The 20 Most Famous Penang Food: What and Where to Eat It

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Penang is the birthplace of Malaysia’s street food and has been voted time and again as one of the best in the world. 

Penang food is a delicious culinary experience where different cultural influences and flavors blend together.

Signature dishes like Char Koay Teow, Asam Laksa, and Nasi Kandar have been bestowed status as must-try dishes in the world.

The depth of flavors and mix of culinary influences surprised us while exploring authentic Penang food in Malaysia.

To help guide your culinary travels to the food capital of Malaysia, use this detailed Penang food guide to the 20 most famous foods and where to eat them.

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What Makes Penang Food Famous

Prawn Noodles Penang Food Authentic Food Quest
Prawn Noodles at Penang’s Famous Green House

Penang Island’s food history is inextricably linked to its founding in 1786. By the 1800s, Penang was one of the busiest trading ports in the region, attracting merchants involved in the trade of tea, spices, porcelain, and cloth.

Traders and settlers came from Europe, India, China, the Malay Archipelago, Thailand, and Burma and called Penang home. 

Gurney Drive Hawker Center Penang Food Authentic Food Quest
Gurney Drive Hawker Center at dinner time

This led to a multi-cultural mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Siamese, to name a few.

George Town is the capital city of Penang Island and is renowned for its diverse street food. 

It’s a deliciously fascinating city to explore, starting with these 10 best foods in Penang.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Depending on how much time you have in Penang, you may want to consider discovering the best Penang food on a tour with a local guide. This 4-hour Penang harmony food trail takes you around the city, tasting more than 10 different foods, while learning about the history and culture. You’ll learn how the different cultures have influenced the cuisine as your taste buds explode with flavor.

Top 10 Food in Penang Not To Miss

Vegetarian Penang Food Authentic Food Quest
Indian vegetarian dish in Penang

Food is the main reason to visit Penang, and it was, in fact, the main reason we visited the city.

The mere mention of the best food in Penang conjures up a cultural diversity of mouthwatering foods.

The most celebrated Malaysian foods are the Penang street food or hawker fare, which delivers a sensory combination of sour, sweet, and spicy. 

We’ll start with our 10 most beloved authentic Penang foods, followed by the 10 Penang foods that surprised us.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If your travels take you to Kuala Lumpur, consider taking a food tour with a local guide. Get to know Malaysia’s colorful cuisine, which has Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Arab flavors. With a chef as your local guide, you’ll get to know the food and the backstory of the dishes. Choose a Kuala Lumpur Laksa Lane food tour at lunch or the 5:30 pm Kuala Lumpur Sambal Streets food tour in the evening. These tours are offered by A Chef’s Tour, our go-to partner for authentic food tours in Asia.

1. Char Koay Teow – Best Penang Food

Char Koay Teow, our favorite Penang food

If you only have a chance to eat one local dish during your stay in Penang, may Char Koay Teow be it.

Char Koay Teow, or Char Kway Teow, literally means ”stir-fried flat rice noodle strips.”

It is made with flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, cockles, eggs, bean sprouts, chives, and lap cheong, or dried Chinese sausages in a mix of soy sauce.

Bursting with flavors, it has the perfect mix of savory, sweet, and spice.

Most often, you will find these flat rice noodles served on the streets from local street food stalls. 

The secret to this popular street food is in the way it is prepared, cooked with a charcoal fire. 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are curious and want to learn to make some of  Char Koay Teow and over famous Penang foods, consider taking a Penang cooking class. This 4-hour class starts with a tour of the local market to pick up ingredients, followed by learning to make starters and main dishes. Check it out here.

Where to Have Char Koay Teow

Char Koay Teow prepared one plate at a time

You will find Char Koay Teow in many hawker centers. Our favorite was from an unpretentious street food vendor at the corner of Jalan Anson and Jalan Siam. The only street food stall, this old man prepares Char Koay Teow the traditional way.

We waited in line for about 45 minutes to get our plates. Rather than making quantities “en masse,” he makes each plate individually until it’s “just right” before moving to the next order.

Across the street cart is a small corner, KopiTiam, where you can sit and enjoy your delicious food. It’s the perfect place to sip on the local drinks while waiting for your Char Koay Teow.

While 45 minutes is a ridiculous wait for street food, this particular Char Koay Teow is worth the wait. The combination of textures, flavors, and aromas makes for an unforgettable  experience.

Siam Road Charcoal Char Koay Teow

Address: Corner of Jalan Anson and Jalan Siam Penang

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Prices: RM 7 per plate (approx $1.48 USD)

2. Penang Assam Laksa – Most Popular Noodle Soup

Delightful bowl of Penang Assam Laksa

Assam Laksa, or Asam Laksa, is one of the most popular dishes in Malaysian cuisine. There are many different versions, each with its own intricacies. 

The Penang Asam Laksa is world-famous, taking the 7th spot on CNN World’s 50 Best Food list.

When we arrived in Penang, Malaysia, this was one of the first dishes we heard about and sought out.

Penang Assam Laksa is an addictive spicy-sour fish broth with vermicelli noodles. The secret to a great Asam Laksa is the spicy paste, which is a fish-based broth.

This fish-based vermicelli noodle soup comes with flaked fish, finely sliced onions, cucumber, red chilies, lettuce, mint, and ginger flowers. 

Asam Laksa also includes tamarind, and the dish is served with a tablespoon of prawn paste for additional flavor.

A little tangy and sour, the Asam Laksa fish soup is incredibly delicious, though an acquired taste. This traditional dish definitely lives up to all the hype.

Where to Eat Penang Assam Laksa

The famous Penang Air Itam Laksa food stall

Penang Air Itam Laksa is an old family-run hawker food stall established in 1955. Located next to Air Itam Market, you will find some of the city’s best steaming bowls of Penang Asam Laksa. The place can get busy with locals and tourists, so be patient. It is well worth the wait.

Penang Air Itam Laksa

Address: Air Itam Market (Jalan Pasar), Air Itam, Penang 11500

Hours: Open daily, 10:30 am – 7:00 pm

Prices: RM 5 (approx $1.17 USD)

RELATED: 10 Surprising Facts About Malaysian Food You Need to Know

3. Hokkien Mee – Traditional Chinese-Malay Seafood Noodle Dish

Flavorful bowl of Hokkien Mee

Hokkien Mee takes its origins from the Chinese province of Fujian or Hokkien. 

This noodle-based dish is very distinct with its orange-tinged broth. The broth is made from pork bones, prawn shells, and heads, giving it its unique color. And, it is then poured into a bowl of yellow noodles mixed with rice vermicelli.

This street food in Penang, Malaysia, is served with a boiled egg, water spinach, bean sprouts, and peeled prawns. Fried shallots, lime, and sambal sauce are added to spice up the dish.

This delicious food is for the seafood lovers. It not only has a distinct color but also a distinct seafood taste. If you don’t want the pork, you can ask for a seafood serving only.

We found this dish very flavorful and uniquely rich and savory. The mix of noodles complements the broth, and the combination of flavors is unparalleled.

Where to Have Hokkien Mee

Our favorite vendor for Hokkien Mee

Several delicious Hokkien Mee stalls compete for popularity. Our favorite is the famous Hokkien Mee stall at Lebuh Presgrave Hawker Center in Penang. This hawker center is not well known by tourists but is very popular with the locals.

It is a small hawker center, and you will find the Hokkien Mee stall beside the other stalls. They serve bowls that you can customize to your liking. This stall is a “self-service” counter, meaning that once you place your order, you take your bowl and find a table.

We found this particular Hokkien Mee very flavorful. The pork mix with the seafood added a unique twist to the flavor. If you have only one chance to eat Hokkien Mee, you’ll want to go to this food stall.

Lebuh Presgrave Hokkien Mee

Address: Presgrave Street Hawker Center, Penang

Hours: Tue-Sun, 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm; closed Monday

Prices: RM 4.50 to 6.50 per bowl (approx $1.05 USD to $1.52 USD)

4. Roti Canai – Our Favorite Flatbread

Roti Canai_Best Penang Food_Authentic Food Quest
Simple, yet delicious, Roti Canai with lentils and chicken curry

This popular Malay dish quickly became one of our favorite foods in Malaysia. We first discovered it in Penang and happily ate it throughout our stay in Malaysia.

Roti Canai is the Malaysian adaptation of the Indian paratha roti or Indian flatbread and is one of the most basic rotis. 

It is served with curry sauce, the most common being daal (a soupy lentil curry) and Kari ayam (chicken curry without pieces of chicken).

Everything about Roti Canai is an experience. From the delicious tastes and flavors to the impressive preparation process. 

Like pizza dough, Roti Canai dough is thrown and spun in the air and slapped against a hot, well-oiled work surface. Unlike pizza dough, roti canai dough is spun and slapped continuously until it becomes almost paper-thin.

Interestingly, Roti canai translates to “flying bread” in reference to the way it’s prepared. It is a popular breakfast dish but is also served as a snack or quick lunch.

Where to Eat Roti Canai 

Roti Canai stall about to open

Choon Roti Canai is the first stall where we discovered Roti Canai.

Choon Roti Canai

Address: 300, Jalan Phee Choon, George Town

Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am – 2:00 pm

Prices: Roti Canai RM1.50 (approx $0.35 USD)

Penang Transfer Road Roti Canai

Transfer Road Roti Canai is famous for roti canai in Penang. This particular food stall has a history of over 90 years and has been passed down through four generations.

Address: 56, Jalan Transfer Penang

Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am -12:00 pm

Prices: Roti Canai RM1.0 (approx $0.23 USD)

5.  Nasi Lemak – National Dish of Malaysia

Three different kinds of Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaves

Nasi Lemak, translated to buttery rice, is Malaysia’s national dish and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

You will find this famous rice dish served everywhere, from fancy restaurants to more humble Mamak stalls (hawker stalls).

In the center of George Town Penang, at the Sri Weld Food Court, you’ll find locals and tourists waiting to place their rice dish orders at Ali Nasi Lemak.

The rice in Nasi Lemak is a fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaves, ginger or a stalk of lemongrass, and chili sauce. 

You can choose from six types, including fried chicken, prawns, salted fish and eggs, fried anchovies and eggs, fish, and cuttlefish.

The anchovies and egg, or Bilis Telur, is among the most popular, and we enjoyed it, including chicken and cuttlefish (sotong). 

Nasi Lemak can also be served as steamed rice, locally known as Nasi Lemak Kukus.

Where to Eat Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak served with a smile

Located right in the heart of George Town, Ali’s famous Daun Pisang (banana leaf) Nasi Lemak comes with six different choices; chicken, prawns, salted fish and eggs, anchovies and egg, fish and cuttlefish.

The food is prepared on the spot and wrapped in a triangular shape with banana leaves.

Ali Nasi Lemak

Address: Sri Weld Food Court, Beach St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town

Hours: Mon-Fri, 7:00 am – 2:00 pm; Sat, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm

Prices: RM 1.80 each (approx $0.42 USD each)

RELATED: 10 Unusual Malaysian Drinks to Experience like a Local

6. Wanton Mee – Popular Chinese Noodle Dish

Tasty and filling Wanton Mee

Wanton Mee might be one of the most popular noodle dishes in Penang. It is available at almost every Chinese kopiam (coffee shop) and hawker center.

And it is an easy meal if you don’t want to venture too far out of your comfort zone. 

The Wanton Mee is an egg noodles dish served with wonton dumplings, leafy vegetables, and barbecue pork slices, also known as char siu.

The shrimp wontons are the most common. However, they can also contain chicken, pork, prawns, spring onions, and mushrooms.

You’ll find dried and soups versions of this popular Chinese dish. Our favorite was the soup version of this street food in Penang. 

We found it richer in flavor and more filling than the other versions.

Where to Have Wanton Mee

Waiting in line for Wanton Mee at a popular food stand

On your travels to Penang, do not miss New Lane Hawker Center, a famous Penang food court. It is located on Long Baru Street, which closes at night to accommodate the street food stalls. You will find this Wanton Mee food vendor in the middle of the stalls.

You’ll get generous portions with delicious slices of pork. The dumplings are perfectly cooked and not thick or heavy. The broth is well-seasoned and big on flavors. It’s a simple dish that is just plain good.

Wanton Mee

Address: Lorong Baru, George Town.

Hours: Open daily, 6:30 pm – 12:00 am. Closed Monday

Prices: RM 8.70 each per bowl (approx $2.04 USD)

7. Curry Mee – Popular Curry Noodle Dish

Deceivingly tasty bowl of Curry Mee

This was one of our favorite dishes, second to the Char Koay Teow. Its unexpected flavors blew us away.

Curry Mee is a unique soup made with thin yellow noodles and rice vermicelli. 

The broth is made of a spicy curry soup with sambal, coconut milk, and a mix of tofu, prawns, chicken, egg, mint leaves, and cockles.

At first glance, we were unsure what to expect from this traditional Malay dish. It is not an attractive bowl of soup, but each spoonful just melts in the mouth.

 The curry soup is succulent, and every ingredient marries perfectly with the curry taste.

Go beyond the visual appearance, and don’t miss this delicious Curry Mee soup. Expand your palate with the unique curry flavors and taste, which makes it one of the best Penang foods.

Where to Have Curry Mee

Curry Mee street vendor on Chulia Street

One of Penang’s most famous places for street food is Chulia Street, Food Stall. It is an arrangement of food stalls on Lebuh Chulia Street. As we looked around, we noticed an unpretentious Curry Mee stall that always had someone stopping by to get a bowl of Curry Mee.

Once we ordered our bowls, we were skeptical about how they would taste. But after the first bite, we were sold. It is truly a delightful dish, one you’ll want to hunt for when in Penang, Malaysia. 

Chulia Street has many food stall options, and we definitely recommend going in the evening for this Curry Mee.

Curry Mee

Address: Chulia Street Hawker Center, George Town.

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 4:15 pm – 10:00 pm.

Prices: RM 6 per bowl (approx $1.40 USD)

8. Nyonya Top Hats – Best Peranakan Nyonya Bites

Intricate and delightful Nyonya appetizers

Peranakan or Nyonya food is a distinct cuisine born from Chinese immigrants who married and integrated with local Malays.

Kuih Paiti is a classic Nyonya food often eaten as a starter. These delightful bites get their name from their little shells that resemble top hats.

Savory and in a crispy pastry shell, they are filled with a tasty mix of thinly sliced turnips, carrots, bamboo shoots, and French beans.

They are often accompanied by chili paste, which adds a delightful bite.

As Singapore and Malaysia were once one country, this Nyonya food is also found in Singapore, where it is known as Kueh Pie Tee. 

Where to Buy Kuih Paiti

Khim Kuih Food Stall Penang Food by Authentic Food Quest
Traditional dishes at Khim Kuih – Photo credit: Khim Kuih on Facebook

Located outside of Lye Lye Kopitiam, Air Itam, Khim Kuih food stall has been serving Penang fried goodies since 1993.

In addition to Nyonya Top Hats, you will find traditional dishes like fried radish cake, Yam Cake, Fried Durian, or Tofu.

The long line at this popular Penang street food stall is a testament to their popularity.

Khim Kuih

Address: Jalan Bukit Bendera, Pulau Pinang

Hours: Open daily, 1:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Prices: RM 1.30 (approx. $0.28 USD)

RELATED: Nyonya Food in Penang: Top 10 Foods And Restaurants to Eat Them

9. Popiah – Best Penang Snacks 

Popiah Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Tasty Seafood Popiah

Popiah, or fresh spring rolls, are a healthy and popular local snack. You’ll find them at most hawker centers, and they are perfect as an appetizer before your meal.

The outer layer of the spring roll is made of a wafer-thin paper crepe made from wheat flour. 

The inside filling tends to be fresh, steamed, or stir-fried turnips, jicama, bean sprouts, carrots, lettuce, sliced tofu, chopped peanuts, fried shallots, and shredded omelets.

These are delicious and light snacks we enjoyed and ate frequently during our authentic food quest in Penang, Malaysia.

Where to Eat Popiah

Popiah Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Popiah Stall

In the core of George Town, right off Penang Road, is the very popular Joo Hooi restaurant, which serves local Penang foods. You’ll likely find long lines depending on the time you get there. Take your place in line and wait; the food is excellent and worth the wait.

Joo Hooi Restaurant 

Address: 475 Jalan Penang, George Town, Penang

Hours: Open daily, 11:00 am – 5:30 pm

Prices: RM 2.50 per plate (approx $0.60 USD)

10. Cendol – Best Refreshing Dessert

Our favorite delicious icy treat

Cendol, pronounced something like “Chendul”, is one of the most surprising desserts we discovered. 

This unique dessert consists of green jelly noodles made with rice flour and green food coloring. 

It is served with kidney beans, immersed in shaved ice, and finished with copious amounts of coconut milk and palm sugar.

Penang Road, or Lebuh Penang, in the center of George Town, has two famous Cendol stalls. 

Penang Road famous Cendol stall is on the north side of the street. And Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul stall, on the south side, next to Joo Hooi Cafe.

We waited about 20 minutes in line to try Cendol at the second stall. It was tasty but not fantastic, as it was a hot day, and the ice melted almost instantly.

Our favorite Cendol was recommended to us while dining at Lebuh Presgrave Hawker Center, which is very local and not popular with tourists.

Where to Have Cendol

The best Cendol vendor at Presgrave Street Hawker Center

If you want to get off the beaten path and try Cendol in a local and non-touristy neighborhood, we highly recommend Lebuh Presgrave.

Lebuh Presgrave Cendol

Address: Presgrave Street Hawker Center, Penang

Hours: Fri-Wed, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm; closed Thursday

Prices: RM3.20 per bowl (approx $0.75 USD)

On Penang Street, you will not miss the long lines at either of the two famous cendol stalls.

As long as you are in the area, try Cendol from both these popular stalls and make your own opinion.

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul

Address: 27 & 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, 10100 George Town, Penang

Hours: Open daily, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Prices: RM 2.90 (approx $0.68 USD)

6 Most Surprising Penang Foods

The food in Penang surprised us in many ways. Beyond the famous Penang foods, the more we dug deeper into the local specialties, the more discovered.

This set of 10 surprising Penang foods are the ones that challenged us to expand our palates.

Penang lives up to its title as the food capital of Malaysia, and you’ll be amazed at the diversity.

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11. Rojak – Most Distinctive Penang Famous Food

Rojak Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
A medley of flavors and cultures in Rojak

This unique dish is a fruit salad composed of the most peculiar and diverse ingredients we’ve ever had in a fruit salad.

A Penang-style Rojak typically has cucumber, pineapple, mango, rose apple, cuttlefish, turnip, bean sprouts, Taupo (puffed soya bean cake), and youtiao (fried dough fritters).

The dressing is dark and made with a dark prawn paste (Hae Ko), palm sugar, sambal (ground chilies), and lime juice.

The salad is topped with chopped peanuts, making it a satisfying snack or meal. The expectation is a sweet taste because of the fruit, but the reality is salty and savory flavors due to the pungent dark shrimp paste.

You’ll find Rojak everywhere on the island, from hawker stalls to fancy restaurants. It is representative of the diversity found in Malaysia, as it is a dish the different communities have contributed to.

The shrimp paste is said to be Malay, the fritters or youtiao is the Chinese contribution, and the chili paste comes from the Indians. An amazing and delicious concoction of flavors.

Where to Have Rojak

Rojak Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Rojak famous stall

You will find Rojak everywhere, and every Penangite has their favorite spot. The secret to a good rojak lies in the sauce. Listed below are places where we tried Rojak. Each place was quite good, and the ingredients varied slightly. Regardless of where you choose to have Rojak, be sure not to miss this popular and famous food.

Padang Brown Hawker Center

Address: Jalan Johor, Pulau Pinang

Hours: Fri-Mon, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm

Prices: RM 4.00+  (approx $0.94 USD)

Gurney Drive Hawker Center

Address: Persiaran Gurney

Hours: Wed-Mon, 4:30 pm – 11:00 pm; Closed Tuesday

Prices: RM 4 – 10.0 depending on size (approx $0.94 USD – $2.34 USD)

12. Chee Cheong Fun – Rice Noodle Roll Penang Street Food

Chee Cheong Fun Plate Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Chee Cheong Fun in Penang

Chee Cheong Fun is a dish from the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Hong Kong. It was brought to Malaysia by Chinese immigrants at the end of the 19th century.

Chee Cheong Fun means rice noodle roll. It is a popular street food in Malaysia with the Chinese community. In China, it is typically served with dark soy sauce, whereas in Malaysia, it has been adapted, and you’ll find various sauces.

In Penang, it is typically served with a dark-brown prawn sauce called Hae Ko. The dark sauce over the white steamed noodle rolls makes for a surprising presentation. 

The texture of the rolls is quite smooth, with a sweet rice aroma. 

As for the taste, the sauce is strong and takes over the flavors of the noodle rolls. Some of these rice noodle rolls are served with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Where to Have Chee Cheong Fun

Chee Cheong Fun Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Chee Cheong Fu Stall serving enormous cuttlefish

You will find this popular dish served as a snack or a meal in many hawker centers in Penang. Any Chinese hawker stall will have this specialty available.

This dish is certainly not to miss in Penang although it was far from being our favorite. The rolls by themselves are blended, and when eaten with the sauce, it is hard to distinguish any particular flavors except the pungent hae ko sauce. It is definitely an interesting dish to experience, and it stretches your senses beyond anything you know.

Chee Cheong Fun Stall

Address: Chulia Street Hawker Center, George Town

Hours: Open daily, 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

Prices: RM2.80 per plate (approx $0.66 USD)

13. Lok Lok – Penang Food for Sharing

Lok Lok Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Lok Lok ready to be cooked

Lok Lok, which means “dip dip”, is another famous food not to be missed on your trip. This is a communal type of dinner where locals sit around a table with a central pot of boiling water.  

A wide selection of food ranging from seafood to meats and vegetables is skewered on sticks. The skewers have different colors reflecting the ingredients’ price. 

Most Lok Lok items are processed meat, such as meatballs, fish balls, and crab sticks. 

However, you can find a handful of fresh seafood such as shrimp, squids, cuttlefish, and fresh green vegetables.

Once boiled in water, the skewers are dipped in various sauces. These can include red or green chili sauce, dark sweet sauce, spicy peanut, oyster sauce, or spicy ginger garlic.

We are not fans of processed meats, so we did not really enjoy those particular skewers. We preferred fresh ingredients like the seafood skewers dipped in the delicious sauces.

The experience is perfect when traveling in groups. Choose skewers with fresh ingredients and enjoy an authentic Lok Lok experience.

Where to Eat Lok Lok

Lok Lok Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Choose your skewers from the Lok Lok Stall

Padang Brown is one of the oldest hawker centers in Penang. It has been serving famous food in Penang since the 1960s. Find many delicious Penang street food as well as the noteworthy Lok Lok stall.

Padang Brown Hawker Center

Address: Jalan Johor, Pulau Pinang

Hours: Open daily, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm

Prices: RM 0.80 – RM 1.60 per skewer (approx $1.40 USD)

14. Nasi Kandar – Original Penang Food

Nasi Kandar Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Nasi Kandar with a variety of small bites

Nasi Kandar is a Penang famous food that is loved in the country. In Malay, Nasi means rice, and Kandar refers to old pole baskets that food was delivered in. 

The dish is made up of steamed rice, accompanied by various curry-based meat dishes and vegetables.

In Penang, you’ll find Nasi Kandar restaurants at practically every corner. While you can order off a menu, it’s much more tantalizing to go up to the glass counter and choose your curries and sides. 

This way, you also get to interact and ask questions about the spicy levels of the curries and the different vegetable side dishes.

One particularity of eating a Nasi Kandar is “banjir.” This is the beautiful combination of flavors when the different curry sauces are poured over the rice. 

We really enjoyed the variety of flavors of Nasi Kandar. As this dish is originally from Penang, you don’t want to miss it on your travels. 

Where to Eat Nasi Kandar

Nasi Kandar Restaurant Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Nasi Kandar Pelita in Penang

While you’ll find many Nasi Kandar restaurants all over. One of our favorite places was Nasi Kandar Pelita which was close to where we stayed.

Nasi Kandar Pelita

Nasi Kandar Buffet Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Nasi Kandar Buffet at Pelita restaurant

Address: 46A, Jalan Macalister, 10400 Penang

Hours: Open 24/7

Prices: RM 4.50 and up (approx $1.05+ USD)

While we didn’t visit this particular Nasi Kandar location, we highlight it here because it is a local favorite and also the oldest Nasi Kandar restaurant in Penang, since 1907.

Hameediyah Restaurant

Address: 164A, Lebuh Campbell, 10200, George Town

Hours: Open daily, 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Prices: RM 5.50 and up (approx $1.30+ USD)

15. Char Koay Kak – Unexpected Carrot Cake

Char Koay Kak Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Char Koay Kak or carrot cake

Char Koay Kak is also referred to as the carrot cake. But don’t be misled; this dish has nothing to do with a carrot cake. It is neither sweet nor made with carrots.

So, where does it get its name from? Char Koay Kak is a fried radish cake

The name is believed to come from the loose translation from Hokkien to English of “radish pastry” called “chai tow” carrot or radish, and “kway “ cake.

Char Koay Kak is made of fried radish cake containing steamed rice flour, water, and shredded white daikon, a mild-flavored winter radish. 

It is stir-fried with eggs, preserved radish, bean sprouts, soy sauce, and other seasonings.

The name of the dish and the textures are really surprising. We didn’t find the radish cake to have much taste. Nevertheless, it is worth trying to understand what a carrot cake is in Malaysia.

Where to Have Char Koay Kak

Char Koay Kak Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Char Koay Kak Menu at a Hawker Center

This dish is really popular at breakfast or for dinner. You will find it at stalls serving Char Koay Teow in hawker centers. While not our favorite Penang food, it is worth trying and tasting it at this popular hawker center. 

Char Koay Kak – Hong Kong Tea Garden Hawker Center

Address: Corner Lorong Selamat and Jalan Macalister Street, George Town

Hours: Fri-Tue, 7:00 am – 12:00 pm; Closed Wed-Thur

Prices: RM4 per plate (approx $0.94 USD)

16. Pork Satay – Popular Skewers 

Pork Satay Food in Singapore by Authentic Food Quest
Pork Satay served with fresh vegetables

Satay, a popular Penang street food, is found all over. At Muslim Malay stalls, you’ll find beef or chicken satay. When the Chinese cook satay, they tend to prefer pork satay.

Good satay skewers are cooked over charcoal, which gives the meat a unique smoky taste. Succulent, tender, and slightly charred, a good satay is grilled to perfection in the hands of an expert.

We enjoyed an excellent chicken satay, served with dipping sauce and slices of cucumbers and onions.

The satay is sold by the stick. It is very inexpensive, so order at least a dozen and enjoy the tasty and succulent flavors.

Where to Eat Pork Satay

Pork Satay Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Satay Stall in Gurney drive Penang

Find delicious pork satay at this two hawker centers in Penang.

Roadside Stall at New Lane

Address: New Lane Hawker Center, Jalan Macalister, George Town

Hours: Thur- Tue, 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm; Closed Wednesday

Prices: RM1.0 per stick (approx $0.23 USD)

Gurney Drive Hawker Center

Address: Persiaran Gurney

Hours: Wed-Mon, 4:30 pm – 11:00 pm; Closed Tuesday

Prices: RM1.0 per stick (approx $0.23 USD)

4 Must-Have Malaysian Sweets in Penang

Art on the Streets of Penang Malay Food Authentic Food Quest
Street art in Penang

Sweet tooth lovers, you will enjoy these unique Malaysian desserts.

READ MORE: 7 Of The Best Food Tours in Singapore You Want To Try

17. Tambun Biscuits – Best For Souvenirs

Savory and crispy Tambun Biscuits

These famous Penang biscuits are true gems. Tambun Biscuits are typically made from wheat flour, sugar, green bean paste, fried onions, lard, and salt.

Also known as Tau Sah Peah in Chinese, Tambun Biscuits have an interesting sweet and salty combination

Shaped like a ball, they have a dry, sweet, thin crust on the outside and a salty filling on the inside.

We really enjoyed these biscuits as a snack or after one of our best Penang foods to finish our meals. They are also delicious to have with local drinks like Teh-Tarik.

This famous Penang delicacy makes for one of the most popular souvenirs from Penang. Don’t forget to pick up a box before you leave. Though we doubt it will make it home.

Where to Buy Tambun Biscuits

Ban Heang, best bakery for Tambun biscuits in Penang

There are a few shops selling Tambun Biscuits in Penang. We stayed near Ban Heang, a famous local biscuit manufacturer. Each time we walked by, we were tempted by the aromas and the different biscuit varieties.

Among the different flavors you’ll find at Ban Heang, the biscuits made with Durian are the most surprising. If eating raw Durian doesn’t tempt you, you might want to try these wonderful durian-flavored biscuits instead.

Ban Haeng

Address: 200 Macalister Road, Georgetown

Hours: Open daily, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

Prices: RM 12.90 per box of 16 pieces (approx $3.02 USD)

RELATED: What Does Durian Taste Like: How To Appreciate It Despite Its Smell

18. Ais Kachang – Unusual Shaved Ice Dessert

Ais Kachang Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Unique ingredients in Ais Kachang dessert

The iced desserts in Penang took us by surprise. Ais Kacang, also known as ABC (Ais Batu Campur), was another unusual shaved ice dessert we encountered. 

The name translates to “ice beans.” Ais Kachang, we learned, was originally made with nothing but shaved ice and red beans. But over the years, the ingredients expanded.

Today, almost every variant has a large serving of red beans, gelatinous balls, sweet corn, grass jelly cubes drizzled with condensed milk or coconut milk, and rose syrup over a mountain of ice that resembles the snow peaks of the Alps.

Each mouthful taken is met with interesting textures, from tender and soft red beans to smooth, chewy bites. Be sure to try this delicious treat and part of Penang’s rich food heritage.

Where to Eat Ais Kachang

Ais Kachang Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Ais Kachang Stall

While you stand in line for a cendol, you might as well get an Ais Kachang at this popular stall.

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul

Address: 27 & 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, 10100 George Town, Penang

Hours: Open daily, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Prices: RM 2.80 (approx $0.66 USD)

19. Apom – Popular Breakfast Crepes

Apom Sean Ng Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Apom Manis – Photo credit: Sean Ng cc by 2.0

Apom is a Tamil dish that comes from Southern India. It is a popular breakfast dish in Penang and is also eaten as an afternoon or evening snack.

Apom are small crepes made of sugar, coconut milk, and rice flour. The batter is poured into mini-woks that are used to cook the Apom. 

The edges of the crepes are crispy, while the center contains more batter and is softer.

Some Apom called Apom Manis are made with an extra egg added to the crepe while cooking and spread on top. It makes for a more filling snack.

Where to Have Apom

Apom Stall Penang Famous Food Authentic Food Quest
Vendor intently making Apom

There are a few stalls serving Apom at hawker centers. We had our favorite Apom across the Chulia Street hawker center.

The lady making these mini-crepes always attracts a hungry crowd. We enjoyed the variety we tried and loved their soft texture. Eaten easily in just two or three bites, this sweet street food dessert is unmissable in Penang.

Apom Stall

Address: Across Chulia Street Hawker Center, George Town

Hours: Tue-Sun, 5:00 pm -11:00 pm; Closed, Monday

Prices: RM 0.50 per piece (approx $0.12 USD)

Another local and favorite Apom stall is located in Pulau Tikus, just a few miles north of the old town of George Town. This location is recommended as the vendor cooks the Apom in a clay pot with charcoal, which is the traditional way.

Apom Manis Stall

Address: Kedai Kopi Swee Kong, Solok Moulmein, Pulau Tikus

Hours: Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat; 6:00 am – 10:00 am; Closed Thurs and Sun

Prices: RM 0.60 per piece (approx $0.14 USD)

20. Teh Tarik – Best Food To Drink 

Teh Tarik from Malaysia by Authentic Food Quest
Teh Tarik, simple but flavorful milk tea

While not technically a food, Teh Tarik, is Malaysia’s national drink and cannot be missed as part of this comprehensive Penang food guide.

Teh Tarik is a Malaysian pulled tea, consumed throughout the country. It is made with black tea, sugar, and condensed milk.

The way it is prepared brings together Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, where all the ingredients are poured through the air between two cups to create a rich, frothy top.

This delicious tea blends Chinese tea leaves with the Indian way of making chai. 

In Malaysia, Teh Tarik is more than just a cup of tea with condensed milk. It is one of the most revered Malaysian drinks, so much so that there are sports and competitions dedicated to the art of tea-pulling.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: You can taste Malaysia’s national tea from the comfort of hour. Our simple Teh Tarik Recipe shows you how to easily Make Delicious Frothy Malaysian Pulled Tea

Where to Have Teh Tarik

Here are two places where to taste the sweetness of this Malaysian tasty drink.

Heritage Teh Tarik & Roti Canai

Address: Stall side Queen Street Corner Beside 81 Market Street, 10200 George Town

Hours: Open daily, 6:00 am – 4:00 pm

Prices: RM 1.20 (approx $0.25 USD)

Warung Teh Tarik Hamid

Address: Jalan Pantai, 12000 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Hours: Mon-Sat, 6:00 am – 2:00 am: Closed Sunday

Prices: RM 1.20 (approx $0.25 USD)

FAQs About Penang Food in Malaysia

Wonderfood Museum Penang Food Authentic Food Quest
“Biting” into a giant Cendol at Penang Food Museum

From our favorite Penang food courts to the food museum and festival, here are additional insights onto the food scene in Penang.

RELATED: Penang Food Museum: How To Feast Your Senses On the World First Food Museum

Favorite Penang Food Courts

Penang is home to many different hawker centers sprawling around the city. From the large and organized Gurney Drive Hawker Center to open-air hawker stalls on Chulia Street, each center has its own character. There is a hawker center for every taste, and our top three favorites are:

Presgrave Street Hawker Center – This hawker center impressed us with its vast array of Chinese and Malay food.

Sri Weld Food Court – We enjoyed this one as it is focused on traditional Malay specialties like Nasi Lemak and Asam Laksa.

New Lane Hawker Center – For a cozy ambiance, and a wide range of local drinks and food, this was another of our favorite spots.

What To Eat In Penang At Night

Penang has a vibrant street food night scene, and you’ll find many delicious Penang foods to choose from. Several hawker centers stay open until late at night, and if you find yourself craving a signature dish, here are the top places to eat at night in Penang.

Chulia Street Night Hawker Market – Open from 4:30 pm – 10:30 pm

New Lane Hawker Center – Open from 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm (except Wednesdays)

Kimberley Street Food Night Market – Open from 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Penang Food Festival

Penang hosts several food festivals. Some are religious based, while others celebrate the local food culture. 

The Penang International Food Festival, which takes place in June, is one of the most important food festivals. Around the same time period are other smaller mini festivals that celebrate dedicated cuisines such as Malay delicacies or seafood.

At religious festivals like the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, a Taoist celebration, or the Indian Thaipusam festival, food is a part of the festivities. 

Regardless of what time of year you visit Penang, participate in the local festivals for a deeper appreciation of the cuisine and influences.

Penang Food Museum

For an experience of the senses, visit Penang’s first world food museum, called Wonderfood. 

This museum features creative and interactive food art that celebrates Penang’s food heritage.

Giant replicas of the food dishes are exhibited in several galleries in this three-floor building. You will learn about Malaysian eating habits and the history behind the food from a Penang food guide.

The Wonderfood Museum will no doubt leave you hungry and tempted to try another new dish in this Penang food guide.

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Have you had any of these famous Penang foods before? Please let us know in the comments below which one of these foods you would like to try.

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Penang Food Guide by Authentic Food Quest

39 Comments on “The 20 Most Famous Penang Food: What and Where to Eat It”

  1. I haven’t been to Penang, but I hope to visit. The food in Penang sounds fabulous – each of the nine reasons appeals to me. I would love to try the Penang Asam Laksa ?.

    • Thanks, Nancy for stopping by. Penang is indeed worth visiting. As the food capital of Malaysia, you’ll find a wonderful cultural mix of flavors from Malay, Chinese, Indian and more. We loved all the food including the Assam Laksa. Hope your travels take you to Penang soon. Cheers!

  2. We loved Penang Claire! The food was first rate but just walking around Georgetown was a fun, thrilling experience. I snapped a few images of that funky-looking temple in Little India. I also enjoyed the funkier-looking pedicabs guys pedaled around town, looking for folks who wanted to get around in the blistering heat and humidity of the place.

    • We loved walking around the city of Georgetown as well. So much beauty and history. The best part about walking around was letting the food digest:) Did you try the pedicab? We didn’t but enjoyed the walk and the funky temples. We should meet up in Penang, at some point 🙂 Cheers!

  3. I almost cried reading your post: so many unforgettable memories and mouthwatering experiences came back from our 3 months in Penang earlier this year. It is truly foodie paradise. We lived in Bayan Lepas way outside of Georgetown. Not many tourists would venture that far so I wouldn’t recommend any places there even though the food is excellent and you can get a dinner for two under $3USD (unbelievable, right?). However, there are couple places in Georgetown I want to recommend. You covered local food pretty well. Here are some choices if you want a variety. Lang Sae Lee Thai Food Restaurant at Tan Jetty – known mostly by locals since it’s somewhat difficult to find (you have to walk all the way down to the end of jetty even though it seems that nothing is there) – they serve excellent Thai food in no frills setting. Trust me you would enjoy it (I lived in Thailand, so I know what I am talking about). If you get tired of local food and suddenly crave Italian, Il Bacáro near Chinatown is the place. It is much more than regular Italian fare (beware though that it comes with the price), and it’s better to make a reservation since it is a popular restaurant.

    • So happy to read that at the article almost brought tears to your eyes! Indeed Georgetown is a magical place and the food is simply incredible. Thanks for the recommendations at Tan Jetty 🙂 We are all about the local specialties and we would have loved to stay much longer and discover even more. Appreciate you stopping by! Cheers, Elena.

  4. Oh my word, my mouth is watering! I love different cuisines from around the world and I love the fusion of foods and spices in Malaysia. Penang’s food scene looks perfect for me with plenty of vegetarian options. Is the Laksa vegetarian, too? (Sometimes soups are tricky.) The Penang Street Food Festival sounds like a foodie’s dream! I’d love to visit when this is happening.

    • Thanks so much Jackie…writing this article was quite a challenge because of all the delicious food and wonderful memories. Penang is really an amazing city and the food is incredible. We would love to visit the Penang Street Food festival as well…perhaps we should coordinate and meet at the next one? Lots of vegetarian options 🙂 Cheers!!

  5. I just told my girlfriend that we need to go to Penang 😀 You have such an amazing article about this food Mekka that I’m really tempted to visit Malaysia. I’m intrigued to visit this cool food museum and try all the street foods like the Penang Asam Laksa! I love how many food related festivals they have as well. Thank you for this awesome article.

    • Awesome, Tom. Great to read the article and your plans to visit Penang meshed perfectly. If you are in the area, do not miss Penang. And, plan to stay a few extra days. Great city with amazing food. Glad you liked the article and stay tuned for more about the food in the area. Let us know if you have any questions about Penang as you prepare for your trip. Cheers.

  6. I’m always excited to learn about countries that are melting pots of cultures like Pengang. I’ll be out that way later this year, might have to stop by. The prawn noodles look deliciously spicy. Looks like a fun visit to the Wonderfood Museum.

    • Thanks Debra, and glad you enjoyed reading about the food culture in Penang. There is so much good food and local food experiences. Definitively, worth a trip should your travels take you to the area. More to come about the museum soon. Stay tuned!

  7. Dang, girl! Your post makes me miss Penang even more. I was in Penang last month for the first time and I gained 3 kgs within a few days only. Not good! Penang is indeed a paradise for a foodie like me. I loved almost all the food I tasted specially Lam Mee, Prawn Mee, Wonton Mee, Ai Yu Bing Jelly dessert and the local Black Thorn durian. Can’t wait to visit Penang again in the near future 🙂

    • Lol…so true, it’s easy to gain weight in Penang. So much good food….we ate most of the dishes you had, but missed the black thorn durian. Wow, that sounds interesting. We are counting down going back to Penang as well. Indeed, a foodie paradise. Thanks for stopping by Debbzie.

  8. Ahhh! When I was in Malaysia I didn’t get to Penang, though I was tempted. I love a great hawker stand, and the Penang food is supposed to be one of the world’s best. Next time!

    • Great to hear…food is the only reason to visit Penang 🙂 Georgetown is a UNESCO heritage city so there is much to see and do, but the food,in our opinion is above all!! Hope you get to Malaysia soon. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Every food photo looked delicious! I love finding authentic dining experiences when I travel so this will come in handy one day. I have yet to get to that part of the world.

    • Thank you so much, Theresa, and so glad you enjoyed this article. We agree, seeking out the local and authentic dishes and places make for a wonderfully enriched travel experience. Hope your travels take you to Penang, it is deliciously worth it!! Cheers.

  10. It looks like you had a DELICIOUS trip! My foodie world capital is Paris (I mean, real croissants, come on! 🙂 ) but San Juan, PR also has some incredible cuisine. If you go, try mallorca bread. All you’ll regret is that you can’t bring it home 🙂

    • We love France and agree that Paris is a food city as well. The flavors in Southeast Asia are quite different than in France. A much more multicultural mix of flavors that is wonderful as well. Thanks for the tip about Mallorca bread in Puerto Rico, noted for a future trip. Thanks, Meagan.

  11. Floating villages? That sounds so interesting and fun to see… I wonder if the fact that they are floating changes how or what they eat? I’ve never been to Malaysia, but my husband has, and he always raves about their food!

    • Awesome Doreen. Thanks so much for your feedback and glad you like the theme of our website. We agree 100%, exploring the local flavors on one’s travels really adds to the experience. Indeed, a visit to Penang is worth it on any trip to Malaysia. Thanks for stopping by!


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