Food Guide: Street Food in Penang

Food For Thought - Sea Pearl Lagoon Cafe Oyster Omelette

When it comes to best island experiences in the world, there are few that can compare to that of Penang, the pearl of the Orient. The island boasts a complex and rich history due to its pivotal position during the colonial era. This has resulted in Penang becoming a melting pot of multicultural identities from the Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. Not only is Penang an unbelievable food haven, its unique position in history has resulted in George Town being named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Getting There

For those who want to travel quick and easy, there is always air travel, and Penang is only 45 minutes away. One such site for best online deals is Traveloka, where you can simply book your air tickets and make hotel reservations through their website, which gives you best prices, but the best added value benefit above all, there are no hidden costs or fees.

Penang Street Food

Penang is home to some of the best street food in the world. Being infused with a rich multicultural history has caused some of the most dramatically intense flavours that you can imagine. Penang is infamous for its blend of different cuisines resulting in some of the tastiest dishes you will encounter.

Food For Thought - Ah Leng Char Kuay Teow

Penang is home to the infamous Char Kuay Teow, a fried rice noodle consisting of The main noodle used is the flat rice noodles, hor fun (河粉) in the Cantonese dialect, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, chilli paste, belachan (a Malaysian fermented shrimp paste), garlic, beansprouts, blood cockles, prawns, Chinese chives, egg, and pork lard. There are halal variations of this dish as well. You can see my previous post on Char Kuay Teow to understand the history of this dish better.

Ah Leng Char Kuay Teow (炒粿条)
Restaurant Tong Hooi (東園茶餐室)
358, Jalan Dato Kramat,
10150 Georgetown, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 2.30 pm, closed on Tuesdays.

Food For Thought - Ayer Itam Asaam Laksa

There are few dishes that stand out as much as the Assam Laksa. This soup noodle dish is made with a soup base consisting of a sour, fish and assam (Malay for tamarind) broth. This dish achieved global infamy for being listed as No. 7 of the world’s most delicious food according to CNN Travel. The main ingredients for this dish are ikan kembung ( a type of mackerel), cucumbers, shallots, chillies, shredded pineapple, lettuce, mint, daun kesum (laksa leaves / Vietnamese mint), bunga kantan (torch ginger), and a shrimp paste called hae ko (蝦羔) in the Hokkien dialect. The dish is served with thick rice noodles called laksa noodles. This is probably one of the most interesting dishes you will ever taste due to its amazing twist of sour, sweet and tangy, all at the same time.

Ayer Itam Assam Laksa
Pasar Air Itam,
Jalan Pasar,
11500 Air Itam, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm.

Food For Thought - Penang Prawn Noodles

If you like a little spicy kick, you have to try the Penang Prawn Mee. This spicy prawn based soup noodle is available throughout the island. The naming of this dish is unique in that it is called Hokkien Mee (Hokkien noodles) by people from Penang, and Hae Mee (prawn noodles) by people outside of Penang, mee being the Hokkien word for egg noodles, although some may have it with bihun (rice vermicelli). The main ingredients for the broth are, as you can guess it, prawns. The broth is made with dried shrimp, prawn shells, pepper, garlic, chilli paste, and at some traditional establishments, even with pork bones and lard. Most places serve it simply with medium to small prawns, pork slices, fish cake, bean sprouts, kangkung (Chinese watercress), and boiled egg, however, some places go the whole nine yards with add-ons like roast pork, pork intestines, squid, spare ribs and large prawns, which intensifies the flavour quite a bit.

Ah Soon Kor Hokkien Mee
162, Jalan Macalister,
11400 Georgetown, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm and from 6.00 pm to 11.00 pm.

Food For Thought - Northam Beach Cafe Oyster Omlette

Another must have in Penang is the Oyster Omelette, a seemingly simple dish, yet great ones are hard to find. Known colloquially as o chien (蚝煎) in the Hokkien dialect, this dish consists of fresh oysters, eggs, potato or tapioca starch, chai por (preserved radish), coriander and chopped garlic. A key element to a good oyster omelette is also the accompanying chilli sauce, which makes all the difference. Essentially, there are 2 varieties of oyster omelette, one with more egg (pictured above), and the other with more starch (pictured at the top).

Northam Beach Café
58, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah,
10050 Georgetown, Penang.
Opening Hours: 6.00 pm to 11.00 pm.

Food For Thought - Penang Road Teowchew Chendol

Penang is home to one of the most famous desserts in Malaysia, the Cendol. This icy dessert is made from green coloured jelly noodles made from rice flour, flavoured with pandan (screw pine), red bean, grass jelly, creamed sweet corn, and is served in coconut milk. This is topped with a large dollop of shaved ice, and brown palm sugar, ensuring you’re able to quench your thirst.

Penang Road Famous Teowchew Chendul
27, Lebuh Keng Kwee,
10100 Georgetown, Penang.
Business Hours: 12.00 pm to 7.00 pm.

For a more comprehensive guide on Penang food, see our Ultimate Guide: Penang Street Food.

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Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Managing Director of Black Wolf Digital, a digital marketing agency.

45 Comments

  1. Just stumbled across your site as we touched down in Penang looking for good food.

    We tried the kway teow you suggested and wow, it was as delicious as you made it sound!

    Thank you, sir.

    • Thank you. Hope I did it justice, and I hope you got the additional top ups with the duck egg and mantis prawn. 🙂

      • We actually did, @Nick. One with duck egg and one with mantis prawn, for a grand total of just RM20 for both! Very good value, and very good food.

        Thanks again.

  2. Pretty awesome list.. Can’t wait for the other parts! Still haven’t had that char koay teow tho!

    • The one at Ah Leng is my favourite. The one at Lorong Selamat comes in second for me. Sisters is quite good too. 🙂

      • Please go try Ah Soon’s CKT in Hillside (Jalan Sungai Kelian) next time you’re here. Sisters (+rm3-5 for a pinch of crab meat?!) n Lrg Selamat are good but wayyy overrated la.. portions getting smaller n prices going up.

    • Roadtrip, foodtrip! Make a list and let’s start ticking it off. You need to tell me more about authentic indian cuisine in KL.

    • Haha… maybe we can do a road trip when you next visit! Hows things in Scotland?

    • There’s a really good one in KL. Well, PJ. It’s in paramount. The best I’ve had actually. Better than the ones in Penang.

  3. Wow, are you a penangite as well? I’m from Penang too, but rarely get a chance to go home for a while. Good writeup and nice noms!

    • I’m actually from KL, but I’m quite a familiar with Penang food. So much good food over there, and not just in George Town, all over.

      I’m actually going to release a 4 parter to this so watch this space. 🙂

  4. Ayer Itam Laksaaa! I think I had a bowl of laksa at every single place we stopped for food LOL

  5. Haihhhh!! Nicholas….tempt me with all those good Penang food. My heart goes to O Chien! So long never go penang.

    • The O chien in penang is good because its usually really fresh over there. I’m still looking for some places that are that good in KL. Hopefully I will find one soon.

  6. My favorite Asam Laksa & Oyster Omelette!! Looked so yummy yummy!! Thanks for the sharing, will keep it as I will go Penang this end of year!! Thanks ya!!

  7. I love Penang food but didn’t try all as it’s not easy find parking in Penang. Hope to go again 😀

  8. Penang food always the best. Can introduce more place? Hehe. Then I can and explore when I at Penang.

    • Sure Betty! This is a four parter. Will let you know when the next part comes out. 🙂

  9. besides my own hometown food, penang food is definitely the best after, especially the hawker food, they are all my favs

  10. You are making me hungry! The food looks awesome and yummy is time to go visit Penang again!

  11. Forgot when was the last time I went to Penang. I bet it was end of last year. Shall pay a visit again this year!

  12. Perfect guide! Just what i needed to read before i head to Penang. Thank you! This would make my planning easier now

    Loves,
    Aliza Sara

  13. Looking at all these food this morning before breakfast is kind of suffering…
    I miss Penang Food. Need to plan a trip up north…

    • Penang food is seriously the best. I’ll be releasing a part 2 on different Penang street food soon.

  14. Hello, i was wondering are there any scrumptious, jaw dropping, affordable and most importantly not so overrated seafood places in Penang that you could possibly recommend? Much appreciated!

    • Hi Oli,

      There are quite a few places in Penang that is affordable, which although seafood is never cheap, will not break the bank. You can try Sea Pearl Lagoon Cafe Restaurant in Tanjung Tokong Tua Pek Kong. They serve really good salt baked prawns.

      This is the address:
      338, Jalan Tokong Thai Pak Koong,
      Tanjong Tokong,
      11200 Tanjung Bungah,
      Penang.

      • Thanks for the pertinent info Nicholas, i will definitely rummage this place out. Have a good evening 🙂

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