Ultimate Guide: Penang Street Food

Ultimate Guide - Penang Street Food | Food For Thought

The Pearl of the Orient is definitely filled with many drops of exquisite precious culinary pearls, from the internationally known Asam Laksa, to the Char Kway Teow. The plethora of different Penang food, and its variations, is splattered all over the island. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some of the best tasting quality food you will find in Malaysia, as is a melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and British influences. We now explore 26 dishes of Penang’s best street food, some common, and others generally not found outside the island of Penang.

In our previous Food Guide: Street Food in Penang, we introduced five iconic Penang dishes. This time round, we want to take you on another gastronomic adventure in quality and flavour by introducing more places to visit than our previous post which are famous on their own. Most of the Chinese food in Penang is of Teochew origin, although most of the Teochew people in Penang have been Hokkienised. There is also a predominant Mamak culture in Penang, mamak being the Indiam Muslim diaspora, and this is seen in their dishes. As such, there really is an intermingling of food and culture in Penang.

26 OF PENANG FOOD YOU HAVE TO TRY

Food For Thought’s selection

1. Apam +
2. Ark Kway Teow Th’ng +
3. Asam Laksa +
4. Asam Laksa Lemak (Siamese Laksa) +
5. Char Kway Kak +
6. Char Kway Teow +
7. Chee Cheong Fun +
8. Chendol +
9. Curry Mee +
10. Hainanese Chicken Pie +
11. Hae Mee (Penang Prawn Mee) +
12. Kway Chap +
13. Kway Teow Th’ng (Kway Teow Soup) + 
14. Lor Bak +
15. Lor Mee +
16. Mee Goreng Mamak +
17. Mee Jawa +
18. Muah Chee +
19. Nasi Dalca +
20. Nasi Kandar +
21. Oh Chien (Oyster Omelette) +
22. Popiah +
23. Rojak Buah (Fruit Rojak) +
24. Rojak Pasembur (Mamak Rojak) +
25. Sup Kambing +
26. Wan Tan Mee + 

To see each item click on the + icon beside.

APAM /APPAM /APOM MANIS

Best Apam in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Considered a light snack the Apam, also spelled Appam, Apong and Apom Manis (sweet apom), is one of Penang’s most loved foods. This pancake hails from Kerala in Southern India, which is simply made from rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, sugar and salt. In Malaysia, there is a number of different variations to this dish such as the Chinese Ban Chien Koay, and Malay Apam Balik. There are different variations in flavour and crispiness, but they all have the common ingredient of flour. The Apong is the thinnest of the variations and is also crispiest, and not thick like the Ban Chien Koay. But in all honestly, they each taste good.

The key to a good Apom is for it to be just the right crispy on its skirting, while maintaining a fluffy and sweet centre. As Apom is usually made with eggs, it gives it a nice mouth feel balanced with the slight rich flavour of the coconut milk. For a good Apom, do try out the one at Kafe Sin Hup Aun at Pulau Tikus.

Apom is a Halal and Vegetarian dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Apom in Penang at the following: –

Sin Hup Aun Café (新合安茶室)
Jalan Pasar,
10350 Pulau Tikus, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Kedai Kopi New Cathay (新國泰茶室)
317E, Jalan Burma,
10350 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 2.0o pm.

ARK KWAY TEOW TH’NG / DUCK KWAY TEOW SOUP

Best Duck Kway Teow Th'ng in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Penang is famous for its Koay Teow Th’ng, but there is a variation which uses duck meat and offal which lends to a richer taste, which is simply named Ark Koay Teow Th’ng (鴨粿条汤) also known as Duck Kway Teow Soup. This dish consists of flat rice noodles, known as hor fun or he fen (河粉), in Cantonese and Mandarin respectively; and kuay teow (条汤) in Hokkien. Other ingredients include fish balls, beansprouts, sliced duck liver, duck gizzard, and duck meat. This dish is then garnished with spring onions and fried garlic. The Ark Koay Teow Th’ng is cooked in a light broth, making this dish relatively light. Although using duck offal as part of its ingredients, this dish does not come off as a heavy meal.

The Duck Kway Teow Th’ng at Cecil Street Market is light and tasty, with just the right amount of meat. The duck offal is also cooked perfectly, where its not overcooked and not raw at the same time. 

According to our taste, you can find the best Duck Kway Teow Th’ng in Penang at the following: –

Lum Lai Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng (南来鸭肉粿条汤)
Cecil Street Market Hawker Center

40-48, Lebuh Cecil,
10300 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.30 am to 7.00 pm.
Closed every alternate Wednesdays.
113 Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng (台牛后)
113, Lebuh Melayu,
10100 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 12.00 pm.
Closed on Sundays.

ASAM LAKSA

Best Asam Laksa in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

There are few dishes that stand out as much as the Asam 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 fermented shrimp paste called hae ko (蝦羔) in the Hokkien dialect. Other important ingredients in an Asam Laksa are lemongrass, galangal, dried chillies, red chillies, turmeric and belachan (a fermented shrimp paste). The difference between hae ko and belachan is that hae ko comes in the form of a thick black sauce and is slightly sweetened, quite like molasses. Belachan on the other hand comes in rock-like pieces and is usually more pungent. 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 sweet, sour and tangy, all at the same time.

A key component to a good Asam Laksa is for the broth to be thick and filled with mackerel. The one at Ayer Itam is famous for having an infinity pot, where the same stock is used. Although situated by a market, this place is guaranteed to please. Another surprisingly good one is Laksalicous on Jalan Hutton. You wouldn’t expect an upmarket-esque looking shop to taste as good as a street side stall, but this one does deserve a visit.

Asam Laksa is a Halal dish.

 According to our taste, you can find the best Asam Laksa in Penang at the following: –

Ayer Itam Asam Laksa (槟城亚依淡巴刹叻沙)
Pasar Air Itam,
Jalan Pasar,
11500 Air Itam, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 8.00 pm.
Laksalicous
123, Jalan Hutton,
10050 Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.30 am to 7.30 pm.

ASAM LAKSA LEMAK / SIAMESE LAKSA / NYONYA LAKSA

Best Asam Laksa Lemak in Penang or Siamese Laksa | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Any regular visitor to Penang would be acquainted with the Asam Laksa, but there exists another version, the Laksa Lemak, also known as Siamese Laksa or Nyonya Laksa. This soup noodle is made with all the trimmings of the Asam Laksa, complete with a tamarind and fish stock, ikan kembung (horse mackerel), shredded pineapple, cucumber, lettuce, daun kesum (Vietnamese mint), mint leaves, bunga kantan (torch ginger blossoms), hae ko (蝦羔), belachan, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, dried chillies, red chillies and thick laksa noodles. The difference is in the stock, where coconut milk is added and cooked into the broth, essentially a combination of the sourness from the tamarind fish stock and richness of the coconut curry. The result is something that has the sour kick of the Asam Laksa (although less tangy), and the wholesome mouth feel of a curry.

There are a few places that make this dish, and some will call it Siamese Laksa. The one at Sin Hwa would be recommended if you are in George Town (although we found it a little sweet). If you like a thicker broth, try Kim’s Laksa which has a richer broth. The setback is that it is situated at Balik Pulau, the other side of Penang island.

Asam Laksa Lemak is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Asam Laksa Lemak in Penang at the following: –

Sin Hwa Coffee Shop (新華茶室)
329, Jalan Burma,
10350 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
Closed on Thursdays.
Kim’s Laksa ()
Nan Guang Coffee Shop (南光)
11000 Balik Pulau, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm.
Wednesdays to Sundays.

CHAR KWAY KAK / CHAI TOW KWAY

Best Char Kway Kak in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you are well acquainted with carrot cake (the eastern variety made with daikon), you will be used to the pan-fried variety found at most Chinese restaurants, however, in Penang, there is a cubed and diced variety that goes through a frying process, imparting additional flavour. This dish is known as Char Kway Kak (炒粿角) fried rice cubes or Chai Tow Kway (菜頭粿), preserved radish rice cubes, both in the Hokkien dialect; and is made from steamed rice and white radish (daikon, mooli) cubes, preserved radish, garlic and chicken or duck eggs. Some varieties use bean sprouts, but this is a personal preference. The main flavours are imparted using sauce and flavouring including dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, and sometimes using a fish sauce. Another delicacy that would seem to set it apart from its cousin the Char Kway Teow is that this dish has a strong but delicious flavour due to the high umami content of the chai por (菜脯, preserved radish) used.

A good Char Kway Kak has a good radish to flour ratio, meaning the higher the amount of radish, the more flavourful it is. The one at Macalister Lane is pretty good and if possible, ask for additional chai por and extra egg if you want that extra burst of flavour. Some places also let you add prawns and mantis prawns, but you should try it in its original and unadulterated form.

According to our taste, you can find the best Char Kway Kak in Penang at the following: –

Union Primary School Char Kway Kak
Burmah Road,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 pm to 10.00 pm.
Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Seow Fong Lye Café (小蓬莱茶室)
94C, Macalister Lane,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.30am to 1.00 pm.

CHAR KWAY TEOW

Best Char Kway Teow in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Penang is home to the infamous Char Kuay Teow (炒粿条), a fried rice noodle consisting of kuay teow (条汤), a flat rice noodle, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, chilli paste, garlic, beansprouts, blood cockles, prawns, Chinese chives, eggs, and pork lard. There are halal variations of this dish as well, but in Penang, the more common variety uses pork lard for that extra flavour. You can see in my previous post on the Char Kuay Teow the full history of this dish for a deeper understanding of its origin. A good Char Kway Teow must be cooked with the right amount of garlic and lard as it adds to its overall fragrance. However, many places tend to use too much oil leaving a too greasy feel. Most importantly, the dish must be cooked with charcoal, and having enough “wok hei”, a term used for the right kind of heat used in the frying process. When served on a banana leaf, the heat from the fried noodles help release some of the oils from the banana leaf adding to the fragrance. 

Ah Leng’s Char Kway Teow, one with giant prawns, which can be upsized with mantis shrimp as well, comes highly recommended followed by the one at Lorong Selamat, but to be honest, there are many other worthy mentions such as the one on Siam Road (a little too greasy for our taste) and Sister’s on Macalister Road. The thing about most of the famous vendors are that they are very particular when it comes to their art, so they may get upset if you ask for a reduction in oil.

According to our taste, you can find the best Char Kway Teow in Penang at the following: –

Ah Leng Char Kuay Teow (啊龍炒粿条)
Restaurant Tong Hooi (東園茶餐室)

358, Jalan Dato Kramat,
10150 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 2.30 pm.
Closed on Tuesdays.
Kafe Heng Huat (兴发茶室)
108, Lorong Selamat,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Closed on Tuesdays.

CHEE CHEONG FUN

Best Chee Cheong Fun in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you like a dish that is very light, you should have a gander at the Chee Cheong Fun (豬腸粉) alternatively Zyu Cheung Fan, literally meaning pig intestine noodles, due to its shape. This dish of Cantonese origin is made of thick flat rice noodles, and because of the large Cantonese diaspora in Malaysia, has its own versions depending on location. The general form of Chee Cheong Fun throughout Malaysia is usually served with a sweet sauce called tim zheong (甜酱), which is a variation of the common hoisin sauce; chilli sauce and garnished with sesame seeds. The other common version that you find in Malaysia is similar to the Hong Kong Cheong Fun, served with sweetened soy sauce and chilli oil (or in some versions a Malaysianised chilli oil sambal hybrid). Then there is the Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun which is served with preserved radish and shallots. The variety in Penang however, is served with sesame seeds, chilli sauce and hae ko (蝦羔), a prawn paste. This gives it a thick and sweet consistency, and imparts a seafood flavour to the dish.

If you like your Chee Cheong Fun with a power packed flavour from the hae ko, I highly suggest the one at Seow Fong Lye Café as its sauce is very thick and fragrant from the special recipe in their hae ko used. However, if you prefer something a little lighter and runnier, the one at Sin Yin Nam Café would be for you.

Chee Cheong Fun is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Chee Cheong Fun in Penang at the following: –

Seow Fong Lye Café (小蓬莱茶室) (Pushcart outside)
94C, Macalister Lane,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.30am to 1.00 pm.
Sin Yin Nam Cafe (新映南餐室)
New Lane,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm.

CHENDOL

Best Chendol in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Penang is home to one of the most famous desserts in Malaysia, the Cendol, sometimes spelled Chendol or Chendul. 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 gula Melaka (palm sugar), ensuring you’re able to quench your thirst. The key to a good cendol lies in three elements. The first is the Cendol itself, where it has to be small in size, but not too small. There must also be enough of pandan used in the making, ensuring it carries a flavour of its own. The second important element is the gula Melaka used. The gula Melaka must be authentic and has a sweet, but not overpowering sweetness. High quality gula Melaka has a tinge of sourness to it, giving it its unique taste. Some places however will try to use brown sugar as a replacement, but this changes its authenticity. The third element is the freshness of the coconut milk. This plays an important role as low quality or canned coconut milk will not have the same flavour, and may even taste a little rancid.

There are many cendol stalls in Penang, but by far the most famous is literally named Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul. It fits all the criterion as described above. The one that we find as second runner up, coincidentally, is the one opposite the first stall, which is named Penang Road Famous Chendol. They both taste really good to us, so you would have to try them both out for yourself as some would say the second stall is better.

Cendol is a Halal and Vegetarian dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Cendol in Penang at the following: –

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (槟城律驰名潮州煎蕊)
27, Lebuh Keng Kwee,
10100 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 12.00 pm to 7.00 pm.
Penang Road Famous Chendol
27, Lebuh Keng Kwee,
10100 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 12.00 pm to 7.00 pm.

CURRY MEE / CURRY LAKSA

Best Curry Mee in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

When it comes to amalgamation of flavours, a visit to Penang definitely calls for the tasting of the Penang Curry Mee (咖喱麵) or Curry Laksa (咖喱喇沙). This oriental delight uses a shrimp stock and coconut milk as the base, giving it a very strong base. Chilli paste, sambal, curry powder, dried tofu puffs, prawns, chicken, cuttlefish, egg, mint leaves, and blood cockles are then added to give it all that extra punch in flavour and textures. For the more adventurous, additional ingredients may be added such as chicken blood pudding, cubes of cured and salted blood, reminiscent of black pudding, only much smoother in texture and less pungent in flavour. Noodles that are used are either mee (yellow egg noodles) or meehoon (rice vermicelli). Some variations you will find exclusively in Penang include the Penang White Curry Mee, where you only add in the sambal at the end that changes the white milky broth to the orange hued goodness that we are accustomed to.

If you are going to Ayer Itam to feast on the famous Assam Laksa, do not forget to save some space for the Two Sisters Penang White Curry by the roadside, its worth the journey and you will be disappointed if you went all the way there and did not taste it. The curry mee here has a thin broth and curried cuttle fish which gives it a nice savoury punch. The other place we highly recommend is the stall outside Kafe Heng Huat serving a white curry mee. This one comes with a nice mix of seafood, blood pudding and strong curry seafood broth, definitely worth a try.

According to our taste, you can find the best Curry Mee in Penang at the following: –

Kafe Heng Huat (兴发茶室) (Stall outside)
108, Lorong Selamat,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Closed on Tuesdays.
Two Sisters Curry Mee (姐妹咖喱麵)
Off Ayer Itam Market,
Jalan Ayer Itam,
11500 Air Itam, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.30 am to 1.00 pm.

HAINANESE CHICKEN PIE

Best Hainanese Chicken Pie in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

The island of Penang has been home to many colonial dishes due to its pivotal role during that colonial era, and one of the most common dishes you will find throughout Malaysia is the Hainanese chicken rice. This dish that we want to highlight today however, is the Hainanese Chicken Pie, a creation that definitely speaks to its colonial Asian influences in a hearty British style pie. This dish consists of peas, carrots, and onions, very common Malaysian-Hainanese ingredients, as well as button mushrooms, chicken and egg. The base of the sauce is primarily made from soy sauce, cinnamon, white pepper and cloves. This is all baked in a delicious puff pastry. The Hainanese chicken pie would seem like a common puff pastry, but the flavours achieved is no simple task. There is a risk of over cooking the ingredients, where the chicken becomes too dry. It is also important, as for most pastry dishes, that the pastry itself is not undercooked on the inside.

One of the longest standing shops in Penang that does a good Hainanese chicken pie would be Loke Thye Kee, where the flavour of the pie is perfectly seasoned. A second choice would be the one at Khoon Pastry House. 

According to our taste, you can find the best Hainanese Chicken Pie in Penang at the following: –

Loke Thye Kee (樂台居)
3, Jalan Burma,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 11.00 pm.
Khoon Pastry House (悅群糕餅中心)
29, Argyll Road,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm, 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm.
Closed on Sundays.

HAE MEE / HOKKIEN MEE / PENANG PRAWN MEE

Best Prawn Mee in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

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 (福建麵), Hokkien noodles, by people from Penang, and Hae Mee (蝦麵), prawn noodles, by people outside of Penang, mee (麵) being the Hokkien word for egg noodles, although some may have it with bihun 米粉, 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.

Most people who visit Penang will say that the one by Ah Soon Kor is the best, in terms of the stock they use, having the right amount of sweetness from the prawns shell stock. However, most Penangites swear by the one at Old Green House on Burma Road. This one also happens to be our personal favourite, both in terms of stock used, as well as a great selection of add ons such as pork ribs, Chinese sausages, chicken feet, braised egg, as well as intestines.

According to our taste, you can find the best Penang Prawn Mee in Penang at the following: –

Ah Soon Kor Mantis Prawn Hokkien Mee (阿顺哥福建虾面)
162, Jalan Macalister,
11400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm and from 6.00 pm to 11.00 pm.
Old Green House Hokkien Mee (青屋蝦麵)
223, Jalan Burma,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.00 pm to 4.00 am.
Closed Sundays.

KWAY CHAP / KUEH CHAP

Best Kway Chap in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you are a fan of earthier flavours, you should have a taste of the Kway Chap (粿汁), literally meaning “cake gravy”. The reason it is named so is because kway or kueh is a general term for the rice noodles which are used as they are normally manufactured in blocks which appears in a cake form. This dish is made using thick flat rice noodles, served in a herbal soy broth. There generally are two forms of kway chap, one which is predominantly pork based, but the one in Penang contains duck. This dish is served with slices of duck meat, blood pudding, offal, bean curd skin, bean curd puffs and hard-boiled eggs. The ingredients are first simmered in a broth made mainly with light soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar (香醋), Chinese five spice, imparting a deep brown colour and strong flavour. Served with a side of chilli sauce for dipping, this dish has very earthy and liquorice-like flavour.

There are many Kway Chap stalls in Penang but the one on Kimberly Street, which had offal, was particularly flavourful, is one of the most famous on the island. They also offer this dish with rice congee which is equally as tasty.  Another stall that is quite good is located at Kim Hee Café in the Jelutong area, but we prefer the one at Kimberly Restaurant.

According to our taste, you can find the best Kway Chap in Penang at the following: –

Kimberly Restaurant (汕頭街權記粿汁專賣店)
137, Kimberley Street,
10100 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 6.30 pm to 11.30 pm.
Closed on Thursdays.
Kim Hee Café (金禧)
Jalan Penaga,
11600 Jelutong, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 2.00 pm.

KWAY TEOW TH’NG / KOAY TEOW SOUP

Best Kway Teow Th'ng in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you are looking for something lighter, you can go for the Kway Teow Th’ng (粿条汤), flat rice noodles that is served in a clear and light broth. This dish would normally consist of springy fish balls, yu waat (魚滑, fish paste slices), fish cake slices, shredded chicken breast, prawns, Chinese chives and crispy fried chopped garlic. This soup dish is served with a side of chopped bird’s eye chilli in soy sauce, although some places make a better dipping sauce which includes chopped chilli, vinegar and garlic in a soy and fish sauce.

The one at Pitt Street makes very tasty fish paste slices and a great dipping sauce to accompany the dish. Ingredients here however, are limited, but it serves its purpose as a light but tasty dish. Another recommended one would be at Clarke Street.

Kway Teow Soup is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Kway Teow Th’ng in Penang at the following: –

Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng (椰脚粿条汤)
183, Carnarvon Street,
10100 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 4.30 pm.
Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Ah Boy Kway Teow Th’ng
Clarke Street,
10200 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm.
Closed on Tuesday.

LOR BAK / LORBAK / LOH BAK

Best Lor Bak in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you are a fan of meat rolls, you should try out the Lor Bak (滷肉), literally meaning marinated meat. This dish is also known as Ngo Hiang (五香), from the Hokkien word for five spice. It is basically a combination of a springroll and a sausage, where the main ingredients are the Chinese five spice (main ingredients being star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon (rougui, 肉桂), Sichuan pepper (huajiao, 花椒) and fennel seeds), mince pork and / or prawns, water chestnut, garlic and onions. The ingredients are then rolled in bean curd skin and deep fried. The most important thing for a good lor bak is the sauce used, which is called the lor, made from dark soy sauce, five spice and sugar. The sauce however, is customised by each cook, therefore may vary in flavour. This dish is also accompanied by a sweet chilli dip. Although lor bak generally refers to the meat roll, when lor bak is mentioned it usually includes the other snacks that go together with it, i.e., the prawn fritters, lap cheong (臘腸, Chinese sausages), xiang chiang (香腸, Taiwanese sausages), fried tofu puffs, and even the century egg.

Most people swear by the lor bak at Kheng Pin Café for its variety and full flavour, but we find the one at Joo Hooi Café to be equally as good.

According to our taste, you can find the best Lor Bak in Penang at the following: –

Joo Hooi Café (愉園茶室)
475, Jalan Penang,
10000 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 11.00 pm.
Kheng Pin Café (群賓茶餐室)
20, 16, Jalan Penang,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.oo am to 3.oo pm.

LOR MEE / LOH MEE

Best Lor Mee in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you like Chinese braised cooking, you should try the Lor Mee (鹵麵). This dish is made from a broth from Chinese five spice and is thickened with corn starch and eggs. Common ingredients for this dish are fish cake, offal, braised chicken feet, prawns, and braised hard-boiled eggs. Add-ons are common for this dish and may range from spare ribs to Chinese sausages. The addition of a dollop of sambal and chopped garlic adds to the overall dimension of this dish with a pungent kick.

The one at Green House is really good because they use the broth from the stock. The add-ons at Green House are also all cooked very well, very tender and flavourful. The most famous one in Penang is arguably Kim Leng Loh Mee which more exclusively use lor mee ingredients. 

According to our taste, you can find the best Lor Mee in Penang at the following: –

Old Green House Prawn Mee (青屋蝦麵)
Jalan Burma,
10350 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.00 am to 4.00 am.
Kim Leng Loh Mee (金龍大路后鹵麵)
336-G1 Lintang Slim,
Taman Dega Green,
11600 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Closed on Thursdays.

MEE GORENG MAMAK / MAMAK FRIED NOODLES

Best Mee Goreng in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

A testament to the multiculturalism in Malaysia is the Mee Goreng Mamak, Mamak fried noodles. This stir fried dish is of Indian flavours, but with borrowing of the stir fried noodle culture from the Chinese. This dish is made with yellow egg noodles, curry spices, sweet soy sauce, tomato ketchup, garlic and onion. This dish is garnished with a plethora of different additions such as tofu, potato cubes and usually eggs. However, you can add in fried chicken and a sunny side up egg to make it a heartier meal. You will not find this dish in India as it is completely of Malaysian origin.

The most famous one in Penang is at Bangkok Lane, known for its strong flavours with a nice tangy and sweet taste. You can also order a variation called Mee Goreng Sotong, which adds in sambal squid (sambal being a spicy sauce), which gives it a nice seafood and spicy touch. You should also definitely try the Mee Goreng Sotong at Hameed Pata at Fort Cornwallis Food Court.

Mee Goreng is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Mee Goreng in Penang at the following: –

Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng
Seng Lee Coffee Shop (勝利茶室)

270, Jalan Burmah,
10350 Georgetown, Penang.
Opening Hours: 8.00 am to 6.30 pm.
Closed on Mondays.
Hameed Pata Mee Sotong
Fort Cornwallis Food Court
Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah,
10200 Georgetown, Penang.
Opening Hours: 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm.
Closed on Sundays.

MEE JAWA

Best Mee Jawa in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

With a name like Mee Jawa, you would think that this dish originated in Indonesia. This however, like many dishes on Malaysia, is completely Malaysian. One of the few dishes that is of Malay origin (to a certain extent) in Penang, this dish is made using a thick tomato and potato based gravy. The noodles used are egg noodles, although some places offer bihun (rice vermicelli) in exchange. The dish consists of bean curd, potatoes, egg, beansprouts, prawn fritters, prawns, chili paste on the side with a Calamansi lime and lettuce garnishing. There are many variations of this dish, and some tend to be more tomato based, where it can be sweeter, and some which are more potato based, being slightly starchier. There are many variations of this dish, and therefore most stalls have their own unique take when it comes to flavours.

We find the one at Northam Beach Café to be pretty good with the right amount of ingredients and was not too sweet. The one at Rong Xiang is quite starchy, if that is your preference. They both taste good and are worth a try.

Mee Jawa is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Mee Jawa in Penang at the following: –

Northam Beach Café
Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 5.30 pm to 12.30 am.
Kedai Makan Rong Xiang (龍郷茶餐室)
Jalan Perak,
10450 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.

MUAH CHEE

Best Muah Chee in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Penang is famous for its variety of food, and when it comes to dessert, one of its most famous is also one of the simplest, the Muah Chee (麻芝, sesame in the Hokkien dialect). Although literally named “sesame”, this dish is in fact made of fluffy glutinous rice balls covered in peanut powder. A simple dish that is surprisingly light, this dessert is commonly found throughout the island at most markets. These balls of glutinous rice are cut from a thicker block into smaller bits. They are then sprinkled with crushed peanuts, sugar and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Some places add fried shallots.

The one at Gurney Drive has been a fan favourite for years just because of its simple yet warm and glutenous consistency in very refined sugary peanut powder.

Muah Chee is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Muah Chee in Penang at the following: –

Uncle Chee Muah Chee
2, Lebuh Cannon,
10200 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Closed on alternate Wednesdays.
Stall 55
Persiaran Gurney,
10250 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.

NASI DALCA / NASI GANJA

Best Nasi Dalca in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

When it comes to Mamak rice dishes in Malaysia, most people would be quite well acquainted with the Nasi Kandar, a pick and match mixed rice dish. However, there exists a cousin to this, the lesser known Nasi Dalca. As its name implies, this dish is predominantly flavoured with dahl, from the Sanskrit word for lentils. The rice itself is cooked in dahl with onions, carrots and potatoes, imparting a sweet and savoury aroma to the rice. This dish is then served with a generous helping of more dahl, chutney and a side of cucumbers and onions. This dish is reminiscent of a biryani, but with the strong flavour and moisture of the dahl gravy. This dish is simple, yet hearty, so be prepared to feel the punch from the after effect. Side note, this dish is also known as Nasi Ganja because it is claimed to be very addictive.

The most famous one is arguably the one on Jalan Hutton tucked into the corner of an alley. This place sells out really quick and its best to go there early. If you like a more generous portion, Nasi Dalca Rahim serves theirs with a whole chicken leg, so bring your appetite.

Nasi Dalca is a Halal dish.

According to us, the best Nasi Dalca in Penang at the following: –

Nasi Dalca Jalan Hutton
Jalan Hutton,
10050 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 4.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Nasi Dalca Rahim
Lebuh Queen,
10200 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.30 pm to 2.00 am.

NASI KANDAR

Best Nasi Kandar in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Nasi Kandar is quite common throughout Malaysia, but in fact, this mix and match flavourful rice dish originated from the island of Penang. Somewhat similar to the Malaysian Indian banana leaf rice, the Nasi Kandar is prevalent amongst the Mamak, Malaysian Indian Muslim population where this dish comes readily with a plate of white rice. Key components to this dish are the servings of add-ons you pile onto your plate. The variation of add-ons you can get is very wide and varies from stall to stall. Some key dishes to this would be the Penang fish curry (very distinctive and sour), lamb curry, daging gulai (simmered beef in a rich and thick coconut curry), deep-fried chicken, ayam madu (honey chicken), ayam masak ros (Rose style chicken, named so because of its red hue), poppadums, deep fried fish roe, shredded cabbage and bean sprouts, minted cucumber, deep-fried squid, and crab, just to name a few. There are other dishes for the more adventurous like paru (a deep fried crispy beef lung) and curried or deep fried chicken liver, both acquired tastes. Some restaurants even carry goose like the angsa gulai. In Penang, it is very common to have a drizzle of fried desiccated coconut adding a grainy but flavourful texture to the dish. The key to a great Nasi Kandar is to get them to add a bit of all the curries to flavour the rice in a mixture of sweet, savoury and spicy.

Although Line Clear has the reputation of being the acclaimed best, and aptly so because of its variety and flavours, Restaurant Tajuddin Hussain carries the angsa gulai which is not so common, and therefore worthy of a visit.

Nasi Kandar is a Halal dish.

According to us, the best Nasi Kandar in Penang at the following: –

Nasi Kandar Line Clear
159-199, Penang Road,
10000 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 24 hours.
Restoran Tajuddin Hussain
51, Lebuh Queen,
10200 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 24 hours.

OH CHIEN / OYSTER OMELETTE

Best Oh Chien in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Another must have in Penang is the Oyster Omelette, a seemingly simple dish, yet great ones are hard to find. Known colloquially as Oh Chien (蚝煎) in the Hokkien dialect, this dish consists of fresh oysters, eggs, potato or tapioca starch, coriander and chopped garlic. The most important part of a good oyster omelette is the freshness of the oysters, and surprisingly, for the oysters to be the right medium size. This is because if they are too small, they get over fried and when they are too large, they have too much of a metallic taste. Although oysters are good when they are large, the are not preferable in the preparation of an oyster omelette. Another 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 and the other with more starch. Some places even add in chai por (菜脯, preserved radish), giving it a stronger umami flavour.

We personally prefer the variety with more egg as it has a more robust mouth feel and flavour, but the starch heavy variety has its benefits as well. They tend to be crispier on the skirting. The one at Kafe Heng Huat is of the eggier variety which we like, and if you are into the starchier kind, the one at Sea Pearl Lagoon Café is the one for you.

Oh Chien is a Halal dish.

According to us, the best Oh Chien in Penang at the following: –

Sea Pearl Lagoon Café (海珠嶼海鮮)
338, Jalan Tokong Thai Pak Koong,
Tanjong Tokong,
11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 10.00 pm.
Kafe Heng Huat (兴发茶室)
108, Lorong Selamat,
10400 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Closed on Tuesdays.

POPIAH / POPIAH BASAH

Best Popiah in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you are looking for something that is a little lighter, you can try out the Popiah (薄餅), from the Hokkien dialect meaning “thin pancake”. This is somewhat true to the main ingredient used, a thin layer of flour called the popiah skin (薄餅皮), which is used to wrap a filling made from cooked and grated jicama (sengkuang), grated daikon, French beans, beansprouts, fried tofu, raw lettuce leaf, peanuts, fried shallots and shredded omelette. A layer of chilli paste, known locally as cili boh or cili giling, is added before a vinegar chilli sauce is used to give it a spicy kick. This dish is essentially a spring roll, but is made with ingredients which are quite wet, thus sometimes being called Popiah Basah, meaning wet popiah.

The one at Joo Hooi Café is pretty good where the sweetness of the popiah pulls through as the jicama and daikon imparts a sweetness after being seasoned and cooked well. The one at Cecil Street Market is pretty good as well.

Popiah is a Halal dish.

According to us, the best Popiah in Penang at the following: –

Joo Hooi Café (愉園茶室)
475, Jalan Penang,
10000 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 11.00 pm.
Cecil Street Market (Pasar Lebuh Cecil)
40-48, Lebuh Cecil,
10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

ROJAK BUAH / FRUIT ROJAK

Best Rojak Buah in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you’re looking for something that is made to feel like it is deceptively healthy but extremely flavourful, the Penang Fruit Rojak, or locally known as the Rojak Buah, is something that will pique your interest. The word rojak in Malay is translated as “mixed”, and is used to highlight the different fruits and ingredients used for making this dish. This fruit salad consists of cucumber, pineapple, sengkuang (jicama), you char kuay (油炸粿, Chinese savoury fried bread sticks), raw mangoes and raw papayas. The Penang variation is slightly different from those you would find in Kuala Lumpur, where they add in jambu air (water apple), a crispy watery fruit, guava, squid, jellyfish and sometimes even kangkung (Chinese watercress). The dressing used in Penang is also slightly different, where the consistency of the sauce is much thicker and richer in taste due to the amount of hae ko (蝦羔), a shrimp paste commonly used in Penang cuisine. This shrimp paste is thickened with sugar, chilli and lime juice, giving it its sweet, savoury and tangy flavour.

The key ingredient to a good fruit rojak will involve a somewhat good sauce with just the right amount of sweetness, as most of the time the fruit itself can lend to much sweetness. If you like a rojak with many crunchy bits (you char kway), you can try the rojak stall at Joo Hooi Café (also famous for the Chendol stall outside), which is opened during the day, and if timing is an issue, G.P. Soon at Gurney Drive is opened at night so you can take your pick.

Rojak Buah is a Halal dish.

According to us, the best Fruit Rojak in Penang at the following: –

Joo Hooi Café (愉園茶室)
475, Jalan Penang,
10000 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 11.00 pm.
G.P. Soon Rojak (孙翊徒啰吔)
Stall 39, Gurney Drive Hawker Centre,
172, Persiaran Gurney,
10250 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

ROJAK PASEMBUR / MAMAK ROJAK

Best Pasembur in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

As we have mentioned, there are a number of different types of rojak. In Penang, there is also the Rojak Pasembur, also known as the Mamak Rojak, which is more of a vegetable salad. This Indian Muslim dish consists of shredded jicama, cucumber, potatoes, bean sprouts, deep-fried tofu puffs, half a boiled egg, and prawn fritters. This all adds to its overall crunch, and if done right, should be eaten before everything becomes soggy. The sauce that is used in a rojak pasembur is a sweetened peanut based sauce, slightly thick in consistency and light brown in colour.

The rojak pasembur at Cecil Street Market is probably one of the more famous ones, however, the one at Batu Lancang includes jellyfish and has really crispy fried dough sheets, so they each have a plus point.

Pasembur is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Pasembur in Penang at the following: –

Batu Lanchang Food Market
Lintang Batu Lancang,
11600 Jelutong, Penang.
Opening Hours: 12.00 pm to 7.00 pm.
Cecil Street Market (Pasar Lebuh Cecil)
40-48, Lebuh Cecil,
10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang.
Opening Hours: 11.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

SUP KAMBING WITH ROTI BENGGALI

Best Sup Kambing in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

If you live in Malaysia, you would have come across Sup Kambing, a mutton broth prepared with goat, tomato, celery, ginger, candlenut, star anise, lime leaf and spring onions. Although in Commonwealth countries, the word mutton is used for old sheep, in Asia it almost always is used to indicate goat meat. Goat meat is richer and stronger in flavour, ensuring a heartier, but light, meal. However, if you’re from Penang, you would be well acquainted with a variation of this dish, the Sup Kambing with Roti Benggali. This dish is served with a side of a type of bread called Roti Benggali, which is a thick fragrant golden bread, crispy on its crust, but soft to the touch on the inside. This dish has a misnomer, which actually comes from the word penggali, which means “shareholders” in Tamil, and is actually not of Bengali decent. The bread is torn up in chunky pieces and dipped into the soup, soaking the fluffy white bread with the rich flavours of the soup. Sup Kambing can be found throughout most Mamak restaurants in Penang, but the combination of the Roti Benggali with the mutton soup is almost rarely found outside of Penang.

There are a number of Mamak stalls that sell Sup Kambing, but we find the one prepared by Restoran Sup Hameed to be our favourite, and specifically, the one at Jalan Penang. Always remember to get a serving of the Roti Benggali for a nice dip.

Sup Kambing is a Halal dish.

According to our taste, you can find the best Sup Kambing in Penang at the following: –

Restoran Sup Hameed
300, Jalan Phee Choon,
10050 George Town,
Pulau Pinang,.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 3.00 am.
Restoran Sup Hameed
48, Jalan Penang,
10000 George Town, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 3.00 am.

WAN TAN MEE / WONTON NOODLES / TOK TOK MEE

Best Wanton Mee in Penang | Penang Food Guide | Food For Thought

Most people will not be a stranger to this dish that is found throughout Asia, known simply as the Wan Tan Mee (雲吞麺), a dish served either in a soup or in Malaysia, dry as well. As a dish of Cantonese origin, this dish can be found throughout China as well as Hong Kong and places with a sizable Cantonese diaspora. The style served in Malaysia is a derived version from its Chinese counterparts, where it may be served in a soup with wanton noodles, a thin wheat noodle, pork or shrimp dumplings and choi sam (菜心, Chinese cabbage). Most places will also offer deep fried wantons and sui gao (水餃), a bigger dumpling mainly consisting of pork. The variety found in Malaysia however offers a dry version which is locally called Kon Lou Meen (乾撈麵), where soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil may be used as a base. This version also adds a few slices of lean char siu (叉烧), Chinese barbecued pork. Wan Tan Mee is also called Tok Tok Mee, inherited from the noise vendors use to make by the knocking of bamboo sticks as they would go from street to street selling the noodles.

We found the one at Jelutong Market to be one of our favourites with the noodles being springy and the wantons seasoned well. The one on Lebuh Acheh is pretty good as well.

According to our taste, you can find the best Wanton Mee in Penang at the following: –

Lebuh Acheh Wan Than Mee (打石街雲吞麵)
Lebuh Acheh
10200 George Town
Opening Hours: 7.00 am t0 1.00 pm.
Jelutong Market (日落洞)
Jalan Van Praagh,
Taman Continental,
11600 Jelutong, Penang.
Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm.

This Food Guide took us quite a while to compile as Penang is such a food haven. Do take note that this is not the most comprehensive list of what to eat in Penang, but merely some of our recommendations in which we found to be to our taste. We hope that this Food Guide will be able to serve you well on your next food trail in Penang. Happy food hunting.

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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.

60 Comments

  1. OMG, mouth watering, eyes tearing, heart breaking…*goes to check direct flights from Aberdeen to Penang*

  2. Hi. If chee cheong fun contains hae ko, it can’t possibly be vegetarian……? Please clarify.

    • Hey Zee,

      Thank you for your quick eye! Tiny mishap in a long entry. Appreciate it.:)

  3. Wow, what an impressive list you have compiled. I have a similar list for Ipoh street fare so I do understand the amount of work this entailed. And somehow, after looking at your list, Penang food seems more delicious, although as a true blue Ipohite, I should never say that!

    • I just read through your list as well, impressive! Yes, its hard work but the result is worth it. Maybe when I do one for Ipoh one day you could give me some pointers. 🙂

  4. That’s a good guide there. Definitely a lot of familiar favorites from my childhood memory.

    • Great you thought that! It’s always a compliment coming from people from Penang. 🙂

  5. Wow this will be a great help for my next Penang trip! Thanks for picking out your favs and making it easy for us to try them out. There are quite a few I want to try 😀 Happy New Year!!

    • Thanks Tony! Happy new year to you too! I’ll have to use your guide when i visit Johor though! 😀

  6. tThis guide is really very comprehensive. now i m wondering how many days do i need to try them all haha

  7. Definitely a lot of my favourite food here… I love Char Koay Kak loads and I love sneaking into Pulau Tikus market when I go to Penang for the Char Koay Kak there.. been eating the Char Koay Kak there since I was a small kid…… and yes, I originate from Penang ….

    • I never knew you were from Penang! There’s so much good food alone in Pulau Tikus market, but alas, I can’t put them all down here. I wanted to make it simple for people visiting for the first time to narrow down to some of my favourites. 🙂

  8. Very comprehensive guide! Thank you compiling this. It is going to be very useful for my penang trip!

  9. Oh gosh, after reading this, it really makes me want to go to penang. Im hungryyyyy! I guess its a bad time to read when i havent had breakfast yet :p

    • Haha. Just pick your battles! You can’t eat everything unless you move there for a short period. 😛

    • I won’t say they don’t compare, but they’re just different. The ones in KL don’t really use as much prawn paste from my experience.

    • Yeah, it’s not that common. Every state has its own different variation. You got to collect them all like Pokemon. 😀

  10. I recently went to Penang and used this as a reference. It’s really helpful! Could not recommend a better food guide. Easily one of the best I’ve come across online. You give such a good description of each dish and the vegetarian notes does help because my wife is vegetarian. Looking forward to your next food guide. Maybe one of a different city in Malaysia?

    • Thank you for your kind words. That was my aim actually, so people have a bit of a background about the dish and my personal opinion which I don’t want to be the only statement. Glad you found this useful. I am in the midst of compiling a different one for Ipoh, so hopefully it won’t take too long. These guides can take a while.

  11. I have never been to penang but some dishes looks like those in Hong Kong. 😀 😀 😀

    • Yes, there are many dishes in Malaysia which are quite similar because of the history of Cantonese 廣東, Fukkein 福建 and Hakka 客家 people here. The dishes are quite similar to Cantonese Cuisine 廣東菜.

  12. I will visit Malaysia soon. Will use this Penang food guide. I’m from Korea so I was worried I will have problem getting around looking for yummy food.

    • Anyong! This guide has some explanations in Chinese and Malay when necessary, if anything, just show the taxi driver or hotel where you want to go by referring to this guide. Hope this helps. 🙂

  13. You covered old green house. It’s only for Penang people. Outsiders don’t know about it. Hahaha 😀

  14. I think Sisters curry mee is also the best. Only thing is all the way over there.

    • That one is really good. I personally prefer the one outside kafe heng huat. Do give it a try when you’re in the city center. 🙂

  15. This ultimate penang food guide will be so useful when I visit Malaysia! Is really ultimate!

  16. I’m so happy that someone can give such a good description of these dishes and not just ‘taste nice’ or ‘looks pretty’. What a good review list.

    • Thank you. I wanted my readers to have a better experience while reading my reviews. I’m glad it managed to do that. 🙂

  17. It’s very useful for you to highlight the halal dishes. That helps me a lot. Mashallah.

    • I’m trying to help my muslim friends find food which they can eat, especially in a town where it is very Chinese dominated. But no worries, Malaysia is after all a muslim majority country, so you definitely will be able to find what you’re looking for. 🙂

    • Yeah, the ones in KL are pretty good too. There’s a good one in Bangsar and then there’s Hassan’s in PJ.

  18. I wish there was more selection for halal food. Maybe you could make one for halal chinese version in Penang? 😀

  19. Just finished reading your M boutique post. You should definitely do a food guide for Ipoh!

    • Hello Hairi,

      Someday I will. I really like Penang so definitely considerable. 🙂

  20. Any recommendations for jiu eng chai? We’re going to Penang next weekend and my mum really wants to eat that.

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