It’s hard not to fall in love with this charming little island, also widely regarded as the foodie haven of Malaysia. With its fascinating jumble of old and new, the well-preserved shop houses and heritage buildings take you back a couple of decades with their traditional exterior, yet traces of modernism blend into the old facade in the likes of cafes that bring the east and west into one snazzy mix. Hawkers that set up stall by the road side are still a common sight amidst the fancy restaurants that have been recently established. Trishaws roam the same streets as the cars and motorbikes of today. Chinese letterings are splattered on the same walls as modern street art paintings. It feels a little lost in time, somewhere in transition, where past and present are in a deadlock neither overshadowing the other. Yet the island is very much alive, buzzing to its own tune, in its own time. What’s not to love?
Besides being one of the newest world UNESCO heritage sites, with countless historical buildings and temples to boot, the scrumptious food that Penang has to offer is good enough reason for one to book a flight out over the next weekend and declare a full few days of feasting. Being the usual greedy pair, we gave most of the touristy bits a miss this time and went straight for the food, food and more food! Thank God for our awesome friend from Penang who took us around the island for the fantastic local fare, we got to eat some of the best foods ever and we’ve got it all down to a list to share the joy/calories/fats 🙂
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
The boyfriend immediately fell in love with the chendul from this stall and started asking for seconds before he finished the first. The stall has garnered many fans over the years, including Phua Chu Kang (evidently from his picture displayed on the stall sign board), and it is not difficult to see why. The seemingly simple dessert made up of green pandan noodles, red beans, shaved ice and gula melaka is created in split seconds by the skillful hand of the guy behind the traditional push cart stall, with just the right amounts of each component. The coconut milk is fresh and light, and the gula melaka comes through exceptionally.
Located on Keng Kwee Street just off Penang Road, it usually spots a crowd. There are 2 different chendul stores on that street, facing one another. The one we are talking about is the one that spots a Phua Chu Kang picture and has a seating area further down the road in a shophouse.
Siam Road Char Kway Teow
Forget all health advisories for a moment and indulge in this sinful plate of char kway teow fried over charcoal for that distinctly delicious charred flavour. Generous with their lard pieces, lup cheongs and prawns, this makes no health food but was definitely an uplifting treat for the glutton in me.
The stall is a make shift push cart located on Siam Road. You will see an old man frying away and (more often than not) a crowd of people waiting for their plates of char kway teow. While it is a road side stall, you can eat at the coffee shop just across the road. They open from 3-11pm.
This stall has created a name for itself with the tasty plates of mee goreng they fry up, as well as with the Indian stall owner’s ability to speak hokkien/cantonese/mandarin fluently (puts me to shame). Their mee goreng is slightly different from those I normally get in Singapore, but that scarily orange plate of noodles, full of flavour and spices is oh so…gooooood! My only qualm was that there was way too much sotong in my mee goreng, but i guess that’s hardly a legit complaint. Located in Sheng Li Coffee Shop just off Bangkok Lane, it is hard to miss the red plates of mee goreng that dot the tables in the shop.
Sky Hotel Char Siew (348 Chulia Street)
It is hard to miss this bright teal building on Chulia Street and if you’ve got the slightest liking for char siew, I suggest you take the effort to locate this place. Char siew rice is one of my favourite foods and oh my… the char siew here threw me off my socks and got me wondering what I’ve been eating all these years. The char siew here is the real deal! Charred thoroughly on the outside (albeit appearing a little black), the well-seasoned, caramelized bbq-ed meat is so flavourful and tender on the inside. The fats are seared so well they melt in your mouth, making it all too easy to ignore the guilt that normally hovers (over me) when consuming that much of it. They do a decent siew yok too, or so I’ve heard, but I was too taken by the Char Siew to spread my attention. Maybe I’ll try it the next time I’m in Penang.
The store is so popular that they sell out real quick! They open from 11am to 2pm but when we dropped by on our last day to buy some char siew back to Singapore at around 1.30pm, they were all sold out 😦 guess the early bird catches the worm after all.
Arathi Vilas (Tanjung Bungah)
Out of the inner city of Penang and into the residential area of Tanjung Bungah is this hidden gem that does wonderful Indian food in the the likes of Roti Canai, Thosais, and Murtabaks. The boyfriend loved it so much he went for multiple rounds of thosais, canais and papadums (??) on our last night in Penang. Their paper thosai and their roti tissue are must tries!
The paper thosai was crisp and light, and it was huge! The roti tissue was the impossibly thin and drizzled with condensed milk, it was divine!
They serve you with 3 different types of curry – vegetable, chicken and fish – so you’re pretty spoilt for choice. Service here was also pretty impressive for a coffee shop!
Other (non-hawker) food places we checked out this trip:
China House (152 & 155 Beach Street & 183B Victoria street Penang) – a very pretty cafe/art/music venue that spans 3 heritage buildings!
I love the fact that they provide you with crayons and mahjong paper as the table cloth so you can scribble and doodle as you have lunch 🙂
Macalister Mansion (228 Jalan Macalister Georgetown, 10400 Penang) – A breathtakingly pretty place that takes you out of this world with a fine dining experience to remember.
The boyfriend surprised me with a dinner date here and it was amazing. The mains we had – wagyu beef cheek and lamb chop served on deep fried gnocchi – were amazing. The desserts were a little too simple, but were presented well. The service was faultless and the overall experience was really pleasant and romantic.
We ended the night with drinks at the adjoining bar with live music and there, I had the best longan mojito ever!
So there you go, that’s our list of food places we enjoyed in Penang 🙂 hopefully it comes in handy in one way or another! And if you know of any other places worth recommending, feel free to leave a comment. We can always do with new places to check out! 🙂