On a plate, skewered on sticks or in a bowl, street food is ultra popular in Penang and we bring you the 5 Best Street Food in Penang that will rock your world. Though some of the most popular hawkers often have no name, from their pots and pans frequently emerge some of the island’s most famous dishes.
In this list we have made the effort to find and name the ones who matter. A list that is a curious but delicious mix of the island’s best traditional dishes, we present (in no particular order) the hawker stalls that cook them up best and where to find them.
- Traditional English Afternoon Tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel
- City Half-Day Tour
- EZhopper Sightseeing Bus Pass
- Georgetown by Night Tour
- Island Half-Day Tour
- Private Penang Hill & Temple
- Heritage Trishaw Tour
- Private Penang Hill & High Tea at David Brown's Restaurant
- Botanic Gardens & Tropical Spice Garden Tour
- Penang Hill & Kek Lok Si Temple Tour
Char koay teow
When it comes to Penang food, there is no more famous dish than char koay teow. Sometimes called fried kway teow, it is a dish of flat rice noodles, stir fried in a charcoal-fired wok with fat supple prawns, cockles, scrambled egg, crunchy bean sprouts, strips of fish cake and chilli paste. The more famous versions of this dish will include pork lard and even sweet barbecued pork slices which results in a combination of flavours that are pretty unique.
Where to Get It: Penang has a number of great char koay teow stalls but our favourite is Tiger char koay teow, since they use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs, which results in a creamier flavour, as well as the addition of bamboo clams. Located in Kafe Ping Hooi at the intersection of Lebuh Canarvon and Lebuh Melayu, it is really worth a visit for this unique interpretation of the RM5 plateful.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 19:00
- Address: Kafe Ping Hooi, intersection of Lebuh Canarvon and Lebuh Melayu
A popular glass noodle dish with a spicy, mackerel-fish based broth which has sour undertones, assam laksa is a traditional Peranakan dish popular all over the island. The yummy soup is made by stewing poached mackerel along with tamarind juice, shrimp paste, cucumber slivers and bird’s eye chillies.
Where to Get it: While some stalls produce bowls with soup that is lighter and less jam-packed with fishy flavour, our favourite can be found at the Ayer Itam Market, where you will find that the broth has a bold, thick texture, with whiffs of lemongrass evident and a slightly sweet aftertaste. Outside seating provides diners with a chance to see life going on nearby. A bowl costs only RM3.50, but be warned that this place sees a lot of local diners during lunch hours between 12:30 to 2:00pm, so it's worth trying to avoid these hours.
- Opening Hours: 11:15 – 19:30
- Location: Ayer Itam Market
In the Kuala Lumpur city centre, hokkien mee is classified as a dish of fat yellow noodles in a thick black soy sauce but in Penang hokkien mee (also known as hae me) is a prawn-based, spicy broth noodle dish. Originally a Chinese specialty, the broth is thin yet flavour-packed, made from stewing dried prawns, prawn heads, garlic and other spices. The soup in imbued with even more flavour by the addition of pork slices, fish cake slivers, bean sprouts, crispy deep fried shallots and a red chilli paste. Though largely spicy, with a savoury streak, there is an underlying sweetness to the soup, thus making it such a favourite with travellers.
Where to Get It: Diners can request fat yellow noodles, thin vermicelli rice noodles or even flat rice noodles with their broth. Our favourite stall in Penang which serves up a mouth-watering version of this dish is 888 Hokkien Mee, located along Lebuh Presgrave in Georgetown, which is priced at RM3.50 for a basic bowl. We love the fact that you can add on ingredients such as fish balls, pork ribs, and more for RM0.60 each.
- Opening Hours: 17:30 – 23:45 Friday – Wednesday
- Location: Presgrave Street Hawker Centre Lebuh Presgrave
Rojak pasembur is a dish of cool cucumber slivers, crunchy bean sprouts, fat squares of tofu, turnip shreds, chunks of hardboiled egg and crispy prawn cracker crusts, drizzled with thick, spicy and nutty gravy. In some versions, there is even the addition of seafood, such as octopus rings. What makes the dish messy is the fact that it is presented on a plate with the ingredients heaped up mountain-style, then the sauce is generously poured over it – you then have to artfully skewer pieces to eat with a wooden stick.
Where to Get It: Thoroughly satisfying, the gravy binds all of it together creating a dish that is at once, sweet, sour, spicy, juicy and savoury. Locals, both residents of Penang Island and mainlanders from as far away as Kuala Lumpur, will likely point you in the direction of Gurney Drive to the stall called GP Soon, for the best rojak pasembur (RM7 for a serving) on the island.
- Opening Hours: 21:30 – late weekends
- Address: GP Soon, Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, 172 Persiaran Gurney
After diving headfirst into all those chilli-infused local dishes, it is good to know that Penang’s also famous for a sweet, icy dessert that will help cool the fire to your taste buds. Known as cendol or chendul, each bowl is made up of coconut milk, pandan-flavoured green rice flour jelly noodles and brown sugar poured over a heaping of shaved ice.
Where to Get It: At some stalls you will find the addition of red beans, glutinous rice and creamed corn but our favourite place serves up the traditional teochew version (RM1.50) which locals call the Penang Road Famous Chendul. In operation since the 1950s’, it is located at the stall right beside Jooi Hooi Café on Jalan Penang.
- Opening Hours: 10:30 – 19:00 Monday – Friday; 10:00 – 19:30 Saturday & Sunday
- Address: 27 & 29, Lebuh Keng Kwee (beside Jooi Hooi Café, off Jalan Penang)