It doesn’t matter where in the world I visit, the one thing I really have to do is indulge in the local cuisine, particular street foods, or the foods that locals prefer.
As a certified glutton, I can’t get enough of hawker food in Penang because not only is it extraordinarily delicious, it is fantastically cheap, as well.
The island of Penang in Malaysia is famous for the quality of its hawker, or street foods.
There are some great hawker food centres in George Town. Sometimes these, literally, pop up on a street in the early evening, whilst there are other, more established, hawker centres in many parts of George Town.
Hawker food is fast, cheap and delicious with a good meal costing just over one dollar US. Many people are apprehensive about eating food that is prepared on a street, I’ve never had a problem, and prefer the hawker food to most established restaurants.
There is a local law which states that the person cooking the food must be Malaysian. That’s because cooks from outside of Malaysia were changing the flavours slightly, so the local government legislated to protect the integrity of the local cuisine.
Perhaps the top five hawker food in Penang are:
Assam Laksa: Laksa is popular all over Malaysia, it is a spicy and sour fish and noodle soup, but in Penang, it is more spicy and sour than usual. With a base of coconut milk for the gravy and the fish comprised of prawns, fish balls and fish pieces, Assam Laksa also contains ginger flower bud, cucumber, onions, lettuce, red chilli, mint leaves and prawn paste. I’ve found soy milk to be the perfect accompanying drink.
Hokkien Mee: A great noodle dish containing yellow noodles that is doused with prawn and pork broth and vegetables such as water spinach and bean sprouts.
Char Kway Teow: This is definitely one of my favourites, and I always have at least one of them when in Penang. Usually late at night, when I sneak out for a Kway Teow before I head to bed. It is a stir fry using the broad flat kway teow noodles with fresh prawns, bean sprouts, eggs and cockles added for flavour.
Nasi Kandar: with a heritage that includes India and Islam Nasi Kandar is often presented with an accompanied by lovely curries. You have a fair bit if say about what goes into your Nasi Kandar such as vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, prawns and squid with the curry gravy poured over it all.
Fried Taufu: The Malaysian word for tofu – which is cut into shapes and deep-fried, leaving the outside crispy and the inside very soft so that it literally melts in your mouth. Once cooked, it is drizzled with peanut sauce and is utterly delicious.
There are many hawkers places around George Town with some of the most popular being the Sunshine Markets at the Kompleks Centre, the Beach Street Food Court, the food gallery at Penang Times Square and the Gurney Driver Hawker Centre.
If you do visit Penang, please ensure that you take your appetite with you, then you’ll have no regrets.