Just like Singapore, Penang is well-known for being a foodie’s paradise. From sour & spicy Assam laksa to sweet, chilling chendol, there are so many food options available in this Malaysian state that it’s crucial you pick the best food to spend your limited calories on.
If you’re tired of scouring the touristy areas only to find overpriced and overrated food, you’re in the right place!
We got locals from Penang to share with us the best places that you need to eat at, and some of these are wildly popular among the residents but less well-known among overseas travellers, so we’re giving you a headstart with this comprehensive list – you can thank us later!
1. Macalister Lane Chee Cheong Fun (中路猪肠粉)
You may be wondering: we have delicious chee cheong fun in Singapore as well, so what makes this so special that I have to try this out in Penang?
For starters, Penang-style chee cheong fun uses different sauces used to flavour the plain steamed rice flour rolls – the sauce commonly used in this state is a concoction of thick pungent shrimp paste, sugar, soy sauce and chilli paste.
Other ingredients are also added to create a thick, sweet and salty concoction and the proportions used will depend on the individual hawker, and arguably no one in Penang does this better than Macalister Lane Chee Cheong Fun. With its roots traced all the way back to 1955, founder Lee Fook Loon had learnt the recipe from a friend and tried his hand at making them on his own, using different recipes until he perfected the method.
The chee chong fun are cut into rolls drizzled with a very special sauce and then seasoned with a hearty dash of sesame oil, a pinch of toasted sesame seeds, and chilli paste to create the ultimate snack that Penang locals love so much, you’ll certainly find a long queue at this humble store located outside Seow Fong Lye Cafe.
Address: 94, Lorong Macalister, George Town, 11400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 7.30am to 12pm daily
2. 888 Hokkien Mee (三条路福建面)
You can never go wrong with a bowl of hearty Hokkien mee, but if you want to try one that will truly impress you, the insiders will direct you to this popular stall in Presgrave Street Hawker Centre.
One bowl of Hokkien Mee costs RM5, and each bowl comes with a good mix of vermicelli and yellow noodles, sliced chicken, mini shrimps, bean sprouts, and half a boiled egg. You can also opt to add on other ingredients (egg, meatball, intestines, pork ribs, pork legs, and roasted pork) for just RM1 to 2 each.
The soup alone is robust and tasty enough, but the ingredients add extra satisfaction to your meal without feeling like an overindulgence.
Address: 67-A, Lebuh Presgrave, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 4pm to 12am daily (closed on Thurs)
3. Bukit Mertajam Duck Egg Char Koay Teow
Char koay teow is a must-have in Penang, but nothing beats this one that has its own legion of ardent fans.
There is just something about the char koay teow that people find incredibly addictive – it may look like a mess, but die-hard fans will have you know that this is a “delicious mess” that comes laden with strong wok-hei, topped with crunchy pork lard, and drizzled with flavourful soy sauce.
Don’t forget to add a fried duck egg to top it off – we promise you’ll be back for more of this!
Address: Jalan Pasar, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 7pm to 12am daily (closed on Thurs)
4. Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol & Rojak
This stall is not exaggerating when they claim that they are famous. They have a few stalls around Malaysia, and even expanded to Singapore at one point in time, but if you ask the locals which one to go to, they’ll definitely direct you to the original pushcart off Penang Road.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol & Rojak traces its history back to 1936, when the founder started the business of selling the simple dessert to support his family. The taste of his freshly-made cendol not only earned itself a place among residents but also slowly gained recognition from overseas fans as well.
At just RM2.10, you can enjoy a bowl of well-balanced sweetness between the gula melaka and coconut milk, or get the rojak for RM5 for an addictive mix of mango, pineapple, as well as crunchy turnip, cuttlefish, beansprouts and dough fritters, all mixed in dark sweet sticky shrimp paste and topped with roasted peanuts and sesame seeds.
Address: 27 & 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, 10100 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 10.30am to 7pm (Mon to Fri), 10am to 7.30pm (Sat & Sun)
5. Penang Air Itam Laksa
You can’t say that you have been to Penang if you haven’t eaten at least one bowl of Assam laksa, but as with most famous food, there are bound to be many stalls and restaurants offering their take on this sought-after dish.
Here’s an insider’s recommendation: head to Penang Air Itam Laksa!
This stall situated next to Air Itam market is a hit among market-goers, local residents, and the tourists who really know. The authentic Assam laksa is a combination of thick rice noodles, fresh vegetables, spicy mackerel-based soup, as well as a dollop of shrimp paste.
The third generation of owners still sticks to the original recipe that delivers a distinctively sour and spicy kick in every bowl, so don’t be too surprised when you see the hordes of customers that keep thronging the place!
Address: 1, Jalan Pasar, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 10.30am to 7pm daily (closed on Wed)
6. Nasi Kandar Pelita
For the uninitiated, Nasi Kandar is basically mixed rice with an Indian influence that originated from, you guessed it, Penang. It will remind you of our economic rice, except you get a much wider spread of dishes including seafood (fish head, squid, crabs, prawns), meat (chicken, beef, mutton), vegetables, and other assorted side dishes.
When it comes to Nasi Kandar, Pelita Nasi Kandar is the go-to for many Malaysians. It is the largest chain in Malaysia with more than 20 branches in five states, as well as in India.
Its recipe to success? They have at least five types of curries for you to choose from – crab curry, prawn curry, chicken curry, meat curry, and Kandar gravy – and that is what keeps people coming back again and again to their branches across Malaysia and India.
Tip: If you want to try a little bit of everything, just tell the person ‘kuah campur’ and he’ll put a little bit of each type of curry and gravy on display for you!
Address: No. 56, Lorong Kurau 1, Taman Chai Leng, 13700 Prai, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 24 hours daily
7. Toh Soon Cafe
We could all do with a good breakfast to start our day, but the immense popularity of this breakfast place will definitely give you a shock – who knew that breakfast was such a key meal in Penang?
At first glance, you may pick out its many faults: it is flooded with many customers sitting on small plastic stools and crowded around tables in a narrow alley, coupled with an ordering system so messy that it’s highly likely the staff overlooked your order.
However, a taste of their specialty will instantly right all their faults. Their famous lightly overcooked soft-boiled eggs lying atop charcoal-grilled buttery toasts makes for a simple, yet utterly satisfying breakfast – if only we could get this in Singapore as well!
Address: Lebuh Campbell, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm daily (closed on Sun)
8. Hong Kong 8am @ Lorong Macalister (港室八點鐘)
Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng culture is well and alive in Penang, so if you are craving a taste of dim sum and pork chop noodles in the morning, there is no lack of cha chaan teng for you to check out, but our insider highly recommends this one that opens at, well, 8am.
The menu is not as extensive as the ones you can find in Hong Kong, but that also means they can focus on the dishes that they do best, and that includes polo bun, pork chop bun, egg tarts, and of course iced Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Their food and drinks are said to be so authentic, you may even forget for a moment that you’re in Penang and not Hong Kong!
Address: 93, Lorong Macalister, George Town, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8am to 3.30pm daily (closed on Mon)
9. Kafka Penang
Although the spotlight tends to be on street food, there are also many cafes in Penang that are well-liked among the local crowd for its delicious fare and Instagrammable decor, and Kafka Penang is one such places that has stolen the hearts of many young diners.
The Beef Rendang Egg Benedict and Spiced Eggplant Shakshuka from the all-day breakfast menu make for a wholesome and substantial meal at any time of the day. Satisfy your sweet tooth afterwards with any of the cafe’s desserts, ranging from the classic Carrot Cake to the Buttermilk Pancake, a sweet confection topped with strawberries, blueberries, and honey.
Don’t forget to snap lots of photos as well – the quaint space is brightly-lit and furnished with plenty of greens for the perfect Instagram shot!
Address: 15, Jalan Kelawai, George Town, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 8am to 10pm (Wed to Mon), 8am to 6pm (Tue)
10. Yún • 云
There’s never a bad time to have ice-cream, especially when it looks and tastes as good as this one.
Their specialty (and most often-Instagrammed) is the Boba Cup, a serving of handcrafted gelato that comes with our all-time favourite tapioca pearls, topped off with a crunchy waffle cone.
If boba pearls are not your thing anymore, you can also opt for a cone with a scoop of gelato – choose from six different refreshing flavours, including French Earl Grey, Houjicha, and Thai Milk Tea!
Address: 14, Medan Lim Cheng Teik, Kampung Syed, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm (Mon, Wed, Thu, Sun), 10am to 6pm (Tue), 11am to 11pm (Fri & Sat)
11. Moody Cow
For a cafe that specialises in desserts, you would never expect that their best-seller is an unconventional cheesecake that is made with century eggs – yes, the ones you usually find in your porridge are now served in a dessert. You can actually see huge chunks of century egg in the cross-section of the cake, and to really top things off, they’ve even added a layer of ikan bilis and peanuts.
Although it does not sound like a very appealing combination of ingredients, those who have tried this before were pleasantly surprised by the good balance of sweet and salty flavours in this cake creation, and chances are you may end up being a huge fan of this as well.
If the Century Egg Cheesecake is right up your alley, you’ll also be interested in Moody Cow’s other weird inventions – think Cempedak Cheesecake, Chicken Floss Salted Egg Cake, as well as Musang King Cheesecake!
Address: 170, Jalan Transfer, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 11am to 12am daily
Set inside three heritage houses with hip and uber stylish interior, ChinaHouse is the place you not only want to eat at, but also want to be at.
This trendy F&B compound doubles as an art gallery and events space, hence it draws in the most hipster of crowds in Penang. Even if you are not keen on the performances and exhibitions, you will surely be interested in their cakes, which they describe as their ‘heart and soul’.
You will find up to 30 varieties of scrumptious cake sitting on this banquet table everyday, but there is no way you can try everything at one shot, so you are recommended to go for their alcoholic cakes if you really can’t choose. These differ from day to day, but some examples of alcohol-infused cake flavours include Walnut Espresso and Moroccan Orange Almond.
They also have homemade ice-cream, muffins, biscuits, breads, and pies – basically every pastry and dessert you can dream of for a delightful afternoon tea!
Address: 153, Beach St, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 9am to 1am daily
13. Brix and BAUME
The exterior of Brix and BAUME may look like any other neighbourhood cake shop, but ask any Penang resident and he or she will tell you that this cafe is well-known for being one of the best places in Penang to indulge in cakes.
The red velvet cheesecake is a good choice if you like sweet and rich flavours laced with a slightly tangy taste. One customer describes this as a cake that scores high for “I want seconds, thirds and even fourths” – that compliment should be enough to convince you that you need to stop by Brix and BAUME for a slice of this goodness!
Address: 29-1-12, Golden Triangle, Jalan Paya Terubong, Relau, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm (Mon to Sat), 10am to 9pm (Sun)
14. Panntea (盼茶)
It’s clearly not just Singaporeans who are crazy about bubble tea, because our neighbours in Malaysia also have their fair share of franchise outlets and home-grown brands.
If you want to give your usual Koi a miss and try a brand unique to Malaysia, Panntea is one of the top brands to try out. They are the only brand in Malaysia offering Sakura-flavoured milk tea, which is a pretty pink blend that is inspired by cherry blossoms, so you can have a whiff of spring as you sip on your tea.
The yogurt fruit teas are a healthier alternative if you feel guilty about the calories, but don’t worry – they taste just as great as the more sinful options!
Address: See full list of outlets here
Opening hours: 12pm to 1am daily
15. Yomie’s Rice X Yogurt (有米酸奶)
Love chewing on tapioca pearls but don’t want to deal with the calories? Yomie’s Rice X Yogurt offers a solution for that dilemma by replacing your boba with purple rice. You may be a little skeptical, but as it turns out, many people who have tried it before agree that something as healthy as purple rice can actually taste like the real deal.
The most popular item on the menu is none other than Yomie’s Purple Rice Yogurt, a chilled yogurt drink with purple rice in it. It is not overly sweet, and in fact very refreshing in Penang’s hot weather. The yogurt has a watery consistency that is closer to that of milk, so you don’t have to worry about feeling too full from drinking a whole cup.
You can also check out their flavoured yogurt drinks, with flavours such as avocado and strawberry being the top favourites among customers.
Address: 1819-A-1, Jalan Perusahaan, Bukit Tengah, 13600 Perai, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia | 2, Persiaran Karpal Singh 2, 11600 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: See full list of outlets’ opening hours here
16. The Monarch Tea (将军令)
This is a relatively new brand that popped up just this year, but has since received so much love from customers that they now have branches in Johor, Melaka, and most importantly Penang!
Their menu is pretty extensive, ranging from the all-time favourite milk teas to refreshing fruit teas and flavourful milkshakes. What makes them even more unique is the fact that each tea is named after popular Chinese martial-arts novels and characters.
Do give their most popular drink, Three Kingdom Special Milkshake a try. If you’re not a fan of milkshake there are also other drinks such as Fire Dragon, Colorful Joy (strawberry), Hulk Attack (Matcha), Qian Long Pomelo (pomelo), and more.
It also doesn’t hurt that everything looks so Insta-worthy, so go forth and grace your social media with one (or more) cup of this invigorating beverage!
Address: 162 & 164, Hutton Lane, 10050 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 12pm to 1am (Sun to Thu), 12pm to 2am (Fri & Sat)