Header image courtesy of @suettyng (via Instagram)
Penang is hailed as home to some of the finest street food in Asia. It’s impossible to describe Penang’s cuisine in one word, as the island’s best street food is a melting pot of various cuisines and cultures combined. Without further ado, here’s a list of must-try street food in Penang and the food stalls you should not miss out on.
Siam Road Char Koay Teow is not only famous among Malaysians—it’s actually world-famous after being certified as one of the World Street Food Masters. There are many char koay teow stalls in Penang, but this particular one earned its fame due to two main reasons. Firstly, it maintains the traditional way of cooking using charcoal fire (unlike many stalls that have switched to stovetop cooking for convenience). Secondly, unlike typical char koay teow, this stall has a unique recipe which was discovered through trial and error by the chef in the picture, Uncle Tan, over five decades years ago.
Uncle Tan’s stall has become so famous, the queue can be as long as three hours. However, also because of its popularity, Uncle Tan (who is turning 80 years old) may take breaks in-between every now and then, as it might be too much for him to cope. So if you’re ever at Siam Road and Uncle Tan is still luckily there, don’t miss out on this world-famous dish!
Siam Road Char Koay Teow, 82 Jalan Siam, George Town, 10400, Penang
Here’s another piece of Penang pride that has also earned a name in the list of World Street Food Masters. Founded in 1930, Line Clear Nasi Kandar serves plain white rice and biryani rice doused in various types of curries—an assortment of meat, seafood, and vegetables.
Some of the dishes that made Line Clear Nasi Kandar globally famous include fried chicken, fried fish, mutton curry, beef curry, and last but not least, their special fish head curry. You shouldn’t worry about the queue too much, as it’s open 24 hours a day!
Line Clear Nasi Kandar, Beside 161 & 177 Penang Road, George Town, 10000, Penang | (+60) 4 261 4440
Having been featured on various television food programmes, Bangkok Lane‘s Mamak-style fried noodles is another gem worth going out all the way for. It’s located inside a small coffee shop named Seng Lee Café located at Jalan Burma. The business was started over 90 years ago when their grandfather came to Penang from India looking for new opportunities. From then on, the fried noodle recipe was passed on for generations, and the rest is history. It has gotten so popular that they opened up a branch in Selangor just last year. So if you can’t find time to visit Penang, you can try the branch in Selangor instead!
Bangkok Lane’s Mee Goreng, 280, Jalan Burma, 10350, George Town, Penang
Air Itam Sister Curry Mee is one of the most famous curry noodles on the island, and has been operating for over seven decades. As the name has it, this stall is managed by two sisters who are in their eighties right now. The noodles are so good, the sisters sell an average of 200 bowls of noodles a day!
What makes their noodles so good? Unchanged for over 70 years, the recipe calls for noodles served in a bowl of coconut curry broth that’s been broiling since 4.30 am every morning. Besides that, this bowl of fragrant curry noodles is also topped with homemade chilli paste, cuttlefish, pig’s blood curd, and deep-fried tofu. To find these sisters, head towards the road to Chinese Methodist Church and you’ll see them right past the Ayer Itam Bridge.
Air Itam Sister Curry Mee, 612 T, Jalan Air Itam, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Penang | (+60) 12 410 8152
Located in Air Itam as well, this laksa joint is another unmissable gem. It has been given the stamp of approval by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who has featured this dish as one of his favourite things to eat.
What exactly is laksa, and what makes it so good? Basically, it’s thick rice noodles served in a spicy mackerel and tamarind broth that’s been broiled for hours. Served with shrimp paste, cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, and mint leaves, this bowl of heaven is something you won’t forget!
Pasar Air Itam Laksa, 1, Jalan Pasar, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Penang | (+60) 12 500 7063
Chendol is a cold dessert made from shaved ice drenched in coconut milk. Served with pandan-flavoured noodles and kidney beans, this delectable treat is definitely worth the queue. Indulge yourself in Penang’s most famous chendol stall. It’s easy to spot, as there will always be a long line. Although they have opened several branches in Penang and even in KL, we personally think nothing beats the flavour served up by the original stall.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, Jalan Penang, 10450, George Town, Penang | (+60) 4 262 6002