Penang unexpectedly became one of my favourite places in South East Asia. I marveled at the beautiful architecture of its atmospheric old town, the interesting street murals which turned every walk and every turn of corners into tiny bite-size adventures, and of course, at its legendary food. It pains me to say this as a Singaporean, but when it comes to our regional cuisine, Malaysia wins hands down. From street carts to restaurants, in Penang, there always seems to be something to eat. Hunting down the next best thing can become an obsession.
My trip was met with a lot of rain, but it didn’t dampen the mood, nor stop any of these street food vendors out cooking a storm in the alleys of old town Penang.
1. Hokkien Mee
Technically, I had this in Kuala Lumpur, but this can be found in Penang too. This can also be found easily in Singapore, but Malaysia’s version tends to use the thick udon-like noodles giving it an unfamiliar texture. The generous fried pork lard adds much flavor to the char fried noodles, though it may be a nightmare to the health conscious.
2. Char Kway Teow
The most ubiquitous fried noodle in Penang as every store and street seems to be selling a variation of this popular dish. This didn’t taste too different from the ones I am used to having in Singapore.
3. O jian
Another street food staple in Penang, O jian, which means ‘Oyster Egg’ is one of my family’s favorite. This version used charcoal to fry the egg though I think it was just a gimmick. The oysters are plentiful and fresh.
4. Dim Sum
The Chinese community in Penang seems to be predominantly Hokkien, so it was very surprising to find the street where I stayed to house a few restaurants serving Dim Sum, typically served as breakfast for the Cantonese. This restaurant was very popular and it was busy throughout the day, even at night. Eating here was quite an experience, with old ladies pushing down carts along the restaurant isles, recommending us what was good on that day.
5. Kway Tiao Thng
This deceptively simple rice noodle soup (Kway Tiao stands for flat rice noodles) was a good break from all the other unhealthy fried food which I’ve had. This stall was a surprise find, and seems to be extremely popular with locals. The fish balls are made from eels which is rather unusual. This stall also served the best iced coffee I’ve had.