Other than her life-like street art to spice up your Instagram feed, Penang is also known for the delicious street food lining her streets, commonly culminating at the popular “night markets”. I’ve made a tiny list of food that I’ve enjoyed during my Penang food hunt. There’s a map at the end of this post with labelled thumbnails of each place, so you can locate them easily… You’re welcome!
A tip for those of you who wish to sit and dine to rest those weary legs – tables and chairs are mostly owned by the drink/ dessert store vendors. So get at least one beverage or dessert per table to avoid getting chased away! Store vendors may also charge you 1-2 RM per person if you refuse to purchase a drink.
1. Noodles at Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee (Bamboo Noodles)
I randomly chanced upon this store on my first day in Penang, and could not resist going back again during my trip. Yes, it was that good. The handmade noodles were springy and well cooked, complementing the large ingredients filled wantons.
If you’re not a wanton mee lover, I would recommend the Gan Chao He Fen (stirfry horfun). The dish had the highly recognisable wok-hei flavour and was topped generously with seafood and meat slices. The bee hoon and kway teow pairing was also surprisingly harmonious! We also tried their Hong Tu Mian (crab roe noodles) and ginger slices duck noodles (and loved it).
Gan Chao He Fen from Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee
There’s even noodle making demonstration in the shop itself, where you will be able to watch flour and various ingredients transform into the piping hot noodles served!
2. Braised Duck Kway Chap at Lebuh Kimberley Street
Clearing the queue and lightning speed, your ingredient-filled bowl of kway chap will be served in no time!
As a first timer, I went for their standard bowl duck kway chap. The vendors were so generous with all their ingredients that I could taste either duck meat or pig organs in every mouth! It felt as though there were more kway chap pieces than noodles ~ Alternatively, porridge is available if you’re not into the kway noodles. Feel free to customise your own bowl as well!
3. Chendol at Penang Famous Chendul
When you’re so done with the unforgiving weather in Penang, do look out for the icy dessert from Penang Road Famous Chendul. It wasn’t particularly the fancy Instagram worthy kind of chendol, just plain old coconut milk and gula melaka goodness. Chendol pieces were soft and chewy as remembered from childhood days too!
Pro-tip: There are 3 stalls along the same street, be sure to go to the one right in front of the chendol graffiti!
4. Egg Tart at Ming Xiang Tai Confectionary
Everyone has their own definition of a good egg tart but the ones at Ming Xiang Tai Confectionary really aced it for me! Its layers of flaky crusts separated upon my first bite, buttery and crispy on my palette as my teeth sunk down into the soft eggy centre. The egg custard core was not excessively sweet, and the tofu-like consistency made my heart sing. One of the best sellers at Ming Xiang Tai Confectionary, it should not be missed when you’re hunting for food in Penang!
Pro-tip: Egg tarts are usually sold out by noon so be sure to visit before that to avoid disappointment.
Other than the almost-signature egg tarts, a variety of pastries are sold as well. Chicken floss balls are also a rather popular choice. Since mid-autumn festival is right around the corner, you may be interested in thelotus paste salted egg yolk ball – which resembles and tastes just like mooncake! Other interesting flavours include pandan and gula melaka.
5. Char Koay Teow at Siam Road
Also known as the “Char Koay Teow King”, this popular street vendor can be easily identified by the never-ending queue at the side. With one hand fanning the flame and the other furiously ___ into the wok repeatedly, the fragrance of his ingredient filled char koay teow filled the street.
We waited for about an hour for our fragrant plate. Although it was a little oily, I loved the chewy texture of the noodle and ingredient filled plate. Fragrant and tasty… I love it! The noodle was also priced reasonably at 6RM for small and 7.50RM for large plate. You can choose to add egg too! Even Miss Tam Chiak loved it!
If you’re in a hurry to grab your siam road char koay teow, do opt to takeaway the noodle instead of having it at the coffee shop space just across the road. Takeaways are significantly faster – we learnt by mistake too.
Pto-tip: Although it only opens at 3pm, you may want to stop by slightly earlier to queue for it. Also, they are not open on Mondays.
6. Handmade Popiah Skin at Popia Skin Maker
Stare in awe as the stall owner repeatedly slab a wobbly dough onto a flat heated pan. The popiah skin cooks quickly and his assistant quickly scraps it up into a neat stack. The motion is fast and somewhat therapeutic. The stall also sells popiah, which is wrapped in their own homemade skin – thin, soft and chewy.
Pesonally , I felt that their normal popiah is a bit plain as I am spoilt by Singapore’s ingredient filled ones. What really caught my attention were the wrapped peanut cakes. The harmonious blend in texture of the chewy popiah skin and flaky peanut cake was to die for. The sweet and crumbly peanut cake core also complemented the bland popiah skin well, the result – a heavenly dessert that you must try in Penang 😉
7. Penang Laksa at Air Itam Laksa
A totally different variation of the typical laksa found in Singapore, the Penang laksa (also known as the Asam laksa) is truly a must try. Topped with a huge dollop of prawn paste, the Penang laksa tastes a lot like Rojak* noodles. (*Rojak is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish) I would recommend sharing a bowl, before committing to one on your own 😉
Pro-tip: Air Itam’s Penang Laksa is known to be one of the “best” in town. You know what to do!
8. Chee Cheong Fun at the Morning Market (Hong Kee Chee Cheong Fun)
This chee cheong fun really blew me away – the thin yet chewy rice roll is handmade upon order and rolled up to wrap around either prawns or char siew within. While I wouldn’t say the vendor added a generous amount of char siew, there were sufficient fillings packed in them. The sauce was good as well (although I couldn’t tell if it was homemade as well).
Pro-tip: Other dim sum sold by this same vendor were just mediocre – have a taste of the chee cheong fun and move on, unless you’re looking to fill your stomach.
9. Nasi Kandar at Line Clear
After hearing that the best nasi kandar can be found in Penang, I landed on this 24-hour joint – Line Clear. While the interior of the restaurant was not the most attractive, I quickly fell in love with the place when our food was served. The extremely large portions as well as affordable prices made it one of my favoured restaurants in Penang!
Other places where you can enjoy nasi kandar includes a roadside push cart opposite the Air Itam Laksa. While we did not try it, the long queue of locals was certainly a food indication of its quality~
10. Flavoured ice balls along Lebuh Armenian street
I’ll be honest – this barely made it into the list for taste, but it was soooo photogenic I couldn’t resist adding it in. The entire street was lined with ice ball sellers and if you’re getting one #forthegram, the ones with multiple flavours (and colours) will certainly fare better. Some stalls also add in plums or attap seeds in the centre. Surprise surprise!
Pro-tip: Eating the ice ball can get really messy under the unforgiving sun, so don’t be in a hurry to dispose of the plastic container that they are served in!
11. Piggy Biscuits from Ng Kee Cake Shop
When I was young, I only ever wanted these piggy biscuits so that I could bring them home for display (I had never moved past one bite). Of course, when I noticed these freshly baked goodies during my Penang food hunt, I couldn’t resist getting one. Kneaded and shaped by hand, each of the red bean filled biscuits were moist and tasty.
Ng Kee Cake Shop also sells many different baked traditional pastries!
12. Fresh coconuts in front of Downtown Art Heritage Cafe
It sounds truly ridiculous to fly to Penang for their coconut juice, but you’ll appreciate the beauty of an ice cold coconut in the sweltering heat. Coconuts kept in ice tubs are also available (and always sold out quickly)! Although the seller was better versed in Malay, just tell him how many coconuts you want with your fingers 🙂
16. Nasi Kandar at Hameediyah Restaurant
(pardon the numbering as this is an updated item!)
Although I am not a fan of briyani or anything spicy, Penang’s oldest nasi kandar was so tempting I had to give it a go. For carbs, I chose the briyani (4 RM) over white rice – the orange rice grains were fragrant and buttery.
I would definitely recommend the mixed sauces (1.50 RM) to be spooned generously on top of the rice too! The flavours were harmonious and everything just went well together~
There’s murtabak available as well to complete your meal!
After ordering, you will be directed to another shop front 2 shops away – no worries, that is their eating space. The cost of you meal will be entered into a card which you will have to give the cashier for payment (so don’y lose it haha).
Protip: Lunch crowds are overwhelming, do drop by at around 11am to skip the queue!
Other Things You May Wish to Try…
13. Sesame Ball at Guangzhou Cake House
As a fan of these peanut core fried mochi, I loved how the outer layer was well fried and crispy while the mochi still remains soft and chewy. The fragrant peanut core was also not too sweet!
14. Stir Fry Chwee Kueh at Morning Market
This tastes a lot like our stir fry carrot cake. The kueh pieces were soft and the vendor was not stingy with the additional ingredients of bean sprouts, egg and preserved turnip (cai por). I personally felt that it could be more flavourful though 🙂
15. Giant Dim Sum at Lebuh Kimberley
I was in awe of these giant goodies when I was strolling along Lebuh Kimberley. Although they were rather average tasting, anything #forthegram right?
What are your favourite dishes in Penang? Do share with me in the comments below and we can grow this list together!