Penang is a really fun destination if you’re heading to Malaysia (: It’s filled with great hawker food, a burgeoning cafe culture, rich heritage (visit Georgetown), very interesting street art, greenery for hiking, tons of places to explore on both sides of Penang Bridge, far flung seafood spots, more good food and lots of warm, friendly locals who will make your stay very enjoyable.
Here’s some of the food I had with my friends during my trip to Penang! It’s definitely not exhaustive, and they’re so many good guides out there, but here are my thoughts and some of my favourites (: Enjoy!!
OH LAY EE (Hokkien Mee, Lor Mee)
You’d be put off by the odd hours, and it’s slightly further off from a lot of the other things you’ll be seeing, and it’s tucked on this street that can be missed very easily. But FEAR NOT AND VENTURE ON BRAVELY because you will be rewarded with the most flavourful bowl of hokkien mee EVER. My friends and I loved this, we went back a second time, and we even ate 2 bowls each. Oops? We even talked to the auntie, and gave her raving reviews about her breathtaking (LOL yes I am mad I am describing this bowl of noodles as breathtaking) bowl of hokkien mee. She was very pleased, and I hope she gets more compliments, because really, this is so damn good!!
The prawn broth is just sooooo amazing. It is extremely thick and just bursting with prawn flavour with every bite, from start to end. It’s probably the effort of boiling this stock for hours on end and it pays off. They’re also generous with pork slices, prawns and fried shallots, and the chilli sauce is also spicy and adds even more tang to this already gorgeous bowl.
I absolutely loved it here!! Hope you have a great time here too if you decide to come here for breakfast (: It’s definitely underrated and not very prominent on blogs, but I hope you’ll like it (:
Oh Lay Ee Hokkien Mee
13 Gat Lebuh Presgrave
Mon, Wed-Sun: 5am to 11.40am
Closed on Tuesdays; Closed on every 1st and 15th of the month
TOH SOON CAFE (Toast & Eggs)
See the hand at the bottom of the photo? And that one piece of bread on the grill? Over the charcoal? Bread worth waiting for. But it’s actually really tiring for the guy who has to squat down like that to toast the bread, we thought.
It was a rainy last afternoon for us, and we were venturing down the streets and ready to go back to our hotel when we stumbled upon this crowded little alley, which was coincidentally, the famous Toh Soon Cafe! Everyone there was unfazed by the heavy rain, as tarps and panels were arranged to shelter everyone and keep them comfortable.
We had toast, soft boiled eggs, coffee and tea, and nasi lemak. The bread was soft and fluffy, and each piece toasted individually over a tiny charcoal stove. With homemade brown kaya and butter on this, this tasted like clouds. Sweet clouds. Look at that brown char!! It’s also good if you dip it into the perfectly done soft boiled eggs. Or coffee/ tea. We ordered second helpings, just because that bread goes down so easily. Nasi lemak was a compact little packet of rice, egg, sambal and ikan bilis, nothing too fancy but something I wouldn’t reject if it was on the table.
What a way to spend a lazy afternoon, or a way to wake up in the morning.
Toh Soon Cafe
Campbell Street, off Penang Road
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.118 E100 19.916
Mon-Sat: 8am to 6pm
KHENG PIN CAFE (Lor Bak)
HANDS DOWN BEST Lor Bak I’ve had in my LIFE. Uncle here serves up all sorts of fritters, which are incredibly crisp, not too oily and verrrry fresh. There’s lor bak (marinated pork in beancurd sheets), tofu, spring rolls, yam (I like!), sweet potato, fish, prawn rolls, squid fritters and prawn fritters. Each plate comes with homemade chili sauce and thick brown ‘lor’ as dips. The prawn and squid are popular, as Uncle makes sure that the ingredients are tip-top fresh, and it really shines through even though you think frying would conceal any lack of freshness. The squid and prawns were fresh and bouncy, and the batter is neither too thick nor too bland, it’s really perfectly seasoned with five spice powder. The lor bak is great too, and remains juicy even after frying. I would sit here and eat lor bak all day long, and I would waste all my calories on this fried food if I had to choose just one fried food in Penang.
We spoke to Uncle, who was very friendly, and was also another happy recipient of praise. He talked about how he used to come to Singapore for the Penang Hawkers’ Buffet at York Hotel, but he stopped going because he had to fry everything in the kitchen at the back, which meant that the fritters weren’t at its freshest when he dished them out to guests. Talk about not compromising on the quality of the food you serve up! (:
Kheng Pin Cafe
80 Penang Road, junction of Jalan Sri Bahari and Penang Road
Tue-Sun: 7am to 3pm (or till it finishes)
Closed on Mondays
PITT STREET KOAY TEOW THNG (Fishball Noodles)
These fishballs are probably the softest yet bounciest fishballs you’ll ever taste. It’s actually really cool how everyone, no matter what part of the world, travels for great food. The entire road that day was quiet, but this coffee shop was packed to the brim, with everyone devouring fishball noodles or fishball soup.
For good reason. The fishballs here are made from eel!! And that makes the fishballs a lot softer than the usual ones we have. We opted for the soup version and the soup was sweet, as a result of being boiled from pork and duck bones. The stall adds their own homemade pork fillet, which is almost like a meat paste, lard, fried shallots, garlic oil and the ever comforting soft kway teow. Oh and the chilli – red and green chillis, chopped garlic (!), soy sauce and a tinge of lime. So much work for a bowl of noodles, but it truly pays off!
Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng
183 Carnarvon Street
Tues – Sat: 9am to 4.30pm
Closed on Sun & Mon
Hop over next doors for Tiger Street Char Kway Teow, which is Char Kway Teow with duck egg, and is another rather talked about stall in Penang.
YI GARDEN (Wanton Mee, Oyster Omelette)
The wanton mee here was AMAZING! Noodles were wonderfully springy (handmade and hand-pulled), soup was well-boiled, even the charsiew was done well. The wantons were packed full of meat and shrimp, and the wanton skin was silky smooth and not overly thick. So delicious!! Do drop by here for supper, it is so worth it.
Oyster omelette is also rather good here. It’s slightly different from the Singapore one, chewier and starchier, but still very generous with the oysters.
Yi Garden Cafe
150-152 Jalan Macalister
Tel: 016-497 3319
Mon-Sat: 12pm to 12am
AIR ITAM MARKET (Penang Laksa)
You’re probably going to head to Kek Lok Si Temple to sightsee if you’re headed to Penang, so stop by here to have a bowl. The bowl looks messy, but it is chock full of flaky mackerel, shrimp paste and a rich assam soup. Also incredibly generous with chives, onions, mint and other things. Was enjoyable! You can head opposite to get some putu mayam too.
Air Itam Market, Jalan Pasar
Open daily from 11.30am to 8pm
LEBUH KENG KWEE (Teochew Chendol)
This is not located in a coffee shop, but trust me, EVERYONE knows about this place, and you’ll be guided by your ears picking up all the sounds on this street. It’s lively and so much joy to just stand there and watch the staff ladle out bowl after bowl of chendol. Ice maker churns out shaved ice, server packs it together, next guy slaps on red beans, pale green chendol, coconut milk and my favourite part – gula melaka. You pay, then you join the crowd next to the stall, and follow everyone who is slurping up everything in the bowl before it melts away in the Penang heat. You should eat it quick, because without the ice, it can become an overly sweet/ gelat mess. The chendol is made fresh, is easy to chew, and everything goes together as one of the most refreshing things you’ll enjoy on your food trail! They do have a coffee shop outlet which sells Penang laksa and rojak too, if you want to rest those legs.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
27, 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, next to Joo Hooi Cafe
Mon-Fri: 10.30am to 7pm, Sat & Sun: 10am to 7.30pm
BATU LAPCHANG MARKET (Pasembur, Char Kway Teow, Nonya Kueh)
Pasembur (Stall Number 8) – Malaysian Indian with shredded cucumber, potatoes, beancurd, turnip, fried octopus and drenched in a sweet spicy nut sauce. Like Indian rojak! Love the crunchy jellyfish sitting atop all that goodness.
Hokkien mee – all bowls of hokkien mee were enjoyable in Penang, this one wasn’t excluded.
Ice Kacang – generous toppings of cream corn, soft jelly, sweet and melt in your mouth red beans and fresh atap chee!
Char Kway Teow with duck egg – duck egg really adds additional texture and savoury flavour to the plate of noodles.
This kueh place, according to our local friend, opens at 3.30pm and sells out by 4pm. True enough, at 3.20pm, the moment the trays of kueh were sat down on the table tops, people just started swarming the area. My friend and I happily picked out at least one of every kueh. We didn’t photograph everything, but some highlights: the Kueh Dadar was soft with a moist coconut filling. The blue kueh which is to be dipped in homemade kaya was also different but very delectable and surprisingly tasty. The ang ku kuehs were filled with generous amounts of sweet peanut filling too. The kueh salat had strong pandan flavoured kaya on a bed of sticky and luscious glutinous rice. Very worth it, though very filling!
KAFE HENG HUAT (Two Sisters Char Kway Teow)
Our hunt for char kway teow kinda flopped… didn’t manage to find the Siam Road uncle despite trying a few times and couldn’t find the Dato Keramat one too since it moved to the Air Itam night market. But we had the famous two sisters one. It is more pricey by Penang standards, with a plate costing RM9, but they do give you huge and juicy prawns. And the char kway teow has that incredible wok hei, which isn’t always easy to come by.
Two Sister’s Char Kway Teow
Kafe Heng Huat
Lorong Selamat, off MacAlister Road
Open for lunch
HOT BOWL (Curry Mee)
Best curry mee! Worth the walk. This is near the Lorong Selamat char kway teow, so you can have one after the other. The soup is white because it’s a chicken soup base with coconut milk. You add in their own concoction of curry paste, which includes a wide variety of spices that I cannot name, and ta-dah, a delicious bowl of spicy, sweat-inducing curry mee. Love how it’s not too gelat and how you can eat that paste on its own. Generous helpings of tau kwa, pig blood, beansprouts and cuttlefish. They sell the fragrant curry paste in bottles, so you can bring it back to create your own curry mee too. Go for this curry mee, it’s the best one we tried in Penang.
Most people probably head here for the Ban Chang Kueh, which is Penang’s take on a pancake. It’s a thin, crispy shell with liberal helpings of margarine, sugar and peanuts. Variations include peanut + cream corn, with egg, with cheese.
Anson Road Market Pancake
Anson Road, right in front of Lok Pin
Open from 10am to 5pm
Since this was the first stop of the day, we had our breakfast here too. Decent bowls and tons of ingredients for everything that we ordered.
DE TAI TONG CAFE (Dim Sum)
This is a traditional coffee shop which serves up dim sum any time (well, almost) of the day. It was packed when we went there for dinner at 7/8pm, and is frequented by lots of locals. Sounds like Swee Choon? It’s lots of fun picking out the food that you want from the trolleys that go around, but you better be quick or you’ll get the servers very impatient. Most of the dim sum we tried wasn’t top notch restaurant quality, but it’s good enough to get your bellies satisfied. I liked the egg tarts and the carrot cake, although the latter was much oilier than I would normally prefer.
De Tai Tong Cafe
45 Lebuh Cintra
Dim Sum: 6am to 12pm, 6.15pm to 11.30pm daily
Other dishes: 11.30am to 2.30pm daily
There – a really long post that I took reaaally long to get up, but I hope it’s of some help! ENJOY PENANG!