Penang is a small island off the coast of Malaysia. It’s city centre, Georgetown, has gained some recognition of being a Unesco World Heritage Site due to the architecture left behind by the British. However, this is not the only appealing factor that draws tourists to the quaint little islet – Penang has been rated as the best place to eat hawker food in Southeast Asia.
Knowing that Penang sells good food is great, but knowing where to get this delicious food is a totally different story. Penang is littered with small coffee shops and roadside stalls selling all sorts of humble gastronomical delights, from goreng pisang (deep fried bananas) to char kway teow and ice kachang.The island is a maze of hawker centres, and the idea of finding the best place to eat for each dish can seem understandably daunting.
But with the help of my dear, capable grandmother who drove me around the island to feast upon these local delights, I have come up with a (hopefully) comprehensive list of the best stalls Penang has to offer.
Beware however, that I do not have the exact address of the stalls as some of them are mobile and are stationed by the road side. But I will give you the street that they are in, and since they’re famous, you should have no problem getting answers to directions from any locals.
The best curry mee, surprisingly, is in somebody’s front garden. The driveway has been refurbished into a mini hawker stall, complete with tables and stools. Curry mee is priced at RM4.50 if you order extra toppings – these include pork, tender chicken, juicy prawns which have been de-shelled for you (oh thank heavens!) and mint. The broth is beautifully spicy and rich, and you would definitely slurp it all up from the bowl. An interesting refreshment that they offer apart from the usual milo and coffee is a nutmeg drink. You can order it either warm or iced. It is extremely interesting – it tastes like an extremely green apple, but very refreshing. This is an absolute must-try if you can find your way there, but be aware that the curry mee is only sold on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Address: Pepper Estate, Tanjong Bungah
Nothing compares this oyster omelette to the ones you find in Singapore, NOTHING. The oysters are extremely fresh and pop in your mouth like grapes, and the omelette is perfectly seasoned. The main hero of this dish however, is the homemade chili and garlic sauce that accompanies it. It spices the entire omelette up, giving the eggs an extra wow-factor that keeps you shoving the omelette into your mouth – we ate three plates of this. Price ranges from RM8 – 13 depending on how many calories you want to gain.
Address: Corner of McCallister Road and Lorong Selamat
Lor Bak & Chicken Rice
Lor bak is pork wrapped up in a crispy skin and deep fried – the result is heavenly. This set comes with an array of tofu and crunchy prawn fritters, and is priced at RM10.50.It is the sauce however, which makes this stall stand out amongst the rest. A homemade black sauce is mixed with egg whites and soy sauce along with some chili sauce. Once you bite into this deep-fried delight you’ll be begging for more – another plate here it comes!
In the very same coffee shop just 2 stalls down is the most delicious and mouth-watering plate of chicken rice you will ever eat. The meat is wonderfully steamed and juicy and the skin smooth and luscious. The price depends on which part of the chicken you order, be it the breast or drumstick – the drumstick will be more expensive. Gizzards will also be added upon request. The rice is wonderfully seasoned with some of the oils from the cooked chicken, and the chili is one of the best I have tasted.
Address: Kheng Bin Coffeeshop, Jalan Sri Bahari
Char Kway Teow
Penang char kway teow is extremely different from that in Singapore and on the main island – we don’t use black sauce, and use pork lard to fry the noodles and ingredients to give it more flavour and chopstick-lickin-goodness. It’s also spicier and not as sweet and heavy. This regular-sized plate costs RM3.50 and ingredients are plump, juicy prawns, taogay, Chinese sausage and eggs. It is definitely more oily and thus unhealthy but hey, everything in moderation. Besides, this is Penang – you definitely should sacrifice a couple of calories for this place.
Address: Mandarin Café, Island Glades
Penang Road’s Famous Teochew Chendol
The best chendol in Penang is a stall in an alley off Penang Road. People flock towards this man for the most refreshing and delicious dessert you will ever taste. Chendol consists of ice shavings, gula melaka, red beans and jelly – the result is a scrumptious after-meal treat which will keep you coming back for more. Another dessert that this stall sells is ice kachang, which is not bad, but I would definitely recommend you to go for the chendol instead.
Address: Lebuh Keng Kwee, Penang Road
Carrot cake & Penang’s Famous Chee Cheong Fun
This messy pile of fried taogay, eggs and carrot with bits of starch is one of the best things you will ever eat. Slightly sweet and spicy due to the soy sauce and chilis it has been cooked in, this rather unhealthy yet satisfying mess cooked in pork lard will leave you in a food coma.
Penang’s most famous chee cheong fun will be the yummiest scrummiest chee cheong fun you will ever taste in your life. We’ve always brought some back to our friends in Singapore, and nearly all of them died from a gastronomical orgasm after munching on a bite of this dish. So take my advice and try this out – this definitely should not be missed my friends.
Address: Seow Fong Lye Coffeeshop, Macalister Lane
As per the name, this pancake is sweet due to the corn but the overall flavour of this confection has been balanced by the saltiness of the ground peanuts. The pancake batter has been cooked perfectly until crisp in butter, and the seasoning is spot on. You can eat your way through 5 of these pancakes and still bring some home for lunch, but it’s recommended to eat it on the spot as the pancake will become soft and lose it’s delicious crispiness.
Address: Outside Swee Kong Coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus
The talented hawker has perfected the gravy of this hor fun – it is neither too runny nor too thick. The accompanying ingredients (char siew, prawns, bak choy, chicken and liver) are nicely cooked and generously sprinkled on a heaped pile of noodles. The smell of this lovely food wafts from the coffeeshop out onto the streets in the cool night air – because hor fun is only sold after 7.30pm.
Address: Bee Hooi Café, Pulau Tikus Lane
That is all folks! There are definitely an infinite more shops to be explored – these are but a few of which I recommend. So if you ever come to Penang, please continue your gastronomical adventure and if you do find other wonderful places to eat at, post a comment below – I would be delighted to learn more about where to find the best foods. 🙂