Penang’s Hawker Food –
Debatably one of Malaysia’s biggest tourist draw cards, Penang’s street food culture really needs no introduction.
Hawker food, as it’s locally known, gets an almost universally glowing wrap no matter who you ask, and a chance to sample the city’s delicacies is considered reason enough to visit the island – never mind the UNESCO-listed architecture and first-class museums.
Indian, Malay, Chinese and Nyonya food culture is all well represented here, along with a spattering of other regional cuisines.
If there ever was a city where the oft-used euphemism of ‘melting pot’ could be used in earnest, it’s probably Penang.
Hawker food has its roots in a Penang long past, where mobile food carts peddled from colonial door to door each evening to feed hungry (male) merchants and traders who had come to Penang without their wives.
Like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, many of the stalls remain on wheels for convenience’s sake, but today they often congregate in informal ‘food courts’ or hawker centres.
In tourist circles, Gurney Drive is perhaps the best known of these, but other local centres are dotted throughout Georgetown and beyond.
Food Tour Penang
With only a limited amount of time to spend in Penang, we opted to take a guided tour with Food Tour Penang. It’s not something we would usually do, but an activity I can now highly recommend.
The evening tour centres on downtown George Town, and as well as hawker centres, incorporates a few restaurants, hole-in-the-wall cafes and stand-alone stalls in more remote locations.
Our guide Junie, a Penang local, gave us a wonderful overview of the city’s food culture and some basic history about the area.
If you’re looking for an easy way to sample as many of Penang’s specialty dishes as you can in a short period, Food Tour Penang is a great way to go.
Stops Made on Food Tour Penang
- Jalan Penang (Penang Street)
- Tan Jetty
- Macallum Street housing development
- New Lane night food market
- Sri Ananda Indian restaurant
Dishes Sampled on Food Tour Penang
- Penang Assam Laksa
- Penang Teochew Chendul
- Shrimp, pork and tofu Loh Bak
- Pisang Goreng & New Moon Cake Goreng
- Ban Chien Kueh
- Pulut Tai Tai
- Apom Manis
- Char Koay Teow
- Wanton Mee
- Wanton Mee Black Sauce
- Curry Mee
- Chee Cheong Fun
- Batu Maung Satay
- Roti Tissue
- Roti Canai
… Plus many more. Food Tour Penang runs guided walks and van tours most days – visit their website to request a spot. Have you ever taken a food tour in Penang or another city? What was your experience like?