There is no doubt Malaysia is a foodie destination, and Penang offers some of the best and most interesting cuisine in South East Asia. Whether it's a traditional Malaysian noodle dish, or a vegetarian meal, Penang offers a selection of unique Malay, Chinese and Thai taste sensations, best enjoyed with a cold Ais Tingkap “sherbet” drink. Find the best food fusions, combining fresh, local ingredients, from the street hawkers at Gurney Drive in George Town, Macalister Lane and Penang Road.
Here are five of the best budget conscious foodie options in Penang.
Experience authentic Malaysia at street level when you purchase a noodle dish from a traditional street vendor. These are often the cheapest meals around, with a variety of noodle dishes available for just a couple of dollars. You know it will be good because the locals and the cook's family and friends eat at the same cart. In Penang, choose the busiest carts with the highest turnover and you'll find that noodles are more often than not, the freshest, healthiest and cheapest meal in town.
Penang Assam Laksa
Penang Laksa, or Assam Laksa, is a spicy Malay staple, boasting fiery chilli flavours combined with fishy mackerel and sour tamarind. Served with white noodles and cucumber, pineapple, fresh mint and coriander, the unique flavours, aromas and textures are contrasting and potentially challenging to the uninitiated, and well worth a try. Find it at city street carts and the Cecil Market Food Court in Lebuh Cecil.
Lok-Lok, Penang's street side canapés, offers a range of healthier options compared to the more commonly deep-fried, seasoned meat variety. Meatballs, seafood, vegetables, quail eggs, and Chinese Dumplings on skewers are boiled in water rather than oil and served with your choice of sauces. If you're up for it, live like a local; boil your own sticks and dish up your own sauce. Discover the best Lok-Lok on Penang Road.
Char Kuey Teow
Char Kuey Teow, comprises flat white rice noodles, stir-fried in soy sauce with shrimp, Chinese Sausage, bloody cockles, eggs, bean sprouts and chives. The best flavours come from fresh ingredients so choose a busy street cart that stays well stocked. The wok in which the dish is cooked also makes a difference. Only a hot, well-seasoned wok will give the dish its distinct "breath of the wok" flavour. Once you've tried it, you'll understand the urgency with which Malays from out-of-state head into Penang for a plate of Char Kuey Teow.
In George Town, Penang, vegetarians can enjoy an extensive array of delicious options at EE Beng Vegan Buffet. You could easily eat here every day of your stay in Penang, with Chinese Buns, tofu, vegetables, brown and white rice, and made-to-order dishes on offer. Next door at the a la carte EE Beng Vegetarian Restaurant, try the Tofu Clay Bowl. Another popular vegetarian venue, Sushi Kitchen, serves Radiant Light Porridge, and sushi and noodles.