Penang is a foodie’s heaven with cheap and good hawker food practically around every corner. Before I left for the trip, I declared that I wasn’t the least bit interested. I wanted heritage trails, not food trails. Yeah, right. Within 10 minutes of arriving at our hotel, we went, “hey, do you think it’s too early for chendul?” It didn’t help that the tourism folks place food trail brochures at the airport, complete with a map detailing where the famous hawker stalls are. And at the hotel, friendly staff happily volunteer information on where they think the best char kway teow is and more importantly, it’s just a 5-minute walk away.
We ended up eating six meals a day. We shared most of the dishes but still, I ate A LOT. Every mouthful was oily and sinful, and soooooo good. My gluttony came with a price. My stomach gave up and crashed on the last day of our trip. I ended up wide awake all night suffering from the worst attack of gastric reflux in my life.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! 🙂
Here are my top picks for hawker fare in Penang:
There’s only one place locals will direct you to – the famous Penang Road Teochew Chendul. This push cart stall located in a narrow alley off Penang Road has been serving bowls of this delicious dessert since 1945.
Here I learnt the first lesson about pigging out in Penang. Don’t look if you’re particular about cleanliness. Just eat. Hawker food in Penang is pretty much street food, and some of the yummiest dishes are cooked and served in not so pristine conditions. I was nervous about ordering iced dessert from a push cart in an alley. Was the ice clean? Did they leave the coconut milk out for too long? Then I took one look at the crowd milling around the stall and figured that the thriving business spoke for itself. After a weekend of non-stop eating, I can safely say that the hawkers take care to ensure that customers don’t end up with food poisoning. A local shared that it’s a very competitive market for hawkers in Penang, and stalls that serve bad food soon go out of business.
The Hubs is a chendul fan and here’s his verdict on the Penang Road stall – GOOD! It’s not cloyingly sweet, with the light, fragrant coconut milk sweetened by just the right amount of palm sugar. Recommended
Address: Joo Hooi Cafe, 475 Jalan Penang (12pm – 5.30pm)
2. Lor Ba
Think tender strips of pork seasoned with five-spice powder, encased in a thin layer of bean curd skin and lovingly deep fried to crispy perfection. That pretty much sums up the lor ba at Kheng Pin. We call it ngoh hiang in Singapore and the Malaysians call it lor ba. Besides the pork rolls, the stall also serves deep fried bean curd, fish and shrimp fritters. Deep frying is an art – the oil cannot be too hot and your timing has to be just right so that the food is not left in the oil for too long, resulting in a greasy meal.
The uncle at Kheng Pin has perfected his art, and his lor ba is moist, flavorful, crispy and not too oily. The fritters are served with a sweet chill sauce and a bowl of delicious lor sauce. Highly recommended.
Btw, if you’re visiting Kheng Pin, their wanton mee, chicken rice and char kway teow are also pretty good, and come recommended.
Address: Kedai Kopi Kheng Pin, 80 Jalan Penang (11.30am – 2.30pm)
3. Claypot Nasi Bryani
We hadn’t planned on eating Indian food during this trip but chanced upon Kapitan Restaurant while hunting for one of the art murals. I call this fate, and when nasi briyani beckons, I don’t question destiny 🙂 Kapitan Restaurant is famous for its tandoori chicken and claypot nasi briyani. We tried the beef and chicken briyani and loved both. The meat was tender, flavorful and went wonderfully well with the fragrant rice and spices. We were a little disappointed that the rice didn’t look like it was cooked in the claypot, crispy bits and all. But serving the meal in a claypot was unconventional and helped the flavors come together nicely.
Address: 93 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown
… Part 2 to follow soon I promise 🙂