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Penang Food Trails

Street Food (local hawker fare)


In 2004, TIME magazine declared that Penang has the “Best Street Food in Asia” – a fact most Malaysia My Second Home participants will agree with. Many foreigners who have chosen to make Penang their second home end up falling in love with the food as much as the place itself.

Because Penangites are a fussy lot when it comes to street food, you will find that the standard of hawker fare is generally quite good everywhere. Of course there is the popular Gurney Drive hawker centre which continues to be a centre of attraction for locals and tourists alike but pop into any coffee shop or mamak stall and you are unlikely to be disappointed. With prices starting from RM2.50 for a plate of mouth-watering Char Kuey Teow (fried rice noodles), dining in Penang promises to be an inexpensive yet unforgettable experience!

Some of the “must-try” items are:




Satay

Served with sweet peanut sauce, satay is a spicy kebab barbequed over a charcoal fire. It usually comes with a generous helping of fresh cucumber, onion chunks and ketupat (square rice dumpling wrapped in a woven leaf casing). Satay is arguably the most famous Malay delicacy in Malaysia.




Char Kuey Teow

Penang 's signature dish must surely be the Char Kuey Teow. Preparing a plate of flat, white rice noodles is an art form that has been perfected here. Stir-fried in a huge wok, the rice noodles are skillfully tossed with prawns, egg, Chinese sausage, cockles, bean sprouts and chives. Some stalls serve the noodles on plates lined with banana leaves to enhance the aroma of the dish.




Nasi Kandar

An Indian-Muslim creation, the Nasi Kandar is synonymous with Penang (it’s been said that Malaysia’s former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad always insists on a plate of his favourite Nasi Kandar whenever he is in town). Nasi Kandar is a meal of steamed rice and various accompanying dishes that are rich in spices. In the early days (before Nasi Kandar restaurants mushroomed), Indian-Muslim vendors would peddle their delicious curries and rice from containers balanced on a pole and slung over the shoulders. Today, Nasi Kandar remains a favourite among all communities.




Hokkien Mee

Brought here by immigrants from the Fujian province in China, Penang’s version of Hokkien Mee (prawn noodle) is unique. Unlike in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where the yellow noodles are fried, the version you get here is cooked in tasty orange-red prawn stock – simply delicious! For that extra “ooomph”, you can ask for your noodles to be served with pork ribs and intestines (though it may not be for the faint-hearted!).




Roti Canai

The Roti Canai, or flatbread, is an Indian pancake served with dhal or curry. The Roti Canai has evolved with innovative sellers serving them with everything from bananas to cheese. Watching the Roti Canai seller kneed and toss his dough is as




Wantan Mee/Tok Tok Mee

Its curious name stems from its origins. In the old days, Wantan Mee sellers would go around the neighborhood hitting their chopsticks against a bowl to announce their arrival. Because of his distinct “calling card”, the Wantan Mee seller became known as the Tok Tok Mee seller. The dish of egg noodles with morsels of minced pork and prawn dumplings can either be served in a soup or simply boiled and tossed in thick black sauce




Asam Laksa

While the Malays and Baba Nyonya community may have a slightly different style of cooking the Asam Laksa (thick rice noodles in a hot and sour fish gravy topped with local a mix of fragrant herbs), the end result is always a piquant, spicy and utterly delicious steaming bowl of rice noodles that will leave you craving for more.




Pasembur

A tantalising mix of shredded cucumber, yambean, blanched beansprouts and a variety of fritters doused in a yummy peanut gravy, this Indian-Muslim dish is popular among the locals as an appetiser. Diners usually order a plate to be shared by everyone at the table before the main dish arrives.




Nasi Lemak

Although usually eaten at breakfast, Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with spicy ikan bilis sambal, roasted peanuts, eggs and cucumber slices) is also served at lunch, tea and dinner! Such is the popularity of one of Malaysia’s best-loved specialties. Traditionally wrapped in banana leaf, the fragrant rice is available at many roadside stalls. The Malay dish has also been given a new twist by creative Chinese hawkers who serve their version with an array of dishes including curries and stir-fried vegetables.




Ais Kacang

Nothing beats a nice, cool bowl of Ais Kacang to wash it all down! After indulging in the best of Penang’s hawker fare, dig into a bowl of ice shavings generously covered in evaporated milk, red beans, sweetcorn, glass jelly and syrup – sinfully d