20 iconic hawker dishes

Time Out Pe­nang takes you on an epi­curean tour of the best hawker dishes on the is­land, from side al­leys and night mar­kets to his­toric ko­pi­ti­ams and lively food courts

Time Out Penang Visitors Guide - - Contents -

His­tor­i­cally and ge­o­graph­i­cally, Pe­nang is per­fectly po­si­tioned to be one of the top places for street food in Asia. As one of the great en­tre­pots of the re­gion, the com­bi­na­tion of the spice trade, colo­nial­ism and the myr­iad of cul­tures which set­tled here through the ages has given rise to a unique cui­sine which is be­com­ing renowned the world over. The num­ber one pri­or­ity for many visi­tors is to eat their way through the is­land and this list will give you a head start.

Here are 20 clas­sic hawker dishes in Pe­nang – what they are and where you can get them.


This is a great ex­am­ple of com­mu­nal eat­ing. Peo­ple stand around a food truck over­loaded with bam­boo skew­ers of ev­ery meat group in many forms, choose what they like, and cook them in boil­ing wa­ter be­fore dip­ping them in a se­lec­tion of sauces. It’s ca­sual, fun and the per­fect af­ter-party food. Al­ter­na­tively get civilised, sit down and cook the skew­ers in a pot on the ta­ble. Try ev­ery­thing from squid, cock­les, sausages, okra, pork balls, dumplings, abalone and more.

• Kean Huat Lok Lok Jalan Perak, off Jalan An­son, Ge­orge Town • Pu­lau Tikus Mar­ket Jalan Pasar, Ge­orge Town (+6016 478 6083) • Chu­lia

Street Hawker Next to Chung Hin Pawn Shop, Le­buh Carnar­von, off Le­buh Chu­lia, Ge­orge Town

Char kuey teow

One of the pil­lars of the lo­cal hawker scene and the ideal com­bi­na­tion of kuey teow, prawns, cock­les, bean sprouts, lap cheong and egg (chicken or duck) fried with gar­lic, chilli, chives and a mix of soy sauce in a very hot wok.

• Stand-alone stall on Jalan Siam Op­po­site Hock Ban Hin Café, end of Jalan Siam, Ge­orge Town

• Kafé Heng Huat 108 Lorong Se­la­mat, Ge­orge Town (+6016 269 2222)

• Tiger Char Koay Teow Kafé Ping Hooi, 179 Le­buh Carnar­von, Ge­orge Town (+6016 458 0926)

Pe­nang ro­jak

A mot­ley mix­ture of cu­cum­ber, pineap­ple, yam bean (sim­i­lar to turnip) and sour mango with a thick sauce whose main in­gre­di­ent is the ubiq­ui­tous hae ko, topped with crushed peanuts. Add you tiao and crispy shrimp crack­ers for ex­tra crunch and calo­ries.

• Joo Hooi Café 475 Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town • Tan Swee Hoe Ro­jak Stall 52, Gur­ney Drive Hawker Cen­tre, Per­siaran Gur­ney, Ge­orge Town• Kedai Kopi dan Ice Ka­cang 84 Lorong Se­la­mat, Ge­orge Town

Oh chien

This dish is the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of oys­ters, eggs and corn starch, ac­com­pa­nied by a pi­quant gar­lic chilli sauce, and gar­nished with co­rian­der or spring onion. The omelettes can dif­fer in taste and tex­ture; some stalls have a crispy ver­sion while oth­ers of­fer a starchy ver­sion.

• Kedai Kopi Lam Ah 194 Le­buh Pan­tai, Ge­orge Town • Kedai Kopi Seng Thor 160 Le­buh Carnar­von, Ge­orge Town • Northam Beach Café 58 Jalan Sul­tan Ah­mad Shah, Ge­orge Town (+604 229 0362)

Lor bak

A clas­sic Pe­nang dish made from minced pork mar­i­nated in five-spice pow­der, rolled in thin soy sheets and then deep fried. You can eat this on its own or add fried bean curd, prawn frit­ters and more. Be sure to dip ev­ery­thing into the two ac­com­pa­ny­ing sauces – chilli and a tapi­oca-starch-based sea­soned blend.

• Tan Jetty 90-A Pengkalan Weld, Ge­orge Town • Kafé Kheng Pin 80 Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town • Kedai Kopi Ho Ping Jalan Kam­pung Mal­abar, off Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town


The con­cept is easy – get a plate of rice and heap on curry, meat and veg­eta­bles. The hard­est part is choos­ing from the large se­lec­tion, al­though the pop­u­lar choices are chicken or seafood curry. This is proper spicy Malaysian In­dian food and very good value, which makes it a must-try when in Pe­nang.

• Line Clear Nasi Kan­dar 177 Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town (+604 261 4440) • Nasi Kan­dar Deen Maju 70 Jalan Gur­d­wara, Ge­orge Town (+6012 425 2421) • Restoran Sup Hameed Nasi Kan­dar 48 Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town (+604 261 8007)

Koay chiap

Del­i­cate, rec­tan­gu­lar rice noo­dles steeped in a rich duck soup flavoured with herbs, spices and soy sauce make for a bowl of koay chiap. Slices of duck meat com­plete the dish and if you want to do as the Pe­nan­gites do, ask for in­nards and gelati­nous blood cubes. This is quite a gamey dish, but the strong taste is subtly masked by the star anise and cin­na­mon in the soup.

• Restoran Kim­berly 137 Le­buh Kim­berly, Ge­orge Town

• Kedai Kopi New Cathay 452 Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town (+6016 452 1378) • Kedai Makanan & Minu­man 113 113 Le­buh Me­layu, Ge­orge Town

Beef ball noo­dles

One of the health­ier hawker food op­tions, this noo­dle dish has a base of beef broth and comes with beef balls, thin slices of barely cooked (to re­tain the ten­der­ness) beef and a se­lec­tion of other cow parts like tripe and ten­don, which are op­tional. The ad­di­tion of pork crack­ling en­hances the meati­ness of the soup. You can also have the dry ver­sion where the noo­dles are tossed in sauce and the beef ball and meat soup is sep­a­rate. Ei­ther way, it’s all very tasty, es­pe­cially with the gar­lic chilli sauce that comes with it.

• Kafé St Loo 156 Le­buh Carnar­von, Ge­orge Town (+6012 409 0696) • Kedai Kopi Lam Ah

194 Le­buh Pan­tai, off Le­buh Chu­lia, Ge­orge Town • Kwang Beef Noo­dle

Sri Weld Food Court, be­tween Ambank and Al­liance Bank, Le­buh Pan­tai, Ge­orge Town

Hokkien prawn mee

Pe­nang’s hawker food scene is usu­ally judged on the tri­fecta of char kuey teow, laksa and Hokkien prawn mee, with visi­tors try­ing ev­ery sin­gle stall they can find to dis­cover the best. Hokkien prawn mee is noo­dles in a de­lec­ta­ble pork and prawn soup topped with prawns, sliced pork, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts and wa­ter spinach. At some stalls you can com­ple­ment your steaming bowl with crispy roast pork, crack­ling or pork balls. For ex­tra spice, stir in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing chilli sauce.

• 888 Hokkien Mee 67-A Le­buh Pres­grave, Ge­orge Town • Sin Hup Aun Café 17 Jalan Pasar, Pu­lau Tikus, Ge­orge Town • Kedai Kopi Swee Kong 317-E Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town


One of the win­ning com­bi­na­tions in lo­cal cui­sine is co­conut milk and gula Me­laka. The creami­ness and sweet­ness of these ingredients is the base of many a pop­u­lar dessert, of which cen­dol is the win­ner. Shaved ice is cov­ered with co­conut milk, green noo­dles made from green bean flour, and flavoured with pan­dan, red beans, creamed corn and jelly – a fan­tas­tic an­ti­dote to a hot day.

• Kafé Foun­tain 268 Le­buh Carnar­von, Ge­orge Town (+604 261 1809) • Chen­dul Ais Ka­cang Op­po­site Hong Leong Bank, Lorong Macalister, Ge­orge Town • Je­lu­tong High­way hawker stalls Next to the post of­fice Le­buhraya Je­lu­tong, Je­lu­tong


Lit­tle fluffy pan­cakes – three words no one can say ‘no’ to. The batter is made of co­conut milk, eggs and rice flour and cooked in small in­di­vid­ual hot plates, and then fin­ished with sliv­ers of ba­nana and corn niblets. The best thing is that you can eat five at one go and not feel guilty at all be­cause they re­ally do taste that good.

• Apom Guan Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town • Restoran Bee Hooi 415 Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town (+6017 408 8403) • Kedai Kopi Swee Kong 317-E, Solok Moul­mein, off Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town


There are sev­eral types of laksa with dif­fer­ent soup bases and ingredients. The Pe­nang ver­sion is the as­sam (sour) ver­sion com­pris­ing a ta­marind and mack­erel soup base with rice noo­dles and condi­ments in­clud­ing chilli, mint, sliced shal­lots and pineap­ple, torch gin­ger flower and hae ko.

• Phaik Laksa 91-1 Jalan Air Itam, Ayer Itam (+6012 482 3354)

• Kedai Kopi dan Makanan Ta­man Emas Next to Wah Thai, Jalan Got­tlieb, Ge­orge Town• Pasar Air Itam Laksa 1 Jalan Pasar, Ayer Itam

Koay teow th’ng

‘ Th’ng’ means soup in Hokkien and is a typ­i­cal com­fort dish made of a tasty broth, flat rice noo­dles, fish balls and shred­ded chicken, topped with deep-fried gar­lic in oil – sim­ple and se­ri­ously de­li­cious!

• Fook Cheow Café Lorong Amoy, off Jalan Hut­ton, Ge­orge Town • Ah Hai Kuey Teow Soup

Kedai Makanan Kim Lee, Lorong Macalister, Ge­orge Town

• Kedai Makanan & Minu­man 113

113 Le­buh Me­layu, Ge­orge Town


Any­thing with shaved ice is wel­come respite in the trop­i­cal heat and ais ka­cang is the ideal thirst quencher and the per­fect end­ing to a heavy lo­cal meal. With al­most the same ingredients as cen­dol but without the green noo­dles and the ad­di­tion of flavoured syrups and a scoop of durian ice cream, this is a sin­ful ad­di­tion to the Pe­nang food trail.

• Kek Seng Cof­fee Shop 382 Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town • Pres­grave Street Hawker Le­buh Pres­grave, Ge­orge Town • Padang Brown Hawker Jalan Perak, off Jalan An­son, Ge­orge Town

Ikan bakar

The lit­eral trans­la­tion of ‘ikan bakar’ is burnt fish and is ac­tu­ally a sim­ple dish of mar­i­nated fish or seafood wrapped in ba­nana leaf grilled over a char­coal fire. Served with steamed rice and a se­lec­tion of sam­bal and ki­cap ma­nis sauces, this dish makes for a hearty meal. Pop­u­lar fish choices in­clude Span­ish mack­erel, ti­lapia and stingray.

• East Coast BBQ Jalan Sun­gai Pi­nang Food Court, Kam­pung Rawa, Je­lu­tong (+604 281 0943) • Viva Food Court Jalan Tan­jung Tokong, Seri Tan­jung Pi­nang, Tan­jung Bun­gah • Goodall Food Court Next to Wah Thai, Jalan Got­tlieb, Ge­orge Town


An­other typ­i­cally Malaysian salad with an In­dian slant, this dish com­prises shred­ded yam bean and cu­cum­ber with sliced boiled egg, bean sprouts, potato, prawn frit­ters and bean curd topped with spicy peanut gravy.

• Ka­reem Pasem­bur Op­po­site May­bank, Le­buh Union, Ge­orge Town • Pasar Le­buh Ce­cil

Le­buh Mcnair, off Le­buh Ce­cil, Ge­orge Town • Kom­pleks Gerai Makanan Batu Lan­chang Next to Pasar Batu Lan­chang, Le­buhraya Batu Lan­chang, Je­lu­tong


Some­times the sim­plest com­bi­na­tions are the best; think toasted white bread spread with but­ter and kaya – also known as roti kah­win or lit­er­ally ‘mar­riage bread’. This is com­fort food at its finest and has be­come a breakfast sta­ple usu­ally eaten with half-boiled eggs loaded up with white pep­per and soy sauce, washed down with the kind of lo­cal cof­fee that will knock your socks off.

• Toh Soon Café Le­buh Camp­bell, off Jalan Pe­nang, Ge­orge Town (+604 261 3754) • Ah Wang Café Flat UDA Fasa 3, Jalan Tan­jung Tokong, Tan­jung Tokong (+604 898 2318) • Ah Lai Café Next to Cen­tral Sta­tionery Com­pany, Gat Le­buh Gereja, Ge­orge Town (+6016 477 1332)

Ny­onya kuih

Kuih are small snacks that can be eaten for breakfast, tea or dessert. There is a rather in­tim­i­dat­ing se­lec­tion to choose from, but they all have their own dis­tinc­tive look and taste. Com­mon ingredients in­clude gluti­nous rice, co­conut, palm sugar and var­i­ous flours like rice, green pea and tapi­oca.

• Gent­ing Café Lorong De­lima 3, Ta­man Is­land Glades, Je­lu­tong • Kom­pleks Gerai Makanan Batu Lan­chang Le­buhraya Batu Lan­chang, Je­lu­tong • Moh Teng Pheow Night Hawker Lorong Chu­lia, Ge­orge Town (+604 261 5832)

Lor mee

This isn’t the pret­ti­est of dishes but what it lacks in fi­nesse, it makes up for in taste. The vis­cous soup base is made from pork bones, prawns and five-spice pow­der, and then thick­ened with eggs and corn starch. Add noo­dles, bean sprouts, sliced pork, hard-boiled egg, gar­lic sauce and fried shal­lots for the per­fect bowl of good­ness. Some stalls of­fer ex­tras like roast pork belly, in­nards, pig’s ear and pork knuckle to ramp up the taste.

• Old Green House 223 Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town • Kim Leng Loh Mee 336-1-G, Jalan Perak, Je­lu­tong • Ah Joo Loh Mee Kafé Fong Sheng, 6 Lorong Se­la­mat, Ge­orge Town (+6016 454 5793)

Hokkien char

A peren­ni­ally Pe­nang dish where yel­low noo­dles or bi­hun is wok-fried in a dark gravy with pork, prawns, fish cake, some sem­blance of green veg­eta­bles and deep­fried pork lard. Some say the sam­bal bela­can is what makes this dish spe­cial, so be sure to ask for an ex­tra dol­lop.

• Kedai Kopi New Cathay 452 Jalan Burma, Ge­orge Town (+6016 452 1378) • Medan Sel­era Ta­man Free School 75 Jalan Treng­ganu, off Jalan Free School, Ge­orge Town • Goodall Food Court Next to Wah Thai, Jalan Got­tlieb, Ge­orge Town





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