigresen
A modest roadside stall that will definitely not fail you when you’re hungry. Ater a long hunt for murals, this place offers a wide array of food from chicken, eggs, squid and a lot of other things. We actually found it surprising that Nasi Kandar actually originated from Penang.
You just know it’s authentic when the place has no fancy chairs and the food is prepared by hand. From the queue, I watched in awe as he prepared the dishes with accuracy and speed.
I had rice, chicken and salted egg and the serving enormous. Even with the numerous choices of food and side dishes that they had, the quality and taste did not suffer.
We were just walking back to our lodging when we stumbled upon this place. From outside, you can see how they make the Chimney cake and it was fascinating. We couldn’t help but go in and order one for ourselves.
The cafe offers a chimney cake stuffed with soft serve ice cream and your chosen toppings. The cake itself was sweet and crunchy, with an option of plain or additional sugar or cinnamon. We opt for the later and added caramel sauce and pretzels. We definitely did not regret the added treat! Caution for the messy eaters like me, we found ourselves with ice cream and cake on the floor.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol
Just after shopping in a nearby market and embracing the heat, it is time to reward ourselves with a cooling treat from one of the most famous food stalls in Penang. The lines move fast but the queue just doesn’t seem to diminish.
Inside this street, you will see countless people standing and having a bowl of cendol. A shaved ice dessert topped with green flour rice jelly, fruits and beans bathed in milk and sugar is just perfect for any hot day.
The ice is very fine and melts almost instantly and the milk with sugar just binds all the ingredients together much like our own halo halo. It was sweet but nothing out of the ordinary. I guess the only thing I really like about this is the experience. Standing with countless stranger while eating a bowl of ice cold dessert on a busy street is definitely something different.
Penang is one of the most famous foodie town in the world. There are amazing delicacies, meals and snacks at every corner. Just follow your senses and see where the locals are eating. Don’t be afraid and be intimidated by the crowded roadside stalls with cheap dishes or you’ll be missing out on what the city has to offer.