Penang Food – What The Locals Eat

A Wok Around Asia Penang Food Guide

It can be tough trying to navigate the food scene in Malaysia – even for someone like me who grew up there. Each town or city has its own food culture, and the best eats are not necessarily what you might find on Expedia or Yelp. That’s why I strive, with Wok Around Asia, to meet up with locals and really get inside their heads regarding the local food as they see it.

I had the opportunity to do just that in Penang through a combination of personal guided tours and pre-arranged “Makan Mastermind” sessions with local chefs, food writers and bloggers (makan means “to eat” in Malay).

There’s so much to cover on Penang food alone, that I’ve decided to break it into installments.

Part 1 focuses on recommendations from the attendees of my potluck-style Penang Makan Mastermind, held at the home of Nyonya chef and author Pearly Kee of PenangHomeCookingSchool.com.

The guests were directed to come with their favourite street food bought from their favourite stall, so that we could compare and contrast them.

Some of the dishes they brought along –

Putu Mayam – Indian rice hoppers with palm sugar and fresh grated coconut

Beansprouts with salted fish

Chwee Kueh – steamed rice flour cakes with preserved radish

Daun Kadok (wild pepper leaf) bites

Koay Teow Th’ng – fish ball rice noodle soup

Apam (or Apom) Nyonya

One thing worth mentioning is that this Makan Mastermind was held in the morning, so many of the dishes here reflect what was available for purchase at that time of the day.

I have to admit I didn’t get to eat much of the food, in part because I was busy 1) filming a cooking segment that featured Pearly Kee, 2) trying to livestream the event, 3) keeping an eye on Noah, plus, 4) I don’t eat pork so I missed out on some of these Penang classics.

Here are the responses received from the Penang attendees of my Wok Around Asia Makan Mastermind, in their own words, regarding the dishes they brought to the event.

1) Tho Nai Ken, writer at KenHuntFood.com

Ken brought Penang Hokkien Mee (what we call Har Meen or prawn noodle soup in my part of Malaysia) and Penang Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rice noodle rolls with prawn paste sauce)

Granny’s Hokkien Mee

Address: No. 2-G-7, Lengkok Nipah, Taman Lip Sin, 11900, Bayan Lepas, Penang
Opens from 7 am to 9 pm. Open Daily.

“One of the key reasons I like Granny’s Hokkien Mee is the broth. The Seafood flavor is bolder than others (some use Pork more; they play with the Pork-Prawn ratio).”

Genting Cafe’s Chee Cheong Fun

Address: Lorong Delima 3, 11700, Gelugor, Penang
Opens from 7 am to 4 pm. Closed on Wednesdays.

“For Genting Cafe, I like the thick, sweet-savory Paste. It might not be the most authentic Chee Cheong Fun around but the flavor combo works for me.”

2) JJ, writer at JJ In Da House (www.jjzai.com)

“I brought Chee Cheong Fun from Seow Fong Lye Cafe at Macalister Lane.”

CCF from Genting Cafe (left) and Seow Fong Lye Cafe (right)

Address: 94C, Macalister Lane, 10400 Penang
Business hours: 7:30am to 12:30pm. Closed when coffee shop is closed.
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.022 E100 19.741

“I like the classic Chee Cheong Fun taste especially the thick prawn sauce and sweet sauce that blended well with the chili. The Cheong Fun from this stall is also chewy and thin so if you ask the seller to open up the Cheong Fun it will taste like koay teow with sauce. This is the stall that I always recommend to my friends whenever they visit Penang.”

3) Ling Tze, writer at Lingzie.com

Penang Curry Mee
“Penang Curry mee is made with a coconut milk based broth (hence it’s also known as White Curry Mee cos the broth looks white before the addition of chilli paste) I personally like this stall’s rendition of curry mee with the addition of long beans, prawns, cuttlefish, cockles and coagulated pig’s blood.”

Indian Apom Manis
“The Apom Manis seller has been in business since 1974 and they still use charcoal fire to cook these paper thin sweet ‘pancakes’ or crepes with crispy edges. The centre is thicker but soft and fluffy. These are made from sugar, egg, coconut milk & flour. Part of the thrill is watching them make these Apoms – swirling of the batter in mini woks, and deftly flipping and removing them once its cooked.

Both are located at New Cathay Kopitiam.
The Indian Apom manis is a pushcart stall just outside the coffee shop along the road.”

Address: Lorong Kuching, off Burmah Road, 10350 Pulau Tikus Penang
Business hours: 7.30am-2pm Closed on Sundays

4) Lily Moh – Lily brought Pulut Tai Tai (blue glutinous rice with kaya) and Nasi Ulam (herbed rice) from her family’s famous Nyonya kuih shop, called Moh Teng Pheow.

Moh Pheng Teow’s Nasi Ulam on the left, with more intense turmeric hue

Moh Teng Pheow’s Pulut Tai Tai on the left

Moh Teng Pheow
Address: Jalan Masjid Off Lebuh Chulia, 10200, Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, 10200 Georgetown, Malaysia
Phone: +60 4-261 5832

5) Pearly Kee, owner at Penang Home Cooking School – as host of the event, Pearly treated us to both store-bought and homemade Ais Tingkap (Window Sherbet; more on this in a separate post); she also picked up some Nasi Lemak and Nasi Ulam (herbed rice) from Pulau Tikus wet market, which was a short drive from her home.

Nasi Lemak Bungkus – banana leaf-wrapped coconut rice

Ais Tingkap (Window Sherbet); Pearly’s version is in the foreground

Pulau Tikus Wet Market
Address: 3, Jalan Pasar, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

I left this gathering convinced that Penangites not only love to eat, they’re also some of the friendliest, most generous people I’ve met anywhere, so thank you to all who participated, and a special thanks to those who supplied all the information above.

Some of the attendees at my first ever Makan Mastermind.

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