Unforgettable Travel Company

The Ultimate Penang Food Guide

The ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Penang is a tropical city that offers it all: atmospheric heritage streets, soft white sandy beaches, a dense jungly interior, and a wealth of outstanding hotels. 

Thanks to its years as a center for regional and global trade, Penang is home to a diverse blend of cultures. This in turn has resulted in Penang’s emergence – amongst a very strong field – as Asia’s finest food destination. 

A trip to Penang is an opportunity to sample an endless array of gastronomic delights, with cuisines ranging from Hokkien and Straits Chinese; north, south, and everything in between Indian; Filipino, Javanese, Sumatran; and further afield, Arab and Western, as well as authentic indigenous Malay.

Georgetown Penang shophouses

Stay in George Town, Penang

Penang’s island capital is Georgetown is a multicultural capital rich in heritage architecture, magnificent mosques and preserved shophouses. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also arguably Southeast Asia’s all-time top spot for mouth-watering street food.

Georgetown today sees all these cultures live side-by-side. A typical day in the city will see you walk past Chinese ‘clan’ houses down by the waterfront, admire a Hindu temple, barter for clothes and trinkets in bazaars, and hike to small villages in the forest interior. Breakfast could be Indian, lunch Malay, dinner Chinese, and dessert European.

Hawker centre Penang

Dive into hawker centers

Without doubt, the number one attraction in Georgetown is the stupendous food. The best place to sample Penang’s many delights is in its bustling hawker centers. 

Designed for hard-working locals with neither time nor cooking space, these culinary playgrounds consist of numerous stalls each catering to a specific cuisine or dish. Imagine your typical shopping mall food court but much, much more exciting!

Simply take a seat in the central courtyard, pay a small cover or buy a cold drink to keep your table, and then take your pick from the many stalls on offer.

Food tour in George Town Penang

Be guided by an expert

For the very best introduction, we recommend joining a guided food walk. An enthusiastic food-obsessed local guide you around the very best hawker centers, introducing you to the key dishes and the multi-generational stalls which serve them.

With an expert guide leading the way, these tours ensure you get right to the heart of the issue that what to eat in Penang, enjoying many tall tales and culinary delights along the way. 

We love these tours so much that we’ll typically include one on your first night in the city, ensuring you’re up to speed as soon as possible.

Penang Food 1 Char Kway Teow Hokkien Mee Nasi Lemak

What to eat in Penang

Cutting to the important bit – here are our Top 15 dishes to try during your stay in Penang. It was pretty tough sticking to ten!

  1. Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s signature dish, coconut rice served with a rainbow of sambal, pickle, crunchy peanuts and anchovies, and a protein of your choice. 
  2. Hokkien Mee – peppery noodle soup topped with fresh prawns, bean sprouts, water spinach, and a soft boiled egg
  3. Char Koay Teow – a signature dish of the city, consisting of flat rice noodles stir-fried in sticky sweet soya sauce, typically topped with chives, bean sprouts, and prawns.
Penang Food 2 Banana Leaf Roti Canai Nasi Kandar

What to eat (cont..)

  1. Banana leaf meals – A favorite of Penang’s South Indian and Muslim population, concentrated along central Chulia Street. No plates or cutlery required. 
  2. Nasi Kandar – roughly ‘mixed rice’, Nasi Kandar is a budget eat consisting of rice and a buffet of simple curry preparations. 
  3. Roti Canai – an Indian specialty of crispy, buttery paratha – a type of flatbread – served with dal and/or curry.
Penang Food 3 Assam Laksa Penang Laksa Fish Ball Noodle

What to eat (cont..)

  1. Penang Laksa – Penang’s brand of sweet, sour, spicy, richly vibrant coconut milk noodle soup, typically served with fish.
  2. Assam Laksa – similar to Penang Laksa, this noodle dish is for the advanced eaters, with a base of fish heads and lime providing its distinctly rich, sour taste. 
  3. Fish Ball Noodle – Squidgy, pale fish balls are a feature of cuisines all across Asia. In Penang, you’ll find them floating in a dark broth, served with thin vermicelli noodles.
Penang Food 4 Lohbak Oyster Omlette Popiah

What to eat (cont..)

  1. Lobak – crispy, crunchy, deeply more-ish five-spice meat rolls. A typical starter in Chinese restaurants.
  2. Oyster Omelette – juicy, fresh oysters quick-fried in an egg batter and served with spicy chili sauce.
  3. Popiah – fresh (not fried) rice paper spring rolls usually filled with shredded vegetables, omelet, and Chinese sausage.
Penang Food 5 Rojak Ice Kacang Cendol

What to eat (cont..)

  1. Rojak – a common side dish of Malay ‘fruit salad’ – mixed fruit and vegetable lathered in a spicy palm sugar dressing.
  2. Cendol – for dessert, a super sweet ice-cold glass of rice jelly droplets sitting in coconut milk and palm sugar
  3. 15. Ice Kacang – also for dessert, a mountain of shaved ice drenched in syrup and topped with red bean, corn, jellies, and toasted palm nuts.

Ready to start planning your next trip?

Contact our Malaysia specialists today to start discussing your bespoke tour.

+1 844 879 7388OR

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