Char Koay Teow
Char Koay Teow, which translates as “stir-fried flat rice noodle strips”, quite literally, is truly a Penang specialty. These flat rice noodle strips are stir -fried with shrimp, cockles, eggs, bean sprouts, chives and lap cheong (Chinese dried sausage) in a mix of soy sauce and definitely hits the spot for all street food fans. A great serving of Char Koay Teow is flavored not only with the freshest ingredients, but with the equally elusive charred aroma of stir-fried noodles in a well-seasoned Chinese wok over high heat. The best Char Koay Teow beckons you with a tempting aroma filling the air and luring dinners even from afar
Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun, also known as steamed noodle rolls is truly a Penang delicacy. Some Chee Cheong Fun found in Penang has shrimp rolled inside the noodle while some even come with char siu (roast pork) slices. Its unique flavor comes from the sauce, using a shrimp paste called hae ko which is different from belacan shrimp paste found in most Malaysian cooking. One can often find Chee Cheong Fun sprinkled with sesame seeds for added crunch in every morsel.
Nasi Kandar, another one of Penang’s most well-loved dishes is made up of mildly-flavored steamed rice accompanied by a variety of curry-based meat dishes and vegetables. In Malay, nasi means rice and kandar is the name of the traditional portable bamboo pole baskets, a food delivery method commonly used across Asia back in the day. Way back when, food vendors would sell and deliver rice curry using these convenient baskets attached to poles shouldered on their backs. These days, it’s not as common to find them on the streets of Georgetown especially since Nasi Kandar restaurants can now be found at every corner.
Wan Tan Mee
A Hakka and Cantonese treat, originating in South China, Wan Tan Mee is a popular noodle dish that is available at almost every Chinese coffee shop and hawker center in Penang. Wan Tan Mee is usually taken during breakfast but is also available for lunch and supper. There are two kinds of Wan Tan Mee, the dry version, served in oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and crowned with leafy vegetables and barbequed pork known as char siu or served in a steaming hot broth and garnished with shrimp dumplings. Most Malaysians tends to mix both the kinds and have the dry version served with a side of Wan Tan shrimp soup. In some hawkers stalls you can also find golden brown deep-fried wan tan, which have the perfect consistency of crunch and succulence.
Cendol is a definite must-try and has proven to be especially satisfying on a hot day out in Georgetown. This particular dessert often consists of green jelly noodles made from rice flour and green food coloring along with kidney beans immersed in shave ice and finished off with a copious drizzle of coconut milk and palm sugar. One can usually find food trucks and shacks selling Cendol by the side of the road often with a long line of customers, patiently waiting to feast on this delicious icy delight.
Also known as Oh Cien is quite possibly one of the most iconic street food found in hawker stalls all over Penang. Using only the freshest and the succulent oysters, the omelet is made of a mixture of egg, rice flour batter, chives and starch to give it an extra gooey consistency. The ingredients are then mixed and fried on a flat griddle on high heat. It’s often served with a chili sauce and garlic paste dip and garnished with coriander or parsley. Penang Island is known around the globe as “the pearl of the orient” and this feast for the senses is definitely an equally iconic indulgence.
Penang Assam Laksa
True to its namesake, Penang’s Assam Laksa definitely lives up the hype. A bowl of thick rice vermicelli is first generously garnished with finely sliced inions, cucumber, red chilies, lettuce, pineapple, mint and the bud of the torch ginger flower, locally known as bunga kantan. Next, a mixture of hot tamarind and flaked fish meat along with its stalked is poured into the garnished vermicelli. A spoonful of prawn paste is also provided for those who favor the addition. More recently, an updated version of this special treat was introduced with the addition of coconut milk. The original variety is piquant with an especially tangy twist while the coconut milk alternative is not only sumptuous but satisfying.
In Malay, Mee Goreng translates simply to fried noodles and can be found in almost every mamak restaurant in Malaysia. This local favorite is made up of egg noodles stir-fried in a mixture of chili sauce, tomato ketchup and soy sauce. Onions, potatoes, peas, cabbage, and beansprout are then added with a choice of meat, typically chicken, mutton or beef and topped off thinly sliced green chilies, firm tofu known as tau kwa and eggs. Sometimes curry leaves, tamarind juice and toasted sesame seed are added, adding a complex flavor to the dish. Other stalls add prawn stock and even mashed sweet potatoes for added sweetness.
Originating in Southern India, Putu Mayong also known as string hoppers consists of mixing rice flour or Idiyappam flour with water or coconut milk and forcing the dough through a sieve to make white, fine vermicelli-like noodles. These noodles are steamed with the juice of the aromatic Pandan leaf (SCREWPINE) to further boost its flavors. The string hoppers are then served with grated coconut and cane sugar or date palm sugar. In some areas, coconut palm sugar known as gula Melaka
Is used as the preferred sweetener. This sugary treat is commonly sold at street corners and market stalls all over Penang.
Literally translating to ice beans, Ais Kacang is a truly nostalgic dessert. A spectacle to behold, Ais Kacang was traditionally made with a hand-cranked ice shaving machine; the faster one churned the more icy snow gathered. Originally, it was made with nothing but shaved ice and red beans, though the number and diversity of ingredients has since expanded. Almost every variant now contains a large serving of red beans, nipah palm seed (gelatinous balls), sweet corn, grass jelly, cubes of agar- agar jelly and is finally drizzled with evaporated milk, condensed milk, or coconut milk, rose syrup and sarsaparilla over a mountain of ice that resembles the snow peaks of the Alps.
Is a noodle based dish steeped in an aromatic stock made from pork bones and prawn heads. This delicacy definitely appeals to seafood lovers because the broth is boiled for hours with prawn shells and heads. The orange tinged broth is then poured into a bowl of yellow noodles mixed with rice vermicelli and served with bean sprouts, water spinach and peeled prawns. A garnish of fried shallots and a dollop of chili paste are finally added for a local kick.
Or fresh spring rolls is a healthy local snack one can devour on the go. It’s made up of an outer skin with a soft Paper thin crepe or pancake made from wheat flour. The skin of the spring rolls need to be thin enough to absorb the sauces yet strong enough to hold the delicious assortment of ingredients hidden inside without tearing. A blend of sweet bean sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, shrimp paste and sometimes even hot chili sauce is applied on the inside of the skin before it’s packed and rolled. The filling is usually made up of finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnips, jicama, bean sprouts, French beans, grated carrots, lettuce leaves, sliced tofu, chopped peanuts, fried shallots and shredded omelet.