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Feb 2, 2013 03:58 PM

Penang - what are the essentials - I need a top 8?

We are heading to Georgetown (Shangri-La) for CNY so have four days and nights to cover all the options. Klyeoh's posts have me salivating in anticipation but the problem is there are so many of them...! I am convinced he was eating out five times a day eight days a week over Christmas.

So any chance of the top, must not miss options, distilled from all the recent experiences? Looking for the really local flavours - living in HK gives me lots of Chinese options so less of a need to cover this angle.

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  1. It's a real challenge to pick out a top 8 for Penang - its strength lies in the street foods, which are unique and unparalleled in this region. My top 8 would be:

    1. Penang-style "char koay teow" at Siam Road

    2. Beef noodles and oyster omelette - both stalls at Lam Ah coffeeshop, corner of Beach St & Chulia St

    3. Indian-style "mee goreng" (fried noodles) at Bangkok Lane

    4. The food stalls in the evening at New Lane - the Penang "popiah" (fresh spring rolls drenched in gravy), oyster omelette and wanton noodles (no similarity to HK's) are popular here, although my personal fave is the congee with roasted pig's intestines and pork.

    5. South Indian breakfast at Sri Ananda Bahwan

    6. New World Park food centre at lunch-time - good "sar hor fun" (fried/braised noodles), curry noodles, steamed "otak-otak" (spicy fish souffle), etc.

    7. "Koay chiap" (flat rice noodles in duck broth, with duck's blood and pig's offal) at Kimberley Street

    8. For a taste of Penang-Nyonya cuisine, try Mama's

    Let me know if you're looking for any particular food item or personal dining preferences.

    P.S. - Cantonese restaurants are *not* very good in Penang, which is dominated by Hokkien (Fujianese) Chinese. The Teochews (Chiuchow) is another influential Chinese group with many street/hawker foods originating from them, e.g. the Penang "char koay teow".

    P.P.S. - CNY is *BIG* in Penang, especially the island which is almost as Chinese as HK. Some of these street hawkers *may* be off during this period, so good luck with your food hunting!

    3 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Fantastic - thanks - I will endeavour to try as many as we can. Looking forward to exploring the town - understand what you mean about CNY - never the bet time to travel.

      1. re: PhilD

        If all else are closed, drop by China House on Beach St for a cup of coffee and a bite. It's one of Penang's most popular cafes at the moment:

        If you happen to subscribe to The Australian, you can read more about China House' Narelle McMurtrie (who's Australian but long-time Malaysian resident) here:

        Large food centres like New World Park at Burma Road (lunch-time) and Red Garden at Leith St (dinner time)should be open during the Chinese New Year period, but worth getting your hotel concierge to double-check, just in case.

      2. Bad, bad time to visit Penang, PhilD. But you're lucky because, compared to 10 years ago, quite a few Penang hawkers are now willing to forgo their Chinese New Year holidays to do business from Day 1 of Chinese New Year onwards. I think New World Park will be open although prices will be higher than normal.

        My personal pick for top 8 places to eat will be:-
        1) Lorong Selamat char koay teow
        2) Koay chiap at Kimberley St, but very likely they may be closed for the CNY period
        3) Lorong Seratus Tahun curry mee
        4) Padang Brown popiah
        5) Edgecumbe pasembor or Indian rojak at Gurney Drive
        6) Lor bak at Kek Seng, Penang Road
        7) Lam Ah beef noodles and oyster omelette
        8) Indian mee goreng at Bangkok Lane

        1. Thanks to all the recommendations: unfortunately we failed badly. Lots of places were closed on the Saturday and Sunday, we found a couple of random places that showed the promise of the food but nothing noteworthy. I then succumbed to a dose of food poisoning and as out of action of the next two days. Still we sampled enough to want to head back at a more sensible time of year.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PhilD

            Sorry to hear that, PhilD. Hope you get better soon.

            I just got into Penang yesterday, after fulfilling our familial Chinese New Year obligations in Singapore on the first couple of days of the Year of the Snake.

            We're hoping to have better luck than you, although our first two choices for lunch turned out to be closed today: Daily Dose Cafe on Carnarvon St., where we were hoping to try their pulled pork sandwich and daily specials (the best quesadillas and tamales in this region), and La Boheme (run by a French couple who churned out very good pastries) on Sri Bahari Road.

            Our 3rd choice - Les Memoires @ Loke Thye Kee Bldg was open, thankfully. Very spartan decor, but surprisingly good food - I'll post that on a separate thread.

            P.S. - We're still opting for non-Chinese food at the moment after an overdose of Chinese New Year lunches and dinners the past few days, but hoping to cover some Penang hawker favorites between now and Sunday. It's the 4th Day of the Year of the Snake today, whence the Chinese are welcoming back the Kitchen God - the traffic in Penang are pretty heavy today, and the temples are filled to the brim!