Penang is a beautiful tropical island located in the northwest of Malaysia, famous for its peaceful historic streets with unique cultural characteristics. It is attractive in the eyes of visitors not only because of its special geographical location with many beautiful beaches such as Batu Ferringhi and Penang Hill, Penang also offers one of the most diverse cuisines in Asia. So, let’s find out what to eat in Penang!
- Penang food blog — 10 best street food in Penang & best places to find them
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- Top cafes in Georgetown — 8+ best coffee shops & best cafes in Georgetown Penang
- Where to visit in Georgetown? — 11+ must-see & best places to visit in Georgetown, Penang
- Where to shop in Penang? — 5+ best shopping malls in Penang & best places to shop in Penang
According to recorded history, Penang was built in 1786 by the English captain Francis Light, who allowed immigrants to own the land they reclaimed and be free from taxes at the port. Because of this, Penang attracted many settlers from around the world, including those who originated from Britain, India, and China. Since then, they have enjoyed harmony in the contemporary culinary arts, bringing about abundance but not separation. And if you have come to Penang, why not try exploring this vibrant culture through the local cuisine?
So, what to eat in Penang and where to eat in Penang? Let’s check out our suggested 9 best food to eat in Penang, top food in Penang, best food in Penang, Penang must eat food, food must eat in Penang, best local food in Penang, best street food in Penang, famous food in Penang, traditional food in Penang, food must try in Penang as well as best places to eat in Penang as follows!
Crunchy, crispy Roti Canai – What to Eat in Penang?
When I first landed in Penang on an evening in April, I was lucky enough to be able to book a Grab ride from the airport to downtown George Town at a relatively affordable price. Booking a Grab ride at the airport is quite difficult due to the limited number of vehicles. You will have to be very patient and wait a long time. If you don’t choose Grab or an airport taxi as a means of transportation, you can catch bus 401 opposite the exit gate. My hotel is the Grand Inn on Penang Road, available to reserve on traveloka.com for about USD 17 per night. Arriving at the hotel at 7 pm with a starving stomach, I decided to circle around the hotel and look for the authentic Indian dish Roti Canai.
The soft, chewy bread dough and the crispy baked outer layer with curry sauce create an indescribable charm. This dish is even more savory thanks to the pungency of the sauce and the salty taste, just one bite will blow you away.
The food is delicious and inexpensive at only 2.5 RM. You can find this bread everywhere in Penang without having to scour far away.
Legendary Nasi Lemak coconut rice (#best street food in penang)
What to eat in Penang? This is the national dish of Malaysia and the pride of the local people here. So, you cannot leave Malaysia without trying this one.
Walking along the historic streets with colorful Peranakan houses, it is easy to see stalls selling pyramid-shaped Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaves. But the surprise is the sticky rice with thick coconut milk, dried and seasoned anchovies, boiled eggs, roasted peanuts, and a layer of sambal sauce, which are all covered by banana leaves.
Nasi Lemak rice is specially wrapped like this with origins attached to Malaysian laborers. For them, meals needed to be simple yet nutritious in one serving and easy to take away.
Today, Nasi Lemak has many new versions with lots of layers, including chicken curry, fried fish, fried chicken, and so on, suitable for many different groups of people.
Hema Hema ice cream in Chinatown (#must eat in penang)
The weather in April in Penang is really hot, so let’s get a cup of ice cream. And if you are a fan of sweet treats, Penang is your promised land. It is famous for many sweet desserts such as coconut shakes, coconut ice cream, durian ice cream, shaved ice kacang, and so on.
In the evening, the Chinatown area is quite deserted with a few lights. I happened to walk past an ice cream shop called Hema Hema. It was surprisingly crowded, so I decided to stop by. In line for a little while, I ordered a Lotus ice cream with crispy cinnamon cones. Its sweet taste just mingled perfectly with the creamy texture. One ice cream scoop costs 9 RM, with a cinnamon cone making a total of 11 RM.
Address: 88, Lebuh Campell, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Yan Foo Chee Cheong Fun steamed rice rolls (#penang must eat food)
The next option for your question of ‘What to eat in Penang?’ Walking along the famous street food Lebuh Kimberly in the early morning, the sense of all kinds of dishes mixed together makes my hunger more ravenous. In the rush of people going for breakfast and hunting street art, I visited Yan Foo Chee Cheong Fun rice rolls shop, which was once visited by chef Martin Yan.
The noodles were sold by a couple for 40 years on Lebuh Kimberley Street. The roll is made from rice flour, flattened thinly, then rolled up and cut into small circular pieces. When you eat, you will dip the rolls into one of the three sauces, namely shrimp sauce, chili sauce, and sweet sauce. I tried all the sauces, and shrimp sauce and chili sauce are a bit difficult to eat; however, the sweet sauce is special and delicious. A plate of rice rolls is quite a lot, but it costs only 2.5 RM, which is really inexpensive for breakfast.
Address: 201 Lebuh Kimberly, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Tiger Char Koay Teow spicy stir-fried noodles (#top food in penang)
After checking out the famous murals scattered on the streets, I headed towards Kafe Ping Hooi on Lebuh Carnavon, which serves stir-fried noodles most favored by locals.
As soon as I arrived at the eatery, the pungent smell of chili powder would burst into my nose and make me sneeze. The featured thing about Char Koay Teow is that the noodles, bean sprouts, and shrimp are stir-fried with black soy sauce and duck eggs. The food is a bit greasy but the taste is quite close to Vietnamese food so you should definitely try it. In addition, Penang is also famous for White Coffee, a lightly roasted coffee mixed with delicious milk, which is available in most eateries.
I ordered a Char Koay Teow plate for only about 6 RM, with a 3 RM White Coffee, making a meal of only 9 RM but totally full.
Address: Kafe Ping Hooi, 179 Lebuh Carnarvon Street, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Duck Kway Chap noodle rolls (#best food in penang)
You will be overwhelmed with many choices for ‘What to eat in Penang’. Known as the cradle of Malaysian cuisine, George Town has endless street food stalls at night. Just go to the intersection, and you can easily catch a long road with many crowded eateries and stalls. Most street food stalls are open from about 6 pm to 10 pm mainly serving Chinese food, so it is quite easy to eat.
The Kway Chap stall is located in the street food area on the corner of Cintra Street and Kimberley Street. This is also where I chose to have dinner. Kway Chap is a famous dish in the Kimberley area in particular and in the Chaozhou community in general. The dish is a combination of thin rice rolls, unlike Vietnamese noodles.
Kway Chap has a clear soup of savory bone broth with thin cuts of chewy duck meat. When eating, you can dip the meat into spicy chili sauce for even more taste. Besides the rice rolls stall, there is a shop selling refreshers. You should order a cup after your meal, I ensure it will not disappoint you.
Address: Kimberley Street Food Night Market, George Town, 10100 Penang
Ah Boy Koay Teow Th’ng Noodles (#best local food in penang)
Located near the famous Blue Mansion, Ah Boy looks like a food cart nestled in a small alley, furnished with simple tables and chairs. If you plan to visit the Blue Mansion, stop by Koay Teow Th’ng noodles for breakfast. Note that the shop is only open until 2 pm, so visiting in the evening will make you go home hungry.
At first glance, Koay Teow Th’ng looks quite similar to Pho because of the white noodles served with clear broth. However, Koay Teow Th’ng brings a completely different and exquisite taste when trying. The ingredients to make Koay Teow are abundant, including sliced chicken, meatballs, fishballs, pork tendon balls, and a little onion.
Address: Lebuh Clarke, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Loh Bak Chaozhou wonton noodles and spring rolls
If you step out into the alley in my country, you will find a lot of stalls serving all kinds of dishes. And if you step out on any street of George Town, you can find cafes serving traditional dishes with a history dating back several decades. Ho Ping Cafe is one such cafe.
Thinking of coffee shops, the first thing that pops up in our mind is a small shop selling coffee and refreshments, right? But in Penang, cafes like Ho Ping look like food courts with many stalls selling different dishes and drinks. Here, you can find and enjoy authentic Malaysian dishes, such as fried noodles with Char Koay Teow, Kay Teow Th’ng, pork porridge, several kinds of noodles, and Loh Bak. Drinks include only White Coffee, Milo, and lemon teas.
After many days of trying too much Malaysian food to answer the question ‘What to eat in Penang,’ I ordered a bowl of wonton noodles with a plate of Loh Bak to find a bit of familiarity. Wonton noodles are served with char siu meat and savory soup. Loh Bak is actually a fried dish that used to be consumed as a snack by Malaysians. Just looking at the picture, you may think of fried fish balls or street skewers we often have with friends, but the special thing is the famous Chaozhou spring rolls. Outside the spring rolls is a thin layer of fried noodles while inside is pork marinated with five-spice powder. Loh Bak is often served with spicy chili sauce and cucumber, and mixed with some other dishes such as sausages and fermented duck eggs.
Address: 55 Kampung Malabar, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Sweet and savory Teochew Cendol
Cendol is the national refreshing delicacy in Penang and is available in many places. But not everywhere is decent, that’s why many people lined up at Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol. If you ask any Penangese who sells the most famous cendol, they will recommend this place.
The stall is quite easy to find because it is located at the beginning of Lebuh Keng Kwee Street, above the wall is a painting of a guy enjoying a bowl of cendol. Although it is crowded, the staff makes orders very quickly and it does not take much time to line up. Penang Road Famous Cendol is available at the stall for pedestrians. Walking a few more houses, you will see a rather large eatery for guests to dine in.
A bowl of cendol only costs about 3 RM and it will not disappoint you. At noon, enjoy each piece of green rice flour jelly and the cool sweetness of the brown sugar layer on shaved ice. Cendol also brings excitement with the rich taste of coconut milk perfectly mixed with the pungency of red beans.
The eatery is open from 10 am to 7:30 pm, but it closes as soon as 7:15 pm.
Address: 27-29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Some tips for eating in Penang:
- Large eateries are often co-established by many different owners. To be seated in the eatery, you can order your favorite dishes but remember to order extra dishes or drinks from the other owners.
- Some Indian dishes such as Nasi Kandar or Nasi Lemak must be eaten by hand. If you are unfamiliar with this custom, remember to bring a set of personal chopsticks before traveling.
- In Malaysia in general and Penang in particular, Muslims and Hindus make up a major part of the population, so many eateries only sell chicken and duck while beef and pork are unavailable.
- Every hotel charges an additional environmental fee from 20 RM to 30 RM, remember to note this so that you will not be surprised when paying.
- Malaysia’s time zone is GMT+8, and the night falls rather late so don’t forget to have dinner before everything closes down.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Penang you can refer to
- Private Penang Airport Transfers (PEN) for Penang
- Private City Transfers for Penang and Surrounding Cities
- Shared Penang International Airport (PEN) Transfers for Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi
- Explore Georgetown
- The Habitat Penang Hill Ticket
- Klook Pass Penang
- The TOP Penang Ticket
- ESCAPE Penang Ticket
- Explore Georgetown Half Day City Tour
- Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm Ticket
- Dark Mansion Museum Ticket
- Penang Hill and Temple Sightseeing
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Tour in Penang
- Georgetown Penang Private Car Charter
- Boutique Aquarium Ticket at The TOP Penang
- Heritage Tour and Trishaw Ride in Penang
- Penang Hill and Temple Sightseeing
- Penang Heritage & Street Food Tour
- Georgetown Scenic Night Tour
- KL TravelPass (Metro Card) in Kuala Lumpur
- [SALE] 4G Prepaid SIM Card (MY Airports Pick Up) for Malaysia
- 4G WiFi (MY Airport Pick Up) for Malaysia
Are you looking for more top things to do in Penang: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Penang travel blog — The fullest guide for a budget trip to Penang of Malaysia. And Penang in 1 day: Let’s check it out here.