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I’m not going to lie: the famous Penang street food was part of the reason I based myself in George Town this October. It was my second trip to the city and I was excited to eat even more than I did last time.
Sure, I tucked into some laksa and Little India curries when I visited in 2016 but I definitely wasn’t as into street food and blogging as I am now.
E-sim data plan
Copy of Lonely Planet Malaysia
Getting there: flight, bus, train (12GoAsia)
Penang airport to city transfer
Accommodation: Hotels on Booking.com // Hostels on Hostelworld
Tours: GetYourGuide / Viator
Travel insurance: True Traveller (European travellers) / Hey Mundo (other nationalities) / Safety Wing (digital nomads)
Read more of my Penang blogs:
- The best places to visit in Penang
- Best coffee and cafes in Penang
- Street art in Penang
- Penang Kek Lok Si Temple from George Town
- Digital nomad Penang guide
The street food in George Town is world-famous. Lonely Planet even voted it the best city for eating in 2014. While the food in Malaysia is fantastic in general, the hawker food in George Town is something special.
Some of the same old uncles have been serving their secret recipes for decades, and the dishes definitely worth standing in line for. With plenty of fresh seafood, and flavours from sweet to sour and spicy, foodies need to add it to their Southeast Asia bucket list, pronto!
With all that said, you may be wondering what and where to eat in George Town Penang? This was exactly what I wanted to know on arrival and what I figured out over the coming weeks.
Food tours in Penang
If you’ve got limited time in Penang or wish to benefit from having a knowledgeable local foodie on hand, here are the Penang culinary tours I would recommend:
Street food in Penang
In this guide, I’ll run through my best foodie finds in a tidy list of 10. After this, I’ll go through the top Penang markets to try them at.
Related read: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips
1. Kaya toast
Let’s start at the beginning: breakfast time. The Georgetonians are a social bunch and you’ll find them sat outdoors enjoying Penang coffee and conversation from morning to night.
Toast with soft boiled eggs, and often sweet gooey kaya spread, is a fine way to begin any day.
Try it at:
- Toh Soon Cafe – this busy breakfast spot serves some of the best food in George Town Penang. Grab a seat if you can or share a table with the locals and pair your kaya toast with sweet coffee. It’s open until 3.30pm.
- Roti Transfer Transfer Road – this is where I had the serving pictured. I paid 6 MYR for kaya toast and coffee – you can’t beat that. It’s open until 12pm.
2. Roti canai
The best breakfast I had in George Town was roti canai, a Malaysian-Indian dish invented by Indians who moved to the country. It doesn’t exist in India so it’s only here, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand that you’ll find it.
It’s dough made into a rope shape before being fried, flattened and served with egg, meat, curry sauce, cheese or sweet sauce.
The chicken (‘ayam’) variety at Roti Canai Transfer Road is probably the best local breakfast in George Town. It’s served until midday so you could swing by for an early lunch if spicy meat isn’t what you fancy first thing in the morning (understandable).
This is the same place mentioned above that also serve kaya toast so why not order both? Sharing one of each between two people would be ideal. This local restaurant is always busy so be persistent and grab a seat.
3. Chee cheong fun
My thoughts on this dish? The soy was a little sweet for me and the taste of fish too strong. I’d have loved it had the flavours been a bit milder. Not my favourite street food in George Town, Penang but not bad.
I tried it at Cafe Seow Fong Lye. At this authentic outdoor cafe you can sample chee cheong fun with a cup of coffee for less than 5 MYR. My dish was 3 MYR for a medium portion which I’d say was just the right amount for one person.
4. Oyster omelette
Does oyster omelette sound weird to you? I did a poll on Instagram and the majority of my followers said they wouldn’t try it… I don’t know why
I didn’t really like oysters on the two occasions I’ve tried them before but they tasted so much better in this buttery, flavoursome omelette. I paid 11 MYR at Granny’s Oyster Omelette at Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls; on the higher end of Penang street food prices but well worth it.
5. Wan tan mee
Wan Tan Mee is one of the best George Town street foods for pleasing all palettes (unlike the more acquired taste of oyster omelette). It’s also the dish that Anthony Bourdain ate in George Town and declared delicious… Sometimes I think my life is one big Anthony Bourdain food trail but is that really such a bad thing?
This Chinese-inspired street food dish is made with noodles, a sweet soy sauce, barbecue pork, greens and fresh and fried wontons. A solid mix of so many tasty flavours! I ate this portion at Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls.
This salty carb feast is everything I love! Char koay teow is a bit like pad Thai without the peanut flavour. Noodles are fried with prawns, Chinese sausage, cockles and bean sprouts. It’s a little spicy but not overly. You’ll find it absolutely everywhere in George Town and I could happily eat it every day.
If you visit Kek Lok Si Temple, visit Sister Curry Mee in Air Itam.
7. Assam laksa
No George Town food guide would be complete without assam laksa. This Malaysian favourite is a noodle soup commonly flavoured with mackerel, pineapple and tamarind. It’s not dissimilar to laksa found in Singapore although these commonly have coconut-based broths.
I decided to go all out and eat laksa at its most famous location, Penang Laksa Air Itam. While it would probably be worth the journey to Air Itam for this alone, you can time it around a visit to Kek Lok Si or Penang Hill.
This local restaurant is hectic and perfect for experiencing the Penang street food culture. A must!
8. Masala dosa in Little India
As ‘research’ for my George Town food guide (and also because I’m greedy) I knew I needed to experience the city’s plentiful Indian cuisine. Colourful Little India is right in the heart of town and wandering through it is a must while visiting.
I ate this enormous masala dosa feast at Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant and an equally tasty banana leaf curry at Shusi Banana Leaf Restaurant. Both meals were only 6 MYR (£1.10) each. You could also try Sri Ananda Bahwan – I had a delicious meal at the Ipoh branch of this restaurant.
Don’t miss the Indian sweets! Woodlands Vegetarian have a great selection in a cabinet outside and you’ll also find
9. Dim sum
George Town is a good place to sample many different Chinese foods. I’m sure we all know what dim sum is but in case not, these moreish dumplings are usually filled with prawn, pork or vegetables.
I ate dim sum at New World Park food court but for a more atmospheric spot, I’ve been recommended Tai Tong Restaurant (where you should also try the custard tarts). Dim sum is a great sharing meal and yes, sharing with yourself is a perfectly acceptable way of doing that!
10. Nasi lemak
Finishing with a good one, nasi lemak is the Malaysian national dish. No prizes for guessing it’s popular street food in Penang!
Nasi lemak is a rice dish served with spicy sambal, anchovies and often peanuts and cucumber. It’s best eaten off a fresh banana leaf, just like the Little India curries.
The most famous place to eat this street food in George Town is Ali Nasi Lemak at the front of Sri Weld Food Court (weekdays only). Here it’s freshly made in front of you and a bargain at 1.80 MYR per serving. I left at 2.30pm as they were packing up for the day, so get down before then.
Which food courts to visit in George Town?
If you’re not sure which of these delicious dishes to try, the best thing to do in Penang is browse the hawker markets. There are some famous food courts where you can eat Penang hawker food for
You’re bound to find something (or 10 things) you want to eat at…
Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls
Stalls pop up on Penang’s famous food street, Chulia Street, and its offshoots from 6pm but I’d recommend waiting ‘til 7pm when it gets more atmospheric.
All the stalls are different: some are serving so hectically they can’t stop to talk while others, like Granny’s Oyster Omelette, sat and chatted with me while I ate. The founder is the current owner’s actual granny, if you wanted to know!
Red Garden Food Paradise
Red Garden Food Paradise is regarded as one of the more touristic food courts in George Town but for a tasty dinner with loads of variety, I think it’s a good option. It’s always busy and there’s so much variety; there’s even pizza and Greek food but lord knows why you’d get them.
I had a delicious lamb cashew curry and there are plenty of Chinese and Malay dishes on offer, even the intense bits like gizzards. Maybe give them a miss 😉
New World Food Court
For some of the best food in Penang, give New World Park a try. Rather than old uncles serving their famed recipes, it’s a modern food court only opened in 2018. However, it’s a great local option and you’ll find many Georgetownians taking their lunch break here.
You can try all the Penang favourites very cheaply from laksa to nasi lemak, plus Chinese and Indian staples like dim sum and roti canai. I grazed my way around a handful of stalls.
Sri Weld Food Court
Finishing off with what I consider to be one of the best hawker markets in George Town, Sri Weld is cheaper and more local than Red Garden with more of a rustic feel than the modern New World Park.
You can’t miss Ali Nasi Lemak at the front which is always busy and well-renowned for serving the best nasi lemak in George Town. Venture in further for all your usual Malaysian faves and wash them down with ‘three layer iced tea’ (which I can confirm is actually coffee).
Thanks for reading my George Town food guide!
So, are you feeling inspired to eat all the best foods in George Town yet? Whether you head to specific restaurants or browse the many hawker centres and food courts, you’re in for a treat.
As to how to stay in shape while eating it all… I can’t help you! 😉
Kuala Lumpur posts:
- The best things to do in Melaka, Malaysia
- The best food in Melaka
- 10 cute Melaka coffee shops
- Melaka street art guide
Southeast Asia travel planning:
- Complete 2 week Malaysia itinerary
- The ultimate Southeast Asia bucket list
- 101 backpacking Asia tips
- The perfect 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary
See you next time for more adventures,
Ps. Liked this street food in Penang? Pin it for later!
Malaysia quick links
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To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
For activities, I use GetYourGuide and Viator as they both have a huge range of affordable tours.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
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