If there’s one place that could exemplify what street food culture is then that would be the state of Penang in Malaysia. Located at the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Penang’s cuisine mirrors the diverse culture with influences from the Chinese, Nonya, Malay, Indian and even Thailand into its wide selection of food options; probably a bizarre mix but it works as it wouldn’t be regarded as the Best Street Food in Asia by Time Magazine (2004) for nothing. So let me share with you my recent food trip that would make you drool afterwards.
Penang is one of those places that I love to explore because even if it’s constantly visited by tourists, its tenacity to maintain its origin and culture is so strong that they don’t modify their customs just to suit to the needs and wants of the visitors. Food junkies all over the world, and even in Malaysia, are crazy over hawkers and street food vendors that filled Penang’s alleys. Hawkers and vendors usually start at dawn until midnight or much longer.
Influences from Chinese, Mamak (a term for men with Indian Muslim origins or uncle), Nonya/Nyonya (a term for women of Malay and Chinese origins or aunty), Indian, Malay and Thai cuisines are usually merged to create unique recipes. The marriage of flavors is respected and appreciated by all communities in Penang, thus making Penang a unique culinary experience.
During my trips (it’s my third time), I noticed how consistent Penangites were on the quality of the taste in each dish. The richness of flavors and generous amounts of ingredients are some of the many factors that made me yearn for more. I also love the fact that people from all sectors of society converge on a coffee shop or roadside eatery, no social status or whatsoever when it comes to food.
As they say to each his own, selecting the best hawker food actually depends on your taste buds. The best way is to follow your heart and try every dish that your gut feel tells you so.
So here’s a rundown on my latest food trip in Penang on what I consider as the best and most authentic street food during our Beach Hop Asia 2016 summer backpacking trip. Please note that we don't subscribe on guide books or whatnot but just went wherever our feet led us and ordered whatever seemed interesting.
JOOI HOOI CAFE
475 Jalan Penang, Georgetown, Penang
11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
TOH SOON CAFE
Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown, Penang
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. | Mondays to Saturdays
|Legit kopitiam-coffee shop|
|Kaya toast with soft-boiled egg (RM4)|
This is awesome!
|Kopi Ais (RM1.50)|
Legit Hainan coffee!
Jalan Pasar, Air Itam Penang (near Kek Lok Si Temple)
Persiaran Bayan Indah, Bayan Lepas, Penang (near Queensbay Mall)
7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
This is great when mixed together, as it supposed to be.
|Tok Tok Mee|
Deconstructed noodles-nice concept but I totally forgot how it tasted.
|Sambal Fried Rice|
Fried rice will always be a winner for me.
|*Help me in naming this, hehe*|
LEBUH KIMBERLY NIGHT MARKET
Lebuh Kimberly, Georgetown, Penang
6:00 p.m. onwards
|Kway Chap (RM8)|
Not my kind of soup.
|Fried lorbak, beancurd, tofu, etc. (RM11 for everything)|
I super love the lorbak and beancurd!
GURNEY DRIVE HAWKER CENTER
Solok Gurney, Georgetown, Penang
6:30 p.m. onwards
|The very touristy Gurney Drive Hawker Center|
|Asam Laksa (RM4)|
Still, not my favorite in Penang.
|Char Kway Teow (RM6)|
RESTORAN ARATI VILAS
9 Tanjung Bunga Park, Penang
8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
My all time fave flatbread.
|Fried Bee Hon|
I'm not a fan of rice noodles.
Mee Goreng is still the best!
MEE GORENG MAMAK STALL
Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling corner Lebuh Armenian, Georgetown, Penang
|Mee Goreng Mamak in 2014 (RM3.50)|
|Mee Goreng Mamak in 2016 (RM4)|
Still, our favorite Mee Goreng in Penang!
Lebuh Pasar, Georgetown, Penang
|Kopi Ais-to go (RM1.50)|
This will always be our favorite drink in Malaysia!
|Chicken Samosa (RM1.20)|
The best samosa I've had so far.
Check for discounted hotels in Penang.