It is really difficult to determine which are the best hawker stalls or must try food when in Penang as you will be spoilt for choice. Fret not! I have a list of food that you must try in Penang to make your stay memorable.
To be honest, I was overwhelmed with the thought of eating my way through Penang because we were only there for two nights. We had slightly more than 48 hours which was definitely not enough to savour what Penang had to offer. I made sure I was well prepared. Therefore, I did my research diligently by contacting several friends who are from Penang and asking for their recomendations. We managed to try popular dishes which are known among the locals. While we navigated using public transport, the friendly Penangnites generously shared more tips with us so that we will not miss out any great food. If you are also planning to make a short trip to Penang, follow my food trail in search of popular dishes. In this video, I will take you around Penang while tasting local favourites. Watch the video if you are planning to visit Penang. It will be well worth your while.
What makes the flavours of Penang special?
Penang offers traditional Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisines. Added to that, fusion cuisine such as Peranakan food which combines the cooking methods and usage of ingredients of the Chinese and Malay is popular too due to the large Peranakan community in Penang.
Since Penang is located close to the borders of Thailand, some of its dishes are influenced by Thai flavours as well.
Penang Food Trail
Day 1: Arrived in the evening
Penang nasi kandar at Line Clear. It is located at the junction of Penang Road and Chulia Street. Enjoy a plate of rice with a selection of dishes of your choice. ‘Kari Campur’ (mixed curry), squids and fish eggs are some of the popular dishes served.
Dessert at the ‘cendol’ stall on Keng Kwee Street. Have a bowl of delicious coconut milk dessert at this famous stall. The queue may be long but it is all worth it, especially when the weather is scorching! While there may be other locations of their franchise, this stall is the original and said to serve the most delicious cendol.
You can also find roasted chestnuts, steamed chickpeas, fresh/pickled fruits and ‘dodol’ (toffee-like sweets) to snack on. If you are looking for more food to munch, take a walk back towards ‘Line Clear Nasi Kandar’ to check out the delicious local snacks.
Pickled fruits and dodol are local specialities using traditional recipes can be found in the stores located at Chowrasta market.
Day 2: Brunch and dinner
Have brunch at the famous ‘roti canai’ stall at Transfer Road. Enjoy roti canai with the curries of your choice, be it chicken, mutton or a non-spicy curry, dhal. Wash down the spices with the ever popular and delectable ‘teh tarik’ (tea with condensed milk). Few steps away from the roti canai stall, you will find 'kaya' (mixture of coconut cream and eggs jam) toast and half boiled eggs. We also devour packs of 'nasi lemak' (rice cooked with coconut milk, served with chilli paste, egg, cucumber, fried peanuts and anchovies) which were super appetizing.
For dinner, do not miss out Penang's ‘kopitiam’ to fully enjoy hawkers' specialities at Lorong Selamat. Kopitiam is actually a casual eatery with several stalls serving local dishes. We enjoyed the famous ‘char kuey teow’ (stir-fried flat rice noodles), ‘ohr chien’ (fried oysters omelette), ‘popiah’ (fresh spring rolls) and young coconut water. ‘Ice kacang’ (shaved ice with syrup, maize, red beans, peanuts etc.) is also another popular dessert available at the ‘kopitiam’.
Day 3: Breakfast and Late Lunch
Never leave Penang without trying one of the 50 best dishes in the world, ‘asam laksa’ and the curry noodles close to the Air Hitam Market sold by the charming grandmas. Asam laksa, influenced by Thai flavours tastes a little sourish and spicy at the same time. Savour this dish together with a sugar cane drink to wash down the spiciness and have peanut ‘muah chee’ (soft glutinous rice coated with peanuts) as dessert. Remember also to buy some BBQ pork buns and lotus cakes from Seng Seng Heang which is located along the same road as the Air Hitam asam laksa stall.
As Kek Lok Si Temple is only a walking distance from the stall, take a stroll up to the temple. After the visit to the temple, try the delicious curry noodles sold by the two grandmas who are sisters. The taste is extremely flavourful and definitely not to be missed! You may choose the noodles, toppings and level of spiciness.
We left Penang that evening with a happy tummy indeed! For now, it is time to share our Penang food trail with you.