10 Must-Try Hawker Food in Penang
December 01, 2013
Penang is truly a food paradise. It has a good mix of traditional Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan dishes and many of them can be found in hawker stalls throughout George Town. Throughout my 4 days in Penang, I had seen and ate as much as I could.
My mission: to enjoy as many of Penang’s famed dishes as possible in four days.
I have engaged a local tour guide to drive us around for a day. Just like what I did for Bangkok, I gave this tour guide a difficult task. That is, to bring me to places which sells good Penang food. Stomach space is very precious. I am obsessed with what I will have for my next meal and I researched as much as I can. I know I am definitely going to put on weight after my trip to Penang, so I want to make it worthwhile.
And here I am, happy to share with you what I have discovered. We combed about 20 hawker stalls and picked my favourite 10 out of them. I really love the fact that the hawker food culture is still going strong in Penang. Everywhere in the town, you can see many roadside hawker stalls whipping up dishes which they have been cooking for years. We practically walked with a heavy tummy in Penang every single day because there are just so much to eat. We gorge ourselves silly on char kway teow, prawn noodle soup, curry mee, assam laksa and so on. The hawker buzz is incredible. I don’t think you can see this anywhere else.
I am writing this as a perspective of a tourist. I understand that there are many many amazing hawker stalls and my 4 days stay in Penang is totally not enough to cover all the gems in the foodie town. But I hope to just serve as a guide for those of you who are visiting Penang for the first time.
10 Must TRY Penang Food When You Are There!
Mee Goreng @ Bangkok Lane
Just the mention of Mee Goreng and most locals will direct you to the Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng. The mee goreng business has been passed down over several generations and does super tasty mee goreng. It is definitely entertaining to watch the owner / his worker fry mee goreng – one hand tossing and frying the noodles, while the other hand constantly turning the wok in a circular manner!
When served, just squeeze some lime, mix it and you are ready to savour. Even for someone like me who seldom eats Mee Goreng, I can’t help but to finish the whole plate of mee goreng. The noodles was moist and so fragrant, with some decent wok hei. The prawn stock and mashed potatoes gives it a balance of sweet, sour and spicy. And the mee goreng also have cuttlefish which makes it stand out from other mee goreng stalls. One fun fact, the owner knows Hokkien ok. Don’t play play!
Address: 270 Jalan Burma, Lorong Bangkok
Opening Hours: 8am – 6.30pm. Closed on Mondays
Fish Ball Koay Teow Soup @ Carnavon Street
This is not an usual bowl of fish ball soup. Because the fish balls here are MADE FROM EEL. Yes, the eel that we usually eat in Japanese restaurant. Instead of using the usual Batang fish to make their fishballs, the owner has creatively used eel to make into fish ball. Batang fish gives a more firm texture, but eel fish balls taste so much softer.
We ordered a bowl of dried noodles and fish ball soup to share. They uses a higher grade of dark soy sauce which makes the noodles super shiok. Unlike other fish ball noodles stall which usually adds in bak chor (minced meat), this stall uses handmade pork fillet which is unique. Their soup is boiled with duck and pork bones for many hours, hence giving it natural sweetness.
Address: 183 Carnarvon Street
Opening Hours: 9am – 4.30pm. Closed on Sun & Mon
Asam Laksa @ Air Itam
Situated next to Air Itam market, this stall is hugely popular for its authentic assam laksa. With only RM4, each bowl is packed with thick rice noodles, vegetables, spicy mackerel based soup and a generous amount of shrimp paste. Its main distinguishing feature is the asam which gives the soup a sour taste. The fish is poached and then flaked. There are other ingredients like lemongrass, mint, onion etc.
The soup base is very flavorful and filled with generous amount of flaked mackerels. The prawn pastes gives more depth to the laksa. And it is refreshing with the mint and onion. Don’t think this is the best bowl of Assam Laksa in Penang but it is pretty decent.
Address: 11500 Air Itam, Jalan Pasar
Open daily: 11:30am – 10pm
Lor Bak @ Kheng Pin Cafe
This Lor Bak stall at Kheng Pin Kafe located in the junction of Penang Road and Sri Bahari Road is another up and coming Lor Bak stall in Penang. Lor bak is usually served as an appetizer which consists of marinated five spiced pork wrap in bean curd skin. I think freshness is important in making Lor Bak.
The Lor Bak here has the perfect marinated meat, which makes it tender and delicately flavoured. The skin is also not as thick as it is only wrapped with one layer. So when it is being fried, you can see the golden brown crispy exterior. The lor bak here is not too oily, and only prepared upon order only to ensure freshness. The Lor Bak is eaten with a dipping of chili sauce and homemade thick starchy lor sauce with beaten egg swirls.
Address: Kheng Pin Café, 80 Penang Road
Opening hours: 7am – 3pm. Closed on Mondays.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol @ Lebuh Keng Kwee
Cendol is one of Malaysia’s favourite desserts. But nowhere is the competition more keen than on Lebuh Keng Kwee, off Penang Road, where two families have been operating their stalls for decades. One is called “Penang Road Famous Cendol” run by the Loh family, while the other is called “Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol” run by the Tan family.
We chose the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul from Mr Tan, as recommended by our tour guide. They have been in this trade close to 40 years. Armed with a five-decade old recipe, the family roll up their sleeves everyday to prepare bowls of refreshing cendol and ais kacang for their customers. Even Gurmit Singh and Lim Guan Eng patronise his stall!
In a bowl of RM2 chendol, there is aromatic gula Melaka and fragrant coconut milk, certainly a perfect remedy for the blistering heat of Penang. You can have the cendol beside the stall, at the comfort of air con. Another nice thing about the shoplot is that you can get a delicious, hot bowl of assam laksa from the stall right in front of the door.
Address: Lebuh Keng Kwee, off Penang Road
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 10.30am – 7pm; Sat & Sun 10am – 7.30pm
Kim Leng Loh Mee @ Perak Lane
Loh Mee is one of the top 10 hawker food in Penang. Off Jalan Perak, there is this loh mee stall called “Kim Leng Loh Mee” that serves very good loh mee. Being a loh mee fan back in Singapore, I have my own expectations when it comes to a good bowl of loh mee. The most important part is definitely the gravy, which must be tasty, not like some brown coloured glue.
Kim Leng Loh Mee serves a good bowl of loh mee with thick, dark-coloured gravy cooked with pork rib stock, five-spiced powder and starched with egg white. It is then served with yellow noodle and bee hoon together with chicken feet, egg, bean sprouts and slices of barbecue pork. What’s more, they also serve CHICKEN FEET in the loh mee. The Loh Mee is priced from RM3 (Small), RM3.50 (Medium) and RM5 (Big).
Address: 336-G1 Lintang Slim, off Jalan Perak
Opening Hours: 7am – 4pm. Closed on Thursdays.
Tua Pui Curry Mee @ Lebuh Kimerley
We were dejected because by the last day of our trip, we still couldn’t find a good bowl of curry mee. But I never give up till the very end. On our way to airport, I was googling and found Tua Pui Curry Mee. It was already late afternoon and many stalls may have been closed. But the kind driver offered to drive us to the location to check it out. And…LAST BOWL OF CURRY MEE FOR THE DAY BELONGS TO US! YAY!
Tua Pui curry mee serves a generous bowl of curry noodles which includes ingredients such as taupok, coagulated blood, blood cockles, cuttle fish and more. The soup is enhanced with several types of curry, giving it a little more complexity. Not to forget their home made chili, which completes the entire dish but do not overpower the coconut in the soup. Their curry mee overall is as good as any.
Address : 23, Lebuh Kimerley
Opening Hours: 9am to 5.30pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
Seafood Popiah @ Gerai Gerai Padang Brown
Seafood Popiah at Gerai Gerai Padang Brown is one of the oldest in Penang with over 60 years of history. It is probably also one of the few stalls that had extravagant crab meat in its popiah. The ingredients here are simpler with only shredded egg pieces, ‘bangkuang char’, crab meat and fried shallots.
After the popiah has been wrapped, it will be drowned in stir fried turnip gravy. When I first saw my plate of wet popiah, I wasn’t able to accept. But after tasting it, I love it very much. The popiah becomes sweeter absorbing the gravy.
There are also other good food in Gerai Gerai Padang Brown, such as lok lok, ice kachang, char koay teow, yong tau fu and more.
Address: Stall 17, Gerai Gerai Padang Brown
Opening hours: 2pm – 7pm. Closed on Thursdays.
Char Kway Teow @ Lorong Selamat
I am sure many of you are familiar with this Char Kway Teow stall. Yes, this is the stall where the lady owner is recognized by her red hat and she sometimes wear goggle too. She is also, unfortuntately, the target of a Facebook boycott campaign after allegedly insulting a customer who complained about the price.
But, who cares? She really fries a very good plate of char kway teow! With RM9, you get a nice charcoal fried kway teow with large prawns and fresh cockles. She probably serves the most expensive char kway teow in Penang, but there are still local crowds constantly streaming in just to get their char kway teow craving satisfied.
Ok, I haven’t eaten all the famous Char Kway Teow stalls to have a conclusion but her char kway teow has a good wok hei with all the flavours perfectly balanced, which is often missing in Singapore. Her wok is charcoal fired, with a small fan at the bottom blowing to keep the flames hot. It was very smooth and infused with the umami flavour of the prawns.
Address: 108, Lorong Selamat
Opening Hours: 11am – 6pm. Closed on every Tuesdays.
Hokkien Mee @ Jelutong Night Market
Because we went during the period of Nine Emperor Gods Festival, many stalls were not opened. But thankfully we managed to complete our hunt for Hokkien Mee at Jelutong night market. This is really a hidden gem because they sell a very good bowl of Hokkien Mee for the locals but not as well known to the tourists as compared to some other stalls.
Slices of prawns and well balanced stock are the key ingredient to the Hokkien Mee, with the chili paste providing the wow factor. The soup is bursting with prawn flavour, while our noodles are cooked just right. What’s the best thing, you don’t have to wait for long before the Hokkien Mee arrived!
Address: Jalan Penaga, Jelutong
Opening hours: 7pm – 12am
I hope this gives you a good list on where to eat in Penang. I leave Penang with some regrets because I didn’t manage to try some of the hawker dishes which were in our plan. One of which is the famous Lim Sisters’ Curry Mee at air itam market. The 80 over year-old elderly sisters crouched around their cauldron of curry, ladling out bowl of their curry noodles. Sock Peng, a fellow food blogger whom I met during the trip, specially recommended it. We took a cab there but unfortunately they were closed during the period of Nine Emperor Gods Festival. They are usually opened daily from 8am to 1pm daily.
Not forgetting the Penang Super Hokkien Mee behind Penang Plaza which needs to queue at 7am in the morning. We never wake up early enough to grab a bowl of it. And Batu Lanchang Nyonya Kuih Stall which only opens at 3pm but closed on Sunday, which happens to be the day of our visit. But this gives me a reason to go back Penang again to conquer another round of hawker food. I WILL BE BACK!