Food in Penang - 25 Scrumptious Dishes To Try When in Penang

A beautiful state in northwest Malaysia, Penang is one of the most beautiful destinations you can be on your next trip to the island nation. One of the most authentic experiences you can have there is through the food in Penang, which I have to say, has such variety and immense flavour, it is easily one of the best food destinations in Asia, and the world too, if I’m going, to be honest. The delicacies you find here have been influenced by multiple cultures which have resided here, be it Chinese, Indian or Malay settlers. In 2014, it was declared The Best Foodie Destination of the Year, and since then, the tourist inflow has boomed.

So get your stomachs ready, here we go!

Before We Get Started

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The best food in Penang lives on the streets, and not in the posh restaurants. So be prepared to wander the streets looking for the world known food you’ve all heard about. The food market in Penang is vast, so if you don’t want to get lost in a heap, and want to get on with the eating, we would suggest you consider a local Penang food tour, with the help of a local guide. There are multiple websites online which provide such a service in Malaysia, one of them being Klook.

With these things noted, let’s begin.

1. Penang Laksa

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This is not a dish for everyone, with its explosion of flavours. A tangy hot soup with fat white noodles and sprinkles of tuna, this has a distinctive fragrance and is part of the authentic Penang delicacies. The sweet-sour taste will get you, or you may regret it all together, but it is worth a try nonetheless.

Where to Find it: Pasar Air Itam Laksa and Penang Road Famous Laksa
Approx Cost: RM 4

2. Wan Tan Mee

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These noodles are soaked in black soy sauce, garnished with different herbs, slices of barbecued pork, fresh-cut green chillies and wan tan(which are essentially meat dumplings wrapped in rice flour). It is quintessentially simple Chinese noodles which are served with either soup or dry. A must-try food in Penang.

Where to find it: Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls and Hong Kee Bamboo Noodle Lebuh Campbell Penang
Approx cost:
RM 3

3. Curry Mee

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This is another authentic local dish. They mix curry paste and coconut milk with yellow noodles and are served with an additional spoonful of chilly sauce. Some hawker sellers serve this with fresh herbs and cubes of pig blood, and sometimes, small prawns. This is one dish you should try when in Penang. But if you’re too scared of the spices, it’s better to tell the vendor to be useless in the first place itself.

Where to find it: Hot Bowl White Curry Mee and Sister Curry Mee
Approx Cost:
RM 10

4. Nasi Kandar

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This is easily one of the most common and cheapest food in Penang. They will remind you a few your school lunches, serving a variety of pre-cooked local dishes, only in Malaysia they are very different from the meat and vegetables from the rest of the world. They typically have Nasi Campur.

Where to find it: Nasi Kandar Line Clear and Restoran Mohammed Raffee Nasi Kandar
Approx Cost:
RM 8

5. Rojak

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This is one of the most unusual foods you’ll try in all of Penang. Rojak is one of those, a salad with cucumber, pineapple, mango, bean sprouts, Taupok, cuttlefish and youtiao. Taupok is a puffed soya bean cake, Youtiao is a fried dough fritter, and jicama would be familiar to some as turnip, while jambu is water with apple or rose apple. The salad is dressed with crushed peanuts.

Where to find it: Hock Seng Rojak and Kareem Pasembur Rojak
Approx Cost: RM 6

6. Tandoori Chicken

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Chicken is popular everywhere in the world, this spicy Indian dish is one of the best food in Penang. Originated from north India and brought into Malaysia by immigrants, this delicacy has only evolved here into something juicy and tender, which will melt your taste buds, and is something you should try at least once without a single thought.

Where to find it: Restoran Kapitan (Chulia Sreet) and Hameediyah Restaurant
Approx Cost:
RM 7

7. Satay

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One of Penang's best Barbeque food, the Satay is charcoal-grilled meat served in mini-skewers that are consumed dipped in a delicious ground peanut and curry sauce. Satay is found all through Penang, but the local variety of this uses smaller chunks of meat compared to the rest of Malaysia, just for your information.

Where to find this: Hamid Satay and Red Garden Satay & Chicken Wing
Approx Cost:
RM 3

8. Ikan Bakar

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Malay’s barbecued fish is a popular food in Penang. This fish is cooked over fire or charcoal until till dry and crunchy. It might be that you may not like the texture or the flavour of the dish, for the meat loses its tenderness, and becomes crispy. Its best enjoyed with a side of rice, grilled vegetables and spicy sauces. So when in Penang, do try this dish, as you may like it.

Where to find it: Idrus Ikan Bakar and Lan's Corner Ikan Bakar Sambal Meletop Baq Hang
Approx cost:
RM 4

9. Bak-Kut-Teh

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This is a pork rib dish popular in Malaysia and Singapore, and widely available in Penang, where there is a large Chinese Hokkien and Teochew community. The name of the dish means “meat bone tea”, and is a broth of spices were pork ribs are strewed and cooked until they are soft. Soy sauce is then added to the broth, which not only gives this dish its signature tangy taste but also its dark colour.

Where to find it: Restoran Old Green House and Zealand Bak Kut Teh and Seafood Restaurant
Approx Cost:
RM 10

10. Chicken Feet

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Love it or hate it, chicken feet is stapled Chinese food in Penang, and if you’re one to try new things and get a taste of the local culture, this is just for you. These feet are cooked in dark soy sauce for a very long period until they are edible. They are served over small trays and eaten with chopsticks. Trust me; it’s less gross than it sounds.

Where to find it: Sky Emperor Chicken Feet Koay Teow Soup and Goodall Cafe
Approx Cost:
RM 3

11. Lor Bak

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This delicious dish made of pork loin meat wrapped in beancurd skin is something you should try when in Penang. Unlike its counterparts, this dish tends to be on a more sweeter side of the scale. This dish is perfect for a mid-day snack.

Where to find it: Loh Bak @ Kheng Pin Cafe and Restoran Hai Onn
Approx Cost:
RM 5

12. Apom Manis

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This is an extremely thin-crusted food in Penang with a soft flour centre. It is prevalent in India and China as street food, and can also be seen in Penang. This dish is freshly made in a pan over a charcoal fire and tastes sweet.

Where to find it: Kedai Kopi New Cathay
Approx Cost:
RM 4

13. Oyster Omelette

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What differentiates this dish from the rest is the freshness of the oysters used. The oysters are mixed with fried rice flour batter and eggs to give a crisp yet soft texture. Along with the omelette, you get chilli, which is on a sweeter side than usual.

Where to find it: New Lane Hawker Centre and Yi Garden
Approx Cost:
RM 7

14. Ais Kacang

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This is a delicious assortment of shaved ice and a mixture of red beans, grass jelly, sweet corn, assorted fruits, sprinkled with rose syrup and condensed milk. They have home-made ice cream and jelly. So don’t forget to try this refreshing food in Penang.

Where to find it: Ais Kacang Restoren Kek Seng and New World Park
Approx Cost:
RM 4

15. Penang Teochew Chendul

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This is a delightful bowl of shaved ice married with chewy green rice flour jelly (chendol), red beans, fresh coconut milk and gula Melaka (brown sugar) syrup which will bring joy on your face. It is available almost everywhere on the streets of Penang.

Where to find it: Joo Hooi Cafe and Pushcart Chendul Stall
Approx Cost:
RM 4

16. Mee Goreng

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This is one of the best things you can eat when trying the food in Penang. These are noodles with cuttlefish, potatoes and beansprouts. It has a tangy, spicy taste due to the chillies and the soy sauce. It can get quite spicy, so people who cannot tolerate spice, watch out.

Where to find it: Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM (Tuesday to Sunday)

17. Penang Rojak

This is a dish which will leave you with a loss of words because you won’t be able to recognise the flavours being used. It is essentially a salad of bean curds, fritters, bean sprouts, cuttlefish and fruits covered in a thick peanut sauce. Trust us on this; you will be surprised by the flavour.

Where to try it: Tan Swee Hoe Rojak
Approx Cost: RM 7

18. Nasi Lemak

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Considered a very popular choice of food in Penang, this is a rice dish where the rice used is cooked in fatty coconut milk and pandan leaves, giving it that rich nutty flavour. It is served with fried Ikan Bilis, cucumber, boiled eggs and fried chicken. You can also take some chilli if you’re looking for some extra hit of flavour.

Where to find it: Nasi Lemak Cili Bilis
Approx Cost:
RM 2

19. Koay Pai Ti

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This is a Peranakan snack which is quite famous in this part of the globe. This is usually served during festive seasons and is made with bamboo shoots, thinly sliced veggies and prawns. It is also served with a think crunchy shell that adds to the texture of the food.

This dish is available almost everywhere, so if you stroll around and ask in shops, they will have it, and since it is quite an everyday snack, it is good everywhere.

20. Otak-Otak

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This snack is made out of fish paste and spices which are steamed inside a banana leaf. It somewhat resembles tofu or sushi and tastes even better. The spices get involved with the fish in such a manner as you’ve never experienced before. We highly recommend trying this flavourful food in Penang.

Where to find it: Lorong Selamat
Approx Cost:
RM 5

21. Koay Teow Th’ng

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This dish usually comes in a soup fashion, with pork, fish balls, fish cake and a tasty broth with flat rice noodles; the dish also comes with fresh red chillies as well as soy-vinegar and lime for some extra zing in the taste.

Where to find it: Pitt Street Kway Toay Th’ng
Approx Cost:
RM 5

22. Masala Dosa

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This south Indian delicacy is often forgotten when it comes to food in Penang, but it is ingrained in the very social fabric of the country. This is one of the best dishes in all of Penang. It is a blend of mashed potatoes, cumin, ginger, and other spices, all blended to perfection. It is usually preferred for breakfast but can be eaten at any time during the day.

Where to find it: Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant 

23. Roti Canai

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This is an all-day dish, a delicious tender bread which can be consumed with any curry imaginable. Its Indian counterpart is called a ‘paratha’. You usually get this along with a proper plate of food consisting of salads, pulses and curries.

Where to find it: Roti Canai Transfer Road and Roti Canai Jalan Argyll

24. Cendol

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This is one of the best desserts in all of Penang, made out of shaved ice, chewy green jelly, coconut milk and gula Melaka(brown sugar). There is a unique taste here.

Where to find it: Teo Chew Cendol

25. Economy Rice

Lastly, if you’re looking for a cheap lunch option in Penang and want to have something which is trusted, this is the one you should go with. It is almost like a buffet of street food. Vegetables, tofu, eggs, anything, can be found and eaten here.

Where to find it: Medan Selera Taman Free School and Tian Xiang Economy Rice

These are some of the best food in Penang with some of the best places to find it. Penang is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Malaysia and deserves its ranks. 

This post was published by Shivang Uniyal

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