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The island of Penang including its main city Georgetown, is considered to be one of the best foodie destinations in the world, and has a wonderful fusion of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences. If you are wondering what exciting foods to eat on your next trip to Penang, then look no further – we have created the ultimate foodie guide to the best Penang street foods to try on your Malaysia trip!
We have visited Penang several times and discovered some of these foods by ourselves, and some on a Penang food tour. We love going on food tours – check out what we ate in our Penang food tour blog post >
What to eat in Penang – the best local Penang street food
1. Curry Mee
Curry mee is a rich, spicy and creamy coconut-based curry soup with egg noodles and is packed with flavour! Other ingredients typically found in this dish include tofu, bean sprouts, pig’s blood curd, cuttlefish, shrimp, and cockles.
2. Oyster Omelette
The oyster omelette is popular in many Asian countries, and in Penang it is a fluffy and thick dish made simply by frying a mixture of tapioca flour, eggs and oysters (with a little garlic, chilli paste and some shallots).
3. Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun is a Cantonese dish made from rolled up flat Chinese rice noodles cut into little blocks, and topped with chilli sauce, a dark-brown prawn sauce called Hae Ko and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an explosion of taste in your mouth!
4. Char Koay Teow
Char koay teow is a dry noodle dish which is considered to be the most iconic street food in Penang! It is made from flat rice noodles which are stir-fried in a wok on a very high charcoal heat which gives it a lovely burnt smoky aroma.
Other ingredients in the mix include eggs, shrimp, cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), bean sprouts, chopped Chinese chives and light and dark soy sauce. Some versions also include fried pork fat which is delicious.
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5. Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak is a famous street food that is often referred to as Malaysia’s national dish, and usually eaten for breakfast, but can be eaten any time of the day. Fragrant rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, and traditionally served alongside fried anchovies, boiled eggs, slices of cucumber, fried peanuts, and a a dollop of spicy sambal chilli sauce.
6. Roasted duck or pork with rice
This is a simple yet satisfying Cantonese roasted meat dish, which is juicy and smoky, and served with a mound of warm rice, drizzled with dark soy sauce along with wilted greens and a chilli sauce.
We recommend heading to Jit Seng Roasted Duck Rice in Georgetown, but head there early as the food is likely to sell out by 1pm! This is one of our favourite dishes to try in Penang.
7. Penang Asam Laksa
Asam laksa is a sour, tangy and spicy fish based soup which is packed full of flavour. It is a thick hot broth made from assam (tamarind), lemongrass, chillies and shrimp paste, served with flaked poached Mackerel and thick white or vermicelli noodles, garnished with shallots, chillies, ginger flower and mint leaves.
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8. Wantan Mee
This simple egg noodle dish can be ordered in a soup or dry, and is one of the best street foods in Penang. In Chinese “wantan” means dumpling and “mee” is translated as noodles, and this dish is a perfect example of a Chinese-Malay cooking.
The dish is made from al dente egg noodles garnished with leafy choy sum, slices of BBQ char siu pork, pickled green chillies and boiled wan tan meat dumplings. The dry noodle version comes slathered in soy sauce, whilst the soup version is served in a hot broth.
Satay is one of Penang’s most popular street foods and are skewers of charcoal-grilled marinated chicken or beef served with a peanut sauce dip, rice cubes, cucumber chunks and raw onions.
10. Lok Lok
Literally meaning “dip dip”, Lok Lok is a fun type of communal hot pot in Penang where the customer gets to pick a skewer and dip it in a pot of boiling water to cook it. A variety of skewer ingredients are available such as seafood, meatballs, fish balls, mushrooms, dumplings and eggs.
Sauces such as peanut and chilli are available to drizzle over them to make them taste more appetising. The sticks are labeled with different colours to indicate the price and are calculated up by the vendor when you have finished eating.
11. Tandoori Chicken and Naan
Originally from Northern India and imported to Penang by the early Indian migrants, this is a dish commonly found around Little India in Georgetown. The juicy tandoori chicken is marinated in turmeric, spices and yoghurt and cooked for hours in a traditional hollow tandoor oven, and usually served with a soft fluffy naan accompanied by sauces and garnishes.
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12. Roti jala
Roti Jala is literally translated as ‘Net Bread’ and is a popular Penang street food. This savoury crepe is made from a mixture of flour, eggs, milk, and turmeric powder, and thin threads of this batter are skillfully dropped like swirls onto a huge hot griddle to create a thin net crepe because of the holes in it.
The snack is usually paired with a chicken curry and is traditionally prepared for many Malaysian festivities and celebrations such as weddings and birthdays.
13. Roti Canai
Roti canai is one of the most famous examples of Malaysian Indian cuisine and a popular breakfast and snack dish in Malaysia. It is a circular flatbread that is fluffy, flaky and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, normally served piping hot with a curry sauce.
Popiah is a bit like a soft, crepe-like spring roll which is made from wheat flour and filled with finely grated turnips and other ingredients such as Chinese lettuce, bean sprouts, pork, seafood, fried tofu, chopped peanuts, fried shallots and shredded omelette, dipped in a sweet, chilli or black sauce.
15. Hokkien Mee
There are three distinct types of Hokkien mee and the Penang street food version is broth based. This soup noodle dish has an intense and tangy orange broth made using a combination of prawn heads and shells, dried shrimp, and pork bones. Added to the soup are noodles, a hard boiled egg, bean sprouts, prawns, roasted pork and fried shallots, served with a large dollop of chilli on the side for a spicy kick.
16. Char Koay Kak
Char Koay Kak is a popular Penang street food dish found in many hawker centres and is Char Koay Teow’s delicious cousin. This stir-fried dish is cooked in a wok and made of small bite-sized squares of rice cakes, bean sprouts, eggs and finely chopped chai poh (pickled radish) in a thick black soy sauce with a little chilli paste.
17. Lor Bak
Lor bak is a platter of minced pork, fish cakes and tofu that have been marinated with Chinese five spice powder, and then wrapped in a soft beancurd skin and deep fried until crispy. The platter is usually accompanied by a homemade chilli sauce and a sweet sauce.
18. Nasi Kerabu
Nasi Kerabu is a rice dish which is traditionally eaten with your hands! It is comprised of with blue coloured rice, dried fish or chicken, crackers, pickles and salad. It’s signature blue rice is made from the petals of Clitoria ternatea (butterfly-pea) flowers, which are used as a natural food colouring.
There is no greater respite from a red hot day in Asia than a bowl of ice-cold cendol, a sublime sweet dessert made of coconut milk, palm sugar syrup and green rice flour jelly. As well as cooling you down, the best bit is being able to choose your toppings – jackfruit and durian (the notoriously smelly but succulent fruit) seem to be the most popular.
Durian is notorious for its potent stench but is extremely popular across Southeast Asia. The fruit has a hard and spiky exterior, and inside is a pale-yellow coloured soft flesh that has a strange combination of savoury, sweet, and creamy all at once. Due to its overpowering smell, durian is normally banned from Penang hotels and public transport.
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