Penang Island: Eat & Stay (Street Food Journeys Road Trip)

Penang Island is synonymous with street food, and it was appropriately our first stop during our Masters of Malaysian Cuisine (MOMC) road trip throughout the Malaysian peninsula in July 2022.

What did we eat and where did we stay in Penang Island?

As mentioned in my introduction last week, this is by no means a comprehensive list – we were there to film cooking segments for Tourism Malaysia’s Street Food Journeys 4 and 5, so we ate a combination of food made for our series along with iconic local food and food from hotel buffet spreads.

Accommodation: Cititel Penang

We travelled to Penang twice during our trip; the first time, our group consisted of MOMC co-founder Paul Gray, my child Noah who has Down Syndrome, MOMC@Heart’s Mazna Merten and Rosita Heilek (who’s also the president and co-founder of Malaysian Club Deutschland), and yours truly. My sister Chooi joined us a couple of days in, as support staff to help with filming and other logistics.

We stayed at Cititel Penang, which is very reasonably-priced and located right in the heart of George Town. We didn’t know it at the time, but it’s within walking distance of  many iconic food places such as the famous Penang Road Cendol, Line Clear Nasi Kandar, Chowrasta Market, and much more.

Baby Noah and Paul Gray checking in at Cititel Hotel, Penang

My special needs child Baby Noah curiously checking out the Cititel Hotel lobby (yes, he’ll always be a baby to me)

What We Ate In Penang:

On our first night in Penang, having driven up from KL the same afternoon, we were a bit tired and weren’t looking to wander too far away for dinner. We stumbled upon a hawker centre called Red Garden Food Paradise as soon as we stepped out of the hotel; it was located across the road, just a short walk away.

We weren’t sure what to expect quality-wise, but we were very pleasantly surprised by all the food we ordered, because they were very well done. I had to order Penang oyster omelette and Penang Char Kway Teow (without pork, and with extra prawns) of course – when in Penang and all that – both were delicious.

We bought some wonton noodles for baby Noah (he’s a fussy eater but we were sure he’d go for that, and he did). Mazna and Rosita orderd some pork-free Penang Hokkien Mee (what’s known in my part of Malaysia as Prawn Noodle Soup or Har Meen), fried la-la (clams), and stir-fried Hokkien Mee (which looked remarkably like KL Hokkien Mee, but I didn’t eat any so I can’t say).

Food from Red Garden Food Paradise:

Penang Oyster Omelette

Penang Char Koay Teow (or Char Kway Teow)

Penang Hokkien Mee

Wantan Mee with fried wontons

Stir-fried la-la (clams)

Fried Hokkien Noodles

Food from Cititel Penang:

We were at Cititel Penang to film two segments for Street Food Journeys: 5 (Malaysia, Melting Pot of Asia), which showcases the different ethnic influences in Malaysian cooking. One of the segments was on their award-winning Char Koay Teow, and the other was Salmon Percik (salmon with a Kelantan-style spice paste).

Baby Noah loved the Nasi Lemak from Cititel’s breakfast buffet and especially the chicken curry that’s served with it; he ate that every time we visited the restaurant. We grown-ups were intrigued by the hotel’s signature buffet dish, Roti Canai Sarang Burung – bird’s nest roti canai, so-named because the roti dough is twirled into a circle and cooked with two runny eggs in the middle.

And oh yes, we all went nuts over the Coconut Jelly that the hotel’s sales director Lin Lin brought us to try one afternoon. What’s better than fresh coconut water served in coconuts? The answer is coconut jelly.

Food from Cititel Hotel, Penang:

Roti Canai Sarang Burung (bird’s nest roti canai)

Nasi Lemak with Chicken Curry

Penang Char Koay Teow by one of the hotel’s chefs, who once won an award for his CKT – which is no mean task considering it’s Penang’s most famous dish

Filming at Cititel for Street Food Journeys

Salmon Percik, a signature dish in the hotel’s a la carte menu

Food, glorious food at breakfast

Paul Gray looking at coconut jelly the way Gollum looks at the ring


Other food within walking distance of Cititel Penang:

One of my favourite places from my previous trip to Penang is Toh Soon Cafe, located in an alleyway in George Town. We walked past it one morning (I didn’t realise it was that close) but there was a queue to get a table, so we didn’t get to eat there this time around. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area – they make delicious Roti Bakar (Kaya Toast) and coffee. 

Another famous place we stumbled upon was the Penang Road Ais Cendol, which I had previously heard some people describe as overrated; maybe they’ve upped their game in recent times but we we tried some and thought it was really, really good.

We were in Penang during durian season and there was an outdoor durian stand right across the road from the hotel, so we enjoyed multiple trips there to savour different durian varieties including the famous Penang black thorn durian.

When we were driving up to Penang, Mazna (or was it Rosita?) raved about a famous Sup Tulang (literally, bone soup) place in Penang with unforgettable spicy soups; as it turned out, it was just a few doors down from Cititel hotel, so we went there one night for supper. Paul had the big giant bone soup which came with a straw to slurp up the marrow; we also ordered some Mee Goreng and Nasi Lemak Bungkus (ie. wrapped in banana leaf).

Roti Kaya and Coffee at Toh Soon from my previous trip

The rustic charm of the Toh Soon alleyway cafe

The king of fruits in Malaysia’s food capital

Enjoying all kinds of durian, especially Penang varieties, at this outdoor durian stall

Mee Goreng at Sup Hameed

Baby Noah wondering why Paul is drinking soup from a straw

The big bone soup from Sup Hameed

Famous Penang Street Food from other parts of Penang:

We didn’t just stay within walking distance of the hotel during those four days, of course – we ventured out in our car, though truthfully I don’t know how far away some of these places were because I’ve got no sense of direction – Mazna was doing the driving.

Some of these famous hawker dishes include Penang Curry Mee, Nasi Ulam (herbed rice), Lor Bak (I found some pork-free ones), Penang White Curry Mee, and Grilled Stingray. We also ate Mee Goreng and Mee Rebus from Hameed Pata, and Pasembor from Kareem’s on Union Street.

We were invited to film the Kapitan Chicken Curry at Ah Choon’s Chicken Rice – they had recently opened a new restaurant – so we had the opportunity to sample a lot of dishes from their menu – Roast Chicken Rice, White aka Steamed Chicken Rice, Teochew Braised Duck, Nasi Lemak, Roti Kaya and Kapitan Chicken Curry.

Penang Curry Mee from a hawker centre the name of which escapes me

Nasi Ulam

Penang White Curry Laksa, and yes, I know it’s not cool to have chopsticks positioned like that, but that wasn’t my bowl

Grilled Stingray, a favourite of Mazna and Rosita

Lor Bak with no pork

Pasembor (Penang Mamak Rojak)

Kareem’s on Union Street came highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint

Delicious Nasi Lemak at Ah Choon in Lebuh Bishop, George Town

Roti Kaya at Ah Choon – this is the grilled version; they also served some steamed ones

Roast Chicken at Ah Choon Chicken Rice

White aka Steamed Chicken at Ah Choon Chicken Rice

Kapitan Chicken Curry at Ah Choon in Lebuh Bishop

Food In Air Itam:

We caught up with Mecherl, a Facebook friend from Penang, who was able to connect us with the famous Mute (Bisu) Asam Laksa stall in Air Itam, so we showed up early one morning to film the owner as he went about making Penang Asam Laksa from scratch. While the soup was cooking, we had the chance to sample food from the other stalls in that hawker centre, as well as food from another area a short walk away. We ate Yau Char Kway (fried dough sticks) and Ham Chim Peng (fried buns filled with red bean paste), Ais Kacang (crushed ice dessert), Asam Laksa from the Air Itam Bisu (Mute) Asam Laksa stall, Char Kway Kak (fried radish cake), Penang Chee Cheong Fun (rice noodle rolls served with a prawn paste sauce) and some kuihs.

Ais Kacang aka ABC (Air Batu Campur) – crushed ice dessert

Penang Chee Cheong Fun (fresh rice noodle rolls with prawn paste-based sauce)

Char Kway Kak (aka Chai Tow Kway in other parts of Malaysia and Carrot Cake in Singapore) – fried radish cake

Yau Char Kway and Ham Chim Penang

The famous Mute Asam Laksa in Air Itam

Accommodation & Food: Courtyard by Marriott, Penang

On our second trip to Penang with a larger group of our Masters of Malaysian Cuisine chefs including That Rendang Lady Zaleha Olpin, Vegan Chef Dave, Chef Bob Adnin and Chef Rene Juefri along with YouTubers Dodo Explorers, we stayed at Courtyard by Marriott, Penang. We were only there for one night but it was the sort of place where we checked in and didn’t want to leave because it was so beautiful and exquisite (unfortunately we had to, because we had an incredibly tight schedule).

When we arrived in the afternoon, we were greeted at their restaurant, Penang Kitchen, with a specially-curated “Nasi Dulang” lunch – it consisted of a variety of exquisite dishes and rice served on a tray to share between two people. They also adapted their Nasi Dulang for Chef Dave Murugaya, who’s Malaysia’s best-known vegan chef.

Nasi Dulang at Courtyard By Marriott’s Penang Kitchen

The MOMC entourage at Courtyard by Marriott, Penang

MOMC’s Chef Bob Adnin showing off his new tablet, a Lenovo P11 Plus

Beautiful welcome gift from the team at Courtyard by Marriott Penang

Masters of Malaysian Cuisine with the Penang Kitchen team at Courtyard by Marriott

So there you have it, this was only some of the food we ate across 2 trips to Penang Island – this doesn’t even include our full day of food hunts on the Penang Mainland of Seberang Perai – that’s coming up in a separate article in this Eat & Stay series.

I mentioned the cooking segments we went to Penang to film – you will be able to watch them in our Street Food Journeys: Malaysia 4 & 5 online series on our YouTube and Facebook channels as well as on the website when they premiere on 2 September 2022. If you want the recipes from the series, make sure you sign up at – I’ll be publishing 2 special edition eMagazines covering recipes from the episodes in due course, which will go out to our mailing list subscribers.

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