Whet your appetite for a taste of the best of Penang, courtesy of Lights, Camera, Backpack.
Flic and Nick clearly had a great time travelling around Malaysia. So far, they’ve shown us their favourite coffee shops and street art in Georgetown, as well as given us a detailed guide on seeing Kuala Lumpur in 24 hours. Check their profile for even more travel inspiration and to see what’s new with the travelling pair.
Penang’s the food capital of Malaysia and described by many as a food paradise. For a small island, the quality and diversity of the culinary scene’s incredible and you can taste the influences of its rich cultural history in every dish. After 3 weeks eating our way around Penang, we’re here to advise on the best things to eat, and where to find find it.
The tastiest Penang dishes you must try
Char kway teow
Literally meaning ‘stir fried rice cake strips’, these are thick strips of fried rice noodles served with bean sprouts, chilli, prawns, egg, cockles, chopped Chinese chives and Chinese sausage or chicken. All of this is seasoned with light and dark soy sauce and shrimp paste. It’s almost the Malaysian version of Pad Thai and one of our favourite dishes in Penang.
To try the best char kway teow, look out for a woman we call ‘noodle lady’ (that’s probably not her real name) opposite the 7 Eleven on Chulia Street in Georgetown.
Though Penang serves more Chinese style dishes, there’s a 24-hour restaurant called Nasi Dalcha Kassim Mustafa in Little India, that serves the best tandoori chicken we’ve ever had.
This is a thin pancake made from coconut milk batter and deep fried. After, the cooked shell’s folded into a pocket and filled with sugar, crushed peanuts and creamed corn.
Nutella and banana’s the best filling! Our favourite apam balik is from a hawker stall on the main road in Batu Ferringhi.
Though traditionally an Indonesian dish, you can also find an excellent rending in Penang. A rich, dry curry, it’s robust with flavours of ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, and a bunch of other spices.
The Penang twist on rendang is to pile on the sugar, which isn’t surprising in a country that insists on adding sugar syrup to your pineapple juice! The best beef rendang we tried is at Helena Cafe in Batu Ferringhi.
A favourite dessert with the locals more than with us! Penang’s cendol (sometimes spelled chendol or chendul) is everywhere in Penang, and worth trying whilst you’re here. Rice flour is mixed with green food colouring and formed into little worm-like jellies.
It’s then served with shaved ice, coconut/soya milk, palm sugar and red beans. It’s refreshing on a hot day, and Penang’s Road Famous Teochew Chendul Ice Kacang is where to go to try it.
Minced belly pork marinated in five-spice, then wrapped in a bean curd skin and deep fried, Lor Bak’s the ultimate sausage.
Chopped into bite-sized pieces and served with a chilli dipping sauce, we couldn’t get enough of it. Visit the Lor Bak stand in CF Food Court to get your hands on some.
Bamboo charcoal noodle
These noodles apparently have many health benefits and contain over 400 different minerals. However, aside from that, they taste amazing. One of our favourite noodle shops in Georgetown — Yeap Noodles — make theirs fresh every day and serve a steaming bowl of bamboo charcoal noodle in seaweed soup.
They also do some excellent chilli noodles, though insanely spicy. We ate this a lot in Georgetown because most tourists were unable to handle the heat. As a result, they would order a second, milder dish, and pass the chilli noodles on to us!
Double roast pork
Probably one of the most delicious things we’ve ever eaten, the double roast pork is soft, succulent, sweet, salty, chewy and crispy in all the right places. This isn’t just a recommendation of a dish, but also of a specific restaurant, Tek Sen.
We’ve never seen Tek Sen mentioned in any guide books or food blogs, but it’s famous amongst Georgetown locals. The sign’s faded, but you’ll be able to spot it by the huge queue of diners waiting outside. It’s so popular that you’re given a menu while in the queue and asked to order before you sit down to save time.
Get there early because the double roast pork is their most popular dish, and sells out quickly!
Imagine the freshest oysters garnished with coriander, parsley and basil, then mixed with a batter made from plain flour, tapioca flour, rice flour and egg.
This oyster omelet is seasoned with plenty of soya sauce and fish sauce before being fried to perfection. We love the hawker stall in Long Beach Food Court in Batu Ferringhi, and you might too!
This laksa is a hot and sour fish-based noodle broth. Assam is Malay for tamarind, which gives the laksa a sour taste. The dish varies from hawker stall, but usually consists of poached and flaked mackerel, lemongrass, galangal, chilli, mint, pineapple and other good stuff.
The best assam laksa in Penang is cooked by the side of the road at the bottom on Penang Hill.
These boiled noodles may not sound like the most exciting thing on this list, but they’re delicious. Yellow egg noodles cooked in a sweet, spicy gravy made from shrimp broth, the noodles are topped with beansprouts, lime juice, fried tofu, shredded chicken.
The hawker stall on the corner of Armenian Street and Lorong Soo Hong in Georgetown serves up the best.
Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak is boiled rice with coconut milk and pandan leaves, topped with spicy sambal sauce, anchovies and boiled egg and wrapped into a pyramid shaped package in a banana leaf.
It’s usually eaten for breakfast and you can find it at most cafes and hawker stalls in the morning. We prefer it as an afternoon snack, and take ours from the teh and kopi stall on the corner of Jalan Pintal Tali and Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leon.
This is probably the unhealthiest ‘salad’ you’ll ever eat! A selection of deep-fried seafood, topped with julienned cucumber, potato, bean curd, turnip and bean sprouts, it’s then covered in a very sweet, thick potato-based sauce.
The sauce is quite sweet, but if you want to try it, you can find the best pasember at the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.
This is a fresh spring roll made with a fine crepe wrapper, and then filled with goodies like finely grated and steamed turnip, sliced tofu, chopped peanuts, and shredded omelet. It’s finished off with a dash sauce of hoi sin, chilli, shrimp paste and garlic.
You can find our favourite popiah place down a small alleyway opposite the 7 Eleven on Chulia Street in Georgetown. However, take note as it only opens in the evenings.
The word ‘rojak’ is Malay for ‘mixture’, and it’s reflected in the dish. Ingredients like cucumber, pineapple, turnip, and mango, are smothered in the same sweet brown sauce as pasembur, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts and ground pepper.
As we said before, we find the sauce too sweet, but if you’d like to try it, head to the CF Food Court in Georgetown.
This is Malaysia’s most common dish and let’s face it, everyone loves a good satay. Strips of beef, chicken or pork are marinated in a mixture of herbs and spices, then placed on skewers and cooked over hot coals, or a wood fire.
Malaysians often brush coconut milk over the skewers during cooking. This not only makes it extra delicious, but it also prevents the outer edges from burning too much. Once cooked through, the satay’s served with a peanut-based sauce. We particularly enjoy the satay selection at Seaview Sizzle in Batu Ferringhi.
As you can imagine, it was a difficult task trying and choosing the tastiest food and the best places to eat them in Penang!
Still, we hope our hard ‘work’ will help you make the best foodie choices when you visit.
All photos (aside from cover) courtesy of Lights, Camera, Backpack.