Feasting in Penang: The Destination For An Unforgettable Dining Experience
Jul 26, 2023
Penang has come a long way in becoming one of its home country’s best destinations for locals and tourists. Its rich history in culture dates back to 1786 when it was acquired by the British. It became a busy trading spot for merchants from all around the world, instantly making the state a crossroad for multicultural communities–like the famous Baba Nyonyans, Jawi Peranakans, and Eurasians.
This fusion of cultures–mainly Malay, Chinese, and Indian–has birthed a place of strong heritage and unique cuisines. Today, Penang is easily the best destination for a delicious culinary experience that comes to mind for many food aficionados.
Keep reading if you’re looking for more reasons to visit this place.
The Food Capital of Malaysia
Besides being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Penang is also ranked as the #1 Best Food Destination by accolade Lonely Planet in 2014 while Huffington Post named Penang Char Kuey Teow as one of the must-try dishes in the world. True enough, Penang is indeed a treasure trove for fusion cuisines influenced by Baba Nyonyans, Peranakans, and even neighbors Acehnese, Burmese, and Thais.
Heart of Street Food and Hawkers
Compared to casual restaurants, the open-air environment of food hawkers or ‘warungs’ can give you a more authentic experience. Each individual food stalls prepare dishes on site, so you’ll be served fresh and hot (or cold) each time. They are also found almost everywhere on the streets, giving you an opportunity to try out different specialties while mingling with the friendly locals. We recommend dropping by the popular and eccentric Gurney Drive Hawker Center for supper!
Unique Versions of Malaysian Specialties
If you’ve tried Malaysian classics like the Assam Laksa–thick rice noodles in a rich mackerel-tamarind broth–, you’ll love the Penang version here. Compared to the original sweeter soup base, this version has more zing to create a distinctly sour taste.
Another honorable mention is the Nasi Kandar–plain rice served with various side dishes–which originated from the Jawi-Peranakan (Malay-Indian) community. Though this dish is so famous and can be found in just about any corner of the country, Penang is home to some of the top-rated spots, so it’s best to do research.
Walkable Streets for Quick Eating Spots
George Town’s compactness makes food hunting effortless. While you leisurely stroll down its old-fashioned streets, you’ll find food hawkers selling delicious snacks from piping hot banana fritters to ice-cold Cendol–shaved ice with coconut milk, palm sugar, and other toppings.
You’ll also see amazing murals and street art along the narrow lanes and alleyways, which makes walking under the hot Malaysian sun worth every drop of sweat!
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
With a population of predominantly Buddhist Chinese, a vegetarian diet is very popular here. You’ll find many Chinese restaurants offering exclusively vegetarian dishes. Besides that, over 9% of the Penang population is of Indian descent which means delicious, traditional Indian food with vegan-friendly options!
Delicious and diverse cuisines aren’t the only thing Penang can offer, its rich heritage and friendly locals also make it a prime destination for travelers seeking a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.