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Deliciously traditional food in Penang

Deliciously traditional food in Penang

Its no mystery that the food in Penang is fantastic. The capital city of Penang, Georgetown is a vibrant area filled with the sights and smells of a multicultural community. You’ll find dishes built on decades of tradition and created with the freshest ingredients from the local market. The charm in Georgetown lies in its tightly knit community, filled with locals who will willingly direct you to their neighbourhood stalls- with stories of history to keep you company!

This itinerary is designed to encourage walking between destinations, taking it slow to properly absorb the creative energy Georgetown has to offer. Be sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes.

Day 0 in Penang, Malaysia

9pm: Arriving at Penang International Airport

Clearing immigration is fairly smooth, you’ll be out to explore Penang in no time. We recommend taking an Uber to your hotel, as it is significantly cheaper than taking a taxi. Wifi is available, so you will be able to call for one with the app (Apple/Android) on your phone.

If you prefer to take a taxi, just walk over to the taxi counter in the arrivals hall. Have the address of your accommodation prepared, and tell the receptionist. He or she will key it in and generate the amount that you need to pay for the taxi. You’ll pay at the counter and be guided to your allocated cab.

10pm: Drinks 

If you don’t mind splurging a little, drop by Three Sixty Revolving Restaurant Skybar for a 360 degree view of Georgetown. Food and drinks are top notch! If you’re on a budget, give Junk Cafe a try. Patrons rave about their burgers, chilled ambiance and fantastic service.

One of the benefits of staying in Georgetown is the multitude of food and drink options, almost always within walking distance. Ask your hosts for recommendations or keep a lookout for interesting spots around the area.

With the best meals being commonly served by traditional stalls with no online presence, we’ve compiled a list of specific dishes to look out for.

Must haves:

Wan tan mee

Served dry or in soup, this Hakka and Cantonese noodle dish is eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper! Chinese noodles are served in a mixture of sauces, with sweet char siew (roasted pork), crunchy vegetables and dumplings.

Hokkien Prawn Mee

The soup is the star in this bowl of hot noodles. Pork and prawns are simmered for hours, resulting in a savoury broth that enjoys the sweetness of seafood. Served with pork ribs and fresh prawns, this one is hard to beat.

Penang Assam Laksa

Laksa has many varieties, with Penang’s version being one of the best. With at least 12 ingredients creating this dish, this tangy take greatly satisfies with depth of flavour. Your trip isn’t complete without a bowl of Penang Assam Laksa.

Char Koay Teow

Fried in a hot Chinese wok with a variety of ingredients, a plate of fragrant Char Koay Teow is impossible to resist. The combination of seafood, vegetables, meat and soy sauce results in an outstandingly tasty experience.


Possibly Penang’s most famous dessert, Chendol is served everywhere to provide relief from Penang’s warm weather. Easily recognised by its green jelly noodles and creamy white coconut milk, this shaved ice treat will make your day.

Day 1 in Penang, Malaysia

7:30am: Market Tour & Nazlina’s Cooking Class

Nazlina’s Cooking Class prides itself on traditional cooking methods and using only the best ingredients from local markets. Breakfast is provided before the market tour, and what the class cooks is served for lunch.

Before class began, we were brought on a colourful market tour by Peter, a dutchman who has been living in Georgetown for the past 12 years. Peter enthusiastically introduced the many elements of a market in Penang, from exotic fruits to traditional sweets. Clearly known and liked amongst the locals, and the tour was filled with tastings, stories and demonstrations. Did you know nutmeg inspired the flavour of Coca Cola?

The cooking class was like cooking with your grandmother at home. With Nazlina’s careful guidance, participants shared the many tasks that contributed to the overall taste and presentation of each dish. Of course, each tried and tested recipe turned out delicious!

2pm: Street art and cafes on Love Lane

According to the Chinese locals, rich men used to keep their mistresses on this street- resulting in the name ‘Love Lane’. Today it is filled with cafes, hostels and alluring street art. Enjoy the expressions of creativity of this area, stopping by cafes for some tea along the way. Be surprised by murals at every turn, in a delightful variety of styles.

5pm: Dinner at Tek Sen Restaurant

With only one kitchen, Tek Sen Restaurant serves scrumptious Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka and Straits fare. Recognising their growing popularity, Tek Sen has cleverly accommodated to the steady crowds by moving to a larger, more comfortable space on Carnarvon Street. You must order the roasted pork!

7pm: Drinks and dessert at Narrow Marrow

This weekend-only cafe operates in the living room of its creative owners. Combining art and food, Narrow Marrow doubles as a gallery that often features local artists. Shelves of books are at your disposal, to enjoyed with homemade food and great music. Frequented by the creative community, Narrow Marrow’s artistic energy is undeniable.

Day 2 in Penang, Malaysia

9am: Breakfast at Cecil Street Market

If you’re looking for a taste of Penang’s best offerings, Cecil Street Market has it all. Scattered tables are filled with happy families enjoying a hearty Sunday breakfast. It is common to see a variety of dishes laid out for members of the table to share.

You can also find stalls selling a wide range of packaged Malaysian snacks. If you’re looking for souvenirs, these are a great option.

12pm: Hin Bus Depot Art Centre

A short walk takes you to the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, Georgetown’s dynamic centre of creativity. Managed by creatives, the art centre was formed when Ernest Zacharevic was looking for an exhibition venue.

The pioneer in creating murals on Penang’s walls, Zacharevic fell in love with the charm found in the abandoned bus depot. Hin Company saw its potential and began renovating the depot, intending to build a creative space hosting the unlimited possibilities of art.

Aspiring to be an international creative hub, The Hin Bus Depot Art Centre regularly holds exhibitions and art events. While we were there, a photography exhibition by Studio Howard was showing. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and got to meet Howard as well. Check their Facebook Page for event updates!

On Sundays, a pop up market is held from 11am to 5pm.

2pm: Bricklin Cafe Bar

Make a stop at the Bricklin Cafe Bar, right next to Hin Bus Depot. Although a tad pricey, their mocha and iced chocolate are definitely worth a shot.

3pm: Run Amok Gallery

Run Amok gallery seeks to establish themselves as an alternative platform for unrepresented artists to share their forms of visual communication. Striving to liberate art from commercial intent, selections with social political relevance to Penang is favoured by the gallery. Previously located on on Lorong Hutton, Run Amok gallery has relocated to the vibrant Hin Bus Depot compound. Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates.

5pm: China House

An aesthetically pleasing mix of classic and contemporary styles decorate China House’s interior, giving a favourable impression on anyone walking in. Board and card games are available to play with, and tables are covered in white paper- just waiting to be coloured on with the provided crayons. Pay a visit to the shop upstairs, selling artistic wares mostly made by local artists. A large table stands in the middle of the cafe, tempting patrons with a delectable selection of baked treats.

6pm: Dinner at Chulia Street

When evening comes around, stalls come to life at Chulia Street- selling freshly cooked food by the roadside! It is fascinating to watch the skilled cooks at work, churning out mouthwatering plates of hot food at an impressive speed. There is no question when it comes to quality, these stalls have been serving their food for decades.

Be warned, the rain can make things a little messy. There is hardly any shelter in case of rain, so do bring an umbrella to be safe.

7pm: Drinks at Hong Kong Bar

The oldest bar in Penang is a favourite amongst travellers. Founded in 1920, the Hong Kong Bar is filled with stories of history, much of which was contributed by visitors from all over the world. Scrapbooks, newspaper articles and old money notes will tell any patron of this bar’s eventful past- if not, the owners will be more than happy to share. Make sure you sign the guestbook before you leave!

Accommodation in Penang, Malaysia


Eastern & Oriental Hotel> (The E&O)

Styled in the British-Raj era, the Eastern and Oriental Hotel is a testament to the history and traditions of ‘The Pearl of the Orient’. Ideal for the modern business traveller, it has a gym, spa, infinity pool and a stunning sea view.

Prices start at SGD$256


The Blue Mansion or Cheong Tze Fatt Mansion

This strikingly blue mansion is a living tribute to the achievements of Cheong Fatt Tze, a successful Chinese businessman. Built for his beloved 7th wife, the mansion was built with the beauty of traditional Chinese houses in mind and follows the auspicious rules of Feng Shui.

Prices start at SGD$128



Meaning ‘cool’ in Malay, Syok used to be an ancient shoe store. Now a hip hostel in a trendy location, it’s decorated with striking modern paintings created by young local artists.

Prices start at SGD$30

Getting to Penang, Malaysia

Silkair by Singapore Airlines has daily flights throughout the day to Penang. Prices start at SGD$279.30 

Jetstar has daily flights to Penang, usually at 9.45am and 7.30pm. Prices start at SGD$5

Things to Note in Penang, Malaysia

Ask for directions! Part of the charm in Georgetown is found by getting lost, but never be afraid to ask for help. The locals are warm, friendly and always happy to direct you to their favourite places.

By law, taxis are required to use the meter and issue a receipt. However, not all drivers obey this rule. Be sure to check before getting into any cab, even when booking through your hotel. To avoid being tricked into paying a fixed fare, we recommend using Uber instead.

Always have cash with you. Many of the stalls and shops you’ll stumble upon only accept cash. You don’t want to miss out!

Always have insect repellent with you. Depending on the weather, the mosquitoes can be quite relentless.

The old grittiness is part of Georgetown’s charm, but tissues and wet tissues are useful to have if you’re particular about cleanliness.

The weather can be fairly unpredictable, so do carry a poncho or an umbrella in case of sudden rain.

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