The perks of having locals take you around their city are aplenty, especially when our travel itinerary is no longer confined to what the media covers and what the guidebooks mention. We are lucky that our born-and-bred Malaysian friends have very kindly taken us around their UNESCO World Heritage-listed hometown, Penang
Similar to most Southeast Asians, Malaysians’ way of greeting revolves around the question of “have you eaten yet”. Needless to say, food is a way of life here—something that Singaporeans can resonate with. Penang’s street food has been ranked as world-class and we wholeheartedly agree. We had the best plate of char kway teow at Penang and there is no turning back.
From Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng to Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng, here are five local dining destinations—Penangite natives frequent—you should eat at the next time you visit Penang.
While Penang’s cafe scene is growing and flourishing, it is the abundance of roadside hawker heroes that have captivated our stomachs and hearts. These mouthwatering local delicacies are only for the determined and patient foodies, as long waits accompanied by unpredictable opening hours are a norm at several famous hawkers such as Siam’s Road Char Kway Teow.
BANGKOK LANE MEE GORENG
Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng is an unassuming tiny pushcart situated within Seng Lee Coffee Shop and can be easily missed if you do not look hard enough. The family-run business is especially famous amongst Penangites, so much so that word of its fragrant mee goreng has too reached foreign tourists. A piping hot plate of mee goreng ranges from RM$3 to RM$7.
Watch in awe as the chef cooks up a storm in the steamy wok. Yellow noodles are fried over high heat with a secret blend of sweet and spicy tomato sauce, before beansprouts, chewy cuttlefish, eggs and potatoes are added into the mixture. The entire process is completed under a minute, where the cook simultaneously spins the gigantic pan whilst frying the dish.
280, Jalan Burma, George Town
10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
PITT STREET KOAY TEOW THNG
If you were wondering, Koay Teow Th’ng literally means ‘flat rice noodles soup’ when directly translated. The white flat noodles are served in a clear broth with an assortment of meat and seafood. Lettuce and onions are also used to give the overall dish and extra oomph. While it is common to see handmade fish balls in your bowl, do note that recipes vary across hawkers.
Over at Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng, eel is used to prepare the lovely delicate fishballs. They are served in a bowl of silky smooth flat white noodles and garnished with tender pork slices and fresh lettuce. A dry option is available too and don’t forget to savour their homemade chilli sauce! The local eatery is extremely popular, so be there early or risk missing out.
Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng
183, Carnarvon Street, 10100 Penang
SIAM ROAD CHAR KWAY TEOW
As its name implies, Siam Road Char Kway Teow is located along Siam Road and you can opt for takeout or dine at the nearby coffee shop. The locals love him so much that many have nicknamed him as the God of Char Kway Teow. Each aromatic plate of stir-fried noodles is served with bean sprouts, Chinese sausage, chives, cockles, eggs, fried pork lard and prawns.
Warning: It is common to wait up to 90 minutes (or more) to get your hands on a portion of these divine char kway teow. Before you lament on the ‘unnecessary’ wait, do know that the cook is staying true to his craft by frying only in small batches to ensure that no flavours have been compromised in the process. If anything, his stubbornness is a sign of genuine passion.
10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
SUPER HOKKIEN MEE
Super Hokkien Mee might not be as well known online, but by no means pale in comparison. In fact, it is incredibly popular amongst locals where Penangites would start queuing up before 8am to satisfy their cravings. It is located at One Corner Cafe, where the bulk of the patrons visit the hawker centre just to get a bowl of Super Hokkien Mee! P.s. They sell out really fast.
Penang’s Hokkien Mee is nothing alike Singapore and Kuala Lumpur’s renditions. Instead, it bears most resemblance to Singaporean’s Prawn Mee. Yellow noodles and vermicelli are dunked into the rich shrimp broth along with a myriad of ingredients, namely prawns, sliced pork and fried garlic. The soup is very spicy on its own, but you can always opt for more chilli.
One Corner Cafe
4, Jalan Bawasah, George Town
10050 George Town, Malaysia
WANTON MEE AT CHULIA STREET
When daylight wanes away, Lebuh Chulia street awakens from her afternoon nap and transforms into a bustling food street. One particular vendor—with no visible signboard—is exceptionally famous for its springy wanton noodles. It is the go-to place for locals and tourists alike, even before Anthony Bourdain sang praises of this glorious dish.
As with all the other legendary vendors, waiting is almost mandatory. The noodles are boiled, dipped into cool water, reheated and drained to achieve an irresistibly springy texture. The noodles are served in dark sauce and the result is delightfully moist. The dish is completed with deep-fried wantons, boiled smooth wantons and a handful of tasty char siew slices.
Lebuh Chulia on the corner of Lebuh Carnavon