Penang Street Food

‘chee cheong chuok’ – congee with pig intestines (New Lane)

Penang hawkers’ food is one of a kind. If you say fusion, eclectism, fresh ingredients, unique, casual, variety, cheap and yet tasty in one breath – you are describing hawkers’ food here. Basically almost any corner of the local neighbourhoods, you will find hawker stands to coffee shops selling a variety of street food ranging from noodles to rice dishes. Most south east asian countries have a great array of street food as our ‘fast food’ and it is very imbedded in our culture. Everyone here has grown up with street food. You see that in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia to name a few. You will be surprised there is a pretty good Malaysian restaurant in NYC called Penang too. Penang is a street food paradise.

Char Koay Teow  – fried flat rice noodles with cockels/large shrimps

The world famous Penang street food (those you must try ones) are

  • Char Koay Teow (flat rice noodles with cockles and prawns, spicy)
  • Char Hor Fun (flat rice noodles with seafood in thick gravy sauce – non spicy)
  • Chee Cheong Fun (flat steamed rice rolls in sweet and spicy plum and shrimp paste sauces)
  • Hokkien Mee (noodles in spicy prawn soup broth)
  • Laksa (Penang style – spicy sour soup with fish and shrimp paste)
  • Curry Mee (noodles in spicy coconut curry soup)
  • Char Koay Kak (fried rice cubes in egg, bean sprouts and chives-spicy)
  • Oyster omelette
  • Koay Teow Th’ng (clear soup rice noodles with fish balls- non spicy)
  • Rojak (local fruit salad)
  • Sotong Bakar (grilled cuttle fish)
  • Lor Bak (pork rolls wrapped in bean curd)
  • Cendul (dessert with mung bean flour noodles, redbeans, shaved ice – with coconut milk and palm sugar)
  • Ais Kacang (dessert with sweet redbeans, palm seeds, jellies, corn, over shaved ice in rose syrup and evaporated milk)
  • Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice with condiments)
  • Roti Canai (fried indian bread – paratha with curries)
  • Wan Tan Mee (egg noodles with wontons)
  • Popiah (fresh spring rolls – Penang style)
  • and the list goes on…

The good thing is the portions are small and at cheap prices as well coz I hate big bowls with too much of everything! With smaller portions you can try more things too.. right?

Curry mee

Penang is also famous for Nasi Kandar. This is mamak style rice with a variety of curries. Great for supper, dinner or breakfast (for some)! It is very spicy so be warned!

Proud to say Penang was chosen as the no 2 destination to visit in 2009 by New York Times. Here is the article from the Star.

Penang as No.2 must-visit destination for 2009


GEORGE TOWN: Readers of The New York Times have chosen Penang as the second best destination among “44 Places To Go in 2009”.

In top spot in the recommendations found on the paper’s website ( was Beirut.

The only other South-East Asian destination in the ranking is Phuket, which is in 15th place.


Other places include Washington (fourth), Rome (fifth) and Metz in France (sixth). The newspaper ranked Penang in the 22nd spot while Phuket was placed 12th.


Besides the second spot in the overall readers’ ranking, Penang is also in the top 12 places in the frugal and food categories (both readers’ and the paper’s recommendations).


The New York Times said adventurous foodies are now turning to Penang, the culinary capital of Malaysia, where they are eating their way through one of South-East Asia’s liveliest street-food scenes.

It said there are city-run hawker stands everywhere and even refined dishes like char koay teow rarely cost more than US$2 (about RM7.20)


State Tourism Development, Culture, Arts and Heritage committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said Penang was chosen by the readers because of its good food.


“The ranking is a boost for the state as a tourist destination. “Penang food is so famous that I know of Singaporeans who fly here just to eat,” he said. He was speaking to reporters after launching the New World Park Chinese New Year programme at the food and beverage centre here yesterday.


A series of musical, art and dance performances are being held at the hawker-cum-cultural centre until Feb 9.

So for those of you who are travelling to Penang – don’t miss the street food. Some of the best places for them are:

  1. New Lane (off Jalan Macalister) – at nights only, some stalls are a hit and miss, so walk around and see where the crowd goes to order food.
  2. Gurney Drive – at nights only
  3. Bee Hooi Pulau Tikus – at nights only
  4. Polly Coffee Shop Pulau Tikus – lunch time
  5. Pulau Tikus market – at night and during breakfast (8am-11am) especially the hokkien mee at the corner coffee shop facing the police station on Burma Road.
  6. Island Glades coffee shops (Lorong Delima 3) – lunchtime & at nights too. For breakfast the wan tan mee, next to the Chinese Medicinal shop is very good.
  7. Gat Lebuh Presgrave (Sah tiau lor – 3rd Street)- at night. And on the other end of that same road towards Weld Quay, a quiet corner coffee shop has one of the best Char Koay Teow.
  8. Padang Brown – afternoons only, for pasembur, poh piah and kuih talam.
  9. Halal – Tomato Rice Beratur, starts only at 1230am by the Batu Lanchang market,
  10. Halal – Nasi Kandar Beratur, starts only at 10pm Buckingham Street, next to Masjid Kapitan Keling.
  11. Halal – Kapitan @ Gurney Drive (24hr shop) for a mix of north indian and mamak food
  12. Laksa – Ayer Itam on the way to the Penang Hill station, road side, only in the afternoon, opposite Lai Lai Supermarket close to the roundabout.
  13. Koay Teow Th’ng – only mornings inside Pulau Tikus market (the middle store)
  14. Cendol –  off Penang Road (Keng Kwee Street)
  15. Ais Kacang – New World (Swatow Lane) only in the afternoons or Presgrave Street hawker place, a stall by the roadside next to the Wan Ton Mee stall, at nights only (close monday)

Hokkien Mee

Well for a sample of Penang Street Food to be made at home, I have added (and will continue to add) some recipes of all time favourites here:

  1. Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce – click here for recipes.
  2. Char Koay Teow – click here for recipe

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