Our list of the 5 Great Hawker Centres in Penang comprises food courts that have concentrations of the best street side food vendors on the island. They are sometimes connected to casual Chinese coffee shops, but most times these open air centres are roadside affairs hosting a varied collection of hawker sellers and plenty of open air seating.
Serving up inexpensively priced cuisine that is richly flavoured, they operate at all hours of the day and the reason the food is so good is because these hawkers use age-old family recipes and old fashioned cooking methods. The lifeline to locals and even travellers by helping to keep food budgets low, food presentation is not a priority but quality and freshness is always top notch.
- 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
Come 16:00 every day, Georgetown’s Lorong Baru closes down to vehicular traffic, with cars required to find alternate routes to their destination because the street turns into a thriving outdoor hawker food centre. Hawkers furiously fry up their specialties which include char kway teow (flat rice noodles with cockles, prawns, chilli and bean sprouts) and chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls).
Expect to sit on colourful plastic tables and chairs on the roadside. Our favourite dish here is congee, a Chinese porridge made with rice instead of oats, which makes for a filling, hearty meal. Flavoured with a variety of side dishes, anything from fresh crab and eggs to pork and ginger chicken, this is basically Chinese comfort food.
- Opening Hours: 16:00 – 02:00
- Location: Lorong Baru Georgetown
Home to the biggest variety of street food in Penang, Persiaran Gurney’s busy and iconic Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (right beside Gurney Plaza Mall) is a great place to sample some of the best local cuisine on the island. We recommend the char koay kak (RM7), soft white radish stir fried with crunchy bean sprouts, chilli, egg and pork lard, which is simply delicious, but also recommended is the barbecue roasting station (particularly the beef meatballs) which will please even the pickiest eater.
Cafeteria style seating is a little cramped, so the first thing to do is to find seats before ordering your food – in fact, copy the locals by standing behind diners who seem to be near finishing, then be ready to grab their soon-to-be vacant seat.
- Opening Hours: 18:00 – 24:00
- Address: Persiaran Gurney, George Town
Turning over tables fast, Presgrave Street Hawker Centre used to be patronised solely by locals but it is slowly gaining recognition among travellers too, despite its hidden location along Lebuh Pregrave, one of Georgetown’s back alleys. This is not the sort of place for a languorous meal – rather, it is perfect for great tasting, speedy and hearty meals.
It earns a spot on our list of favourite hawker centres in Penang because this non-halal restaurant is home to a pretty famous prawn mee (RM4.50), from the stall called 888 Hokkien Mee. What makes this dish popular on an island rife with hawkers is the fact that the broth is light yet savoury and diners can add on extras to flavour their soup more fully: expect to see ingredients like pork ribs, fish ball, chicken legs, pig’s skin, eggs and more on the menu. Besides that, the food court’s wan tan mee, roasted chicken wings and fried oysters deserve special mention too.
- Opening Hours: 16:30 – 24:30 Friday to Wednesday
- Address: 67A, Lebuh Presgrave, Georgetown
This simple, open air with a metal awning rooftop can get a little noisy when it rains but the sheer variety of great tasting food makes it one of our choice food courts in Penang. Popular with travellers, here you will find probably the best wontons and noodles you will ever taste – the broth is specially cooked daily with dried shrimp and pork bones, while the hand rolled chicken egg noodles are springy and flavourful.
Meanwhile the Malay fried rice is also quite a treat – we like the kampung fried rice with plenty of salty, crispy anchovies – and spicy curry chee cheong fun, a version of the traditional dish that bathes the rice noodle rolls in creamy, coconut and chilli gravy with potatoes and chicken chunks. Lots of people say that prices here are more expensive than other food courts around the island, but on our last visit we did not notice a perceivable gap.
- Opening Hours: 18:00 – 23:00
- Address: Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi
It is quite rare for a shopping mall food centre to be considered the place for great cuisine; however Gurney Paragon Mall’s food court, Just Food, certainly makes the cut easily. We say this because its concentration of hawker sellers are definitely serious about putting out dishes that are authentic and loaded in taste.
Its operating hours are from 10:00 to 22:00, plus it is air conditioned, making it a great place for tourists who want to escape the island’s warm weather. Specialties such as char kway teow (with lots of succulent prawns) from the Asian kitchen and richly flavoured pan mee, with lots of juicy mushrooms and chicken slivers from the PP Noodle Station, are standouts. However, our favourite dish is the Maggi tom yum (RM6.50), from the Thai Me Up stall, which has thick and creamy broth that is unique for an instant noodle dish.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
- Address: Level 5, Gurney Paragon Mall, Persiaran Gurney