I love travelling and food. And, it couldn’t get any better every time I get a chance to join a food tour.
I’ve already been around the Europe (Madrid, Lisbon, London, Poland and Tallinn) and U.S. (Washington, New York, and San Francisco) for food tours. This time, I’d like to share with you my experience during my food tour in Malaysia, more particularly in their Food Capital, Penang.
Prior to arriving in Penang, I did my research on street foods that are must-try and food stalls that are often patronized. I’d like to see what others had to say and what they marked as the best local street food. But, I guess I also had to see the Penang through the eyes of a local like Junie, our local tour guide.
First Stop – Jalan Penang
So, to start our Penang Food Tour, we went to Jalan Penang or Penang Road, Georgetown. There, we had Assam Laksa, the top must-eat when in Penang.
So, basically, Assam Laksa is a fish-based noodle soup enriched with mackerel flakes, tamarind juice, chili, fresh herbs, and pineapple. The dish may seem to have a bizarre combination of ingredients. Its overpowering fishy and sour flavors complement the hint of spicy and sweet tangy flavors.
Actually, we already ate one at the Gurney Hawkers Centre just the other day but I prefer the Assam Laksa in this tour. It was delicious that even the British we were with liked it.
On the right side of the Joo Hooi Cafe, you can find on the wall a mural of a boy eating Chendul. Below the street art, you’ll see a popular stall of Teochew Chendul. Teochew Chendul is so popular that it often has a long line of customers craving for their classic Chendul.
Chendul, sometimes spelled as Cendol, is a refreshing and delicious dessert common in Southeast Asia. It reminded me of the halu-halo of the Philippines too. Anyway, Chendul is essentially made of crushed ice, coconut milk, and green worm-like jelly. The green jelly tasted like pandan but is actually made from rice flour. The dessert is then sweetened with red beans and palm sugar.
Second Stop: Tan Jetty
The next stop is at Tan Jetty which is known for their Loh Bak and sauce. Loh Bak refers to fried pork rolls seasoned with five different spices. In this second stop of our Penang Food Tour, Loh Bak platter includes prawn fritters and tofu fritters. The fritters were served fairly hot and crispy.
The crispy fritters are best when you dip them in their chili sauce with calamansi or lime and garlic. It was so good. The sauce elevated the taste of their crispy fried delights. It’s definitely a winner, especially for a sauce person like me.
For our sweet treat, we had Kuih Bakul. It is a sweet local fritter made with layers of yam, sweet potato and moon cake in the center. It is then deep fried to make the batter brown and crispy that will complement the soft and sticky texture of its filling.
Third Stop: Macallum Street
We then reached our third stop at Macallum Street. The place is only a small place but has local Penang vibe. I felt like we were able to blend with the locals here. Everything was kiosks. We noticed that there were many people on their motorbikes, passing through, getting their food and then leave. Junie even joked that the place was like a drive-thru for motorcycles.
Junie then pointed us at a stall which has been serving traditional Chinese pancakes for over 16 years now. This Chinese Pancake, locally called Ban Chang Kuih, is thicker than the one we usually have. It is perfectly cooked with a crispy crust outside but has a soft texture inside. Then, it has that glorious filling of mixed crushed peanut and sweet corn.
We were also delighted to try their local guava with fruit salt powder dip. Their local guava seems almost similar to the guava in the Philippines just minus the seeds. When you dip their fresh sliced guava onto the fruit salt powder dip, you’ll get a mix of sweet, sour and salty flavor. The dry dip mixed with salt and dried plum isn’t far different from Kiamoy or dried plum that can be bought in the Philippines. So, I loved it.
Penang has a wide variety of kakanin (sticky rice snacks) too. I was able to try out their Pulut Tai Tai. It is made from glutinous rice like our homeland’s Suman. It is topped with coconut jam which was really good and smooth.
4th Stop: New Lane
By 4 pm, the street of Lorong Baru is already closed and the hawker stalls will start setting up. This is the daily routine of the New Lane Hawker Centre except on Wednesdays. So, we were lucky that we had a chance to experience it on a lively night of Tuesday.
On our fourth stop of our Penang Food Tour, we stayed at Maxims Cafe, a kopi tiam. Kopi Tiam is often a coffee shop which allows visitors to bring and eat food ordered from other establishments or food stalls.
Anyway, so, we only ordered beverages, like coffee and Nutmeg, in Maxim’s Cafe. From the outside stalls, we ordered Satay, Barbecue Chicken, and different noodle dishes. First, we had Curry Mee. Curry Mee is basically a curry noodle soup rich in seafood plus tofu balls and pork blood.
Then, we discovered their local Hokkien Mee. It is a prawn noodle soup with pork varieties, bean sprouts, kangkong and boiled egg.
From all the noodle dishes, Wan Thun Mee with black soy sauce stood out for me. Its firm egg noodle is mixed with sweet and savory black soy sauce. It is topped with sliced lean char siew and boiled pork wanton.
Another dry noodles we had is the Char Koay Teow. It has flat rice noodles and stir-fried with egg, prawns, and Chinese sausages. Mung bean sprouts are also added to the dish which gives a nutty texture.
Aside from their tender and juicy barbecue chicken, we tried their local grilled pork skewer which they call Satay. Basically, the pork was marinated with coconut milk, lemongrass, sugar, and turmeric powder.
Fifth Stop – Indian Restaurant
At our last stop, honestly, we were already full. But, Junie was great that she had everything planned out. At an Indian Restaurant, she ordered for us light dishes. We were able to gladly finish them.
The highlight for me in this stop is their Raita, yogurt-based dip. It is one of the dips for Tosai or Dosa. It is only a cone-shaped crepe made of fermented rice and serves with different sauces like Raita.
With the direction and tips of Junie, we were able to blend in with the locals and visit less touristy areas. Thus, allowing me and my companions to experience the diverse but authentic culture of Penang.
I hope you can add the Penang Food Tour on your travel bucket list too. If you have any other things to add or you have questions, you may leave them on the comment box below.
Photos by Tina Punzal and Karla Ramos, Edited by Karla Ramos