Penang cuisine

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A hawker stall selling rojak, a fruit dish in shrimp and chilli paste

Penang cuisine is the cuisine of the multicultural society of Penang, Malaysia. Most of these cuisine are sold at road-side stalls, known as "hawker food". Penang has the reputation as being the "food paradise" in the region as it offers a diverse and exotic mix of Malay,Indian, Chinese and western cuisine, which reflects the multicultural mix of the city. It is popular among locals and tourists alike. Local Penangites typically find these hawker fares cheaper and easier to eat out at due to the ubiquitousness of the hawker stalls and that they are open for much of the day and night. Penang island.[1] On February 22, 2013, Penang was ranked by CNN Travel as one of the top ten street food cities in Asia.[2] Penang has also been voted by Lonely Planet as the top culinary destination in 2014.[3]

Made from coffee beans specially roasted with palm oil margarine, Penang white coffee is arguably Penang's most famous export, and the drink is endemic to the Penang White Coffee.



  • Apom(Tamil:அப்பம்) - Indian styled pancake with a thin skin. It is crispy on the side while it is soft and thick in the middle. Unlike apom balik (Ban Chean Kuih), it has no fillings.
  • Appalam (Tamil:அப்பளம்)-a thin, crisp disc-shaped cracker typically based on a seasoned dough made from black gram (urad flour), fried or cooked with dry heat. Flours made from other sources such as lentils, chickpeas, rice, or potato, can be used. Papadams are typically served as an accompaniment to a meal, or eaten on its own as a snack.
  • Samosa (Tamil:சமோசா) - fried or baked pastry with a savoury filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, macaroni, noodles, and/or minced meat[4]
  • Bhajji (Tamil:பஜ்ஜி) - is a spicy Indian snack similar to a fritter. The most famous bhajji in Penang is Banana Bhajji that available in Woodlands Restaurant.[5]


  • Beh Teh Saw (Chinese: 马蹄酥) - Chinese pastry made from gooey melted molasses known as bah leh ko filled in flaky outer skin topped with sesame seeds by kneading the dough in many layers, usually sold along with Tau Sar Pneah (Chinese: 豆沙饼) in popular biscuits shop found near streets such as Macalister Road and Burmah Road.
  • Chai kuih (Chinese: 菜粿) - Steamed vegetable dumplings consists of a stuffed vegetable filling which is usually turnip, carrots or chives wrapped in a transparent skin.
  • Eu Char Kuih (Chinese: 油炸糕) - Chinese style deep fried bread sticks usually eaten with congee or almond cream.
  • Heo Pheah (Chinese: 香饼) - Chinese pastry with brown sugar filling usually sold in Chinese biscuits shop.
  • Hum Chin Peng (咸煎饼) - Deep fried yeast dough traditionally eaten during supper or breakfast. Also known as the Chinese doughnut, hum chin peng comes in two varieties, the salted version without any filling, and the one with red bean paste filling.
  • Jiu Hoo Eng Chai (Chinese: 鱿鱼蕹菜) - Cuttlefish and water convulous mixed in a spicy shrimp paste.
  • Lok-lok (Chinese: 乐乐) is a variant of the steamboat/hotpot meal, except that the food served is skewered and the skewered food is dipped into a hot boiling pot of water to be cooked. This is then dipped into a variety of sauces provided for you. A wide selection of food is served, ranging from seafood and meats to vegetables. The food is eaten off the skewer.
  • Lor Bak (卤肉) - Marinated minced pork, then roll in thin soybean sheets and then deep fried. Usually served with small bowl of Loh (a thick broth thickened with corn starch and beaten eggs) and chili sauce.
  • Or Kuih (Chinese: 芋粿) - Savoury yam cake topped with dried shrimp, fried shallots, spring onion and sliced red chilli.
  • Phong Pneah (Chinese: 清糖饼) - Chinese light brown pastry filled with melted white sugar.[6]


  • Apom balik - Nyonya style crispy, fold-over pancake made from flour and egg and topped with bananas, sweet corn and a sprinkling of sugar. The Chinese variation of an apom balik is called Ban Chean Kuih (Chinese: 曼煎糕), a pancake with a harder crust and filled with sweetened ground peanuts.
  • Tau Sar Pheah (Chinese: 豆沙饼) - Chinese pastry filled with wheat flour, sugar, green bean paste, fried onions, lard and salt. It is a famous Penang delicacy which is also an ideal gift bought by Penangites whenever they visit relatives and friends from other states.
  • Popiah (Chinese: 薄饼) - Teochew style spring roll with a filling which consists of turnip, beancurd, egg bits and a dash of chilli paste and sweet sauce.


  • Otak-otak - fresh fish fillets are blended with light spices, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and other aromatic herbs, into a sort of fish mousse. The fish mousse is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed or grilled. It is stated that the dish originated from Johor.

Main dishes[edit]


  • Banana leaf rice(Tamil:வாழையிலைச் சோறு கறி)- White rice (or parboiled rice in authentic South Indian restaurants) is served on a banana leaf with an assortment of vegetables, curried meat or fish, pickles, and/or papadum. Is very much part of the few favourite local food in Penang particularly along Little India within the George Town Heritage zone.[7]
  • Biryani (Tamil:பிரியாணி)- Among most famous food in Penang. Also known as nasi beriani and has many different variant.
  • Fish head curry (Tamil :மீன் தலை கறி) - Head of the red snapper stewed with vegetables such as okra, tomato and brinjals in a curry, usually served with rice. Passion of Kerala at New World Park, Burmah Road, is famous for this dish.[8]
  • Mee Goreng Mamak (Tamil:மாமா வறுத்த மி)- It is made with thin yellow noodles fried with garlic, onion or shallots, fried prawn, chicken, chili, tofu, vegetables, tomatoes, egg and spices, giving this fried noodle dish a distinctly unique Indian flavor.
  • Mee Rebus (Tamil:அவித்த மி) - a rich gravy made out of sweet potatoes, is ladled over fresh yellow egg noodles and bean sprouts. It is garnished with cooked squid, prawn fritters, boiled egg and fried shallots. A squeeze of a fresh local lime before serving.
  • Nasi Kandar (Tamil :நாசிக் கண்டார்) -a meal of steamed rice which can be plain or mildly flavoured, and served with a variety of curries and side dishes . Among the most well-known is a place called Line Clear, off Penang Road.
  • Pasembur(Tamil:பசெம்பூர்) - A spicy salad dish consists of fried titbits and shreded vegetable sold by Indian Muslims.
  • Penang Acar (Tamil:பினாங்கு ஊறுகாய்) - Indian pickles.Known as Urukai in Tamil language.achar are made from certain individual varieties of vegetables and fruits that are chopped into small pieces and cooked in edible oils like sesame oil or brine with many different spices[9]
Wonton mee
Char koay teow
A bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee
Lor Mee
Nasi Kandar


  • Bak kut teh (Chinese: 肉骨茶) - Literally translates as "meat bone tea", the soup dish consists of meaty pork ribs and meatballs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices.
  • Bee Tai Bak or Mee Tai Mak (Chinese: 米台目) - Silver needle noodles served with clear soup and minced pork.
  • Beef Koay Teow (Chinese: 牛肉粿条) - Beef soup with flat rice noodles. It is similar to Koay Teow Th'ng, except that it is served with beef and other beef derivatives.
  • Char Koay Kak (Chinese: 炒粿角) - Stir-fried radish cake.
  • Char Koay Teow (Chinese: 炒粿条) - fried flat rice noodles with chilli spices with seafood typically prawns and cockles (and typically with fried eggs). (A stall at a corner along Chulia Street which uses distinctive narrower noodles than other vendors.)
  • Chee Cheong Fun (Chinese: 猪肠粉) - usually eaten as breakfast, flat sheets made from rice flour, sometimes with some dried shrimp embedded, is steamed soft then cut up and topped with sweeten sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chilli sauce, thick black shrimp paste (He Ko) and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
  • Chow Mei Fun or Char Bee Hoon (Chinese: 炒米粉) - A dish of fried rice vermicelli (and noodles) with thick soy sauce and bean sprouts served with deep fried "Tofu skin" or "ikan bilis" and its chilli sauce. Additional ingredients such as eggs, sausages, hams are sold as well.
  • Claypot chicken rice (Chinese: 砂煲饭) - Another popular hawker food in Penang comprises chicken cooked in a claypot over a fire, served with Chinese sausages, egg, salted fish and mushroom.
  • Duck soup noodles (Chinese: 鸭腿面线) - A complex savoury herbal soup served with Thin vermicelli and topped with a duck drumstick.
  • Curry Mee - This popular Penang dish consists of egg noodles in coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry mee include bean curd puffs, bean sprouts, cuttlefish, pig blood curd, shrimp and cockles.
  • Fried Oyster Omelette or Oh Chien (Chinese: 蚵煎) - An oyster omelette dish available at many hawker stalls and coffee shops in Penang. Garnished with coriander or parsley, the omelette is served with a dip made of chilli sauce and garlic paste.[10]
  • Hainanese chicken rice (Chinese: 海南鸡饭) - A dish of Hainanese origin consists of rice cooked in chicken stock, and served with either roasted or steamed chicken, sometimes with sliced cucumber, bean sprout, spring onions and parsley.
  • Hokkien char (Chinese: 福建炒) - Fried egg noodles and rice vermicelli with barbecued pork (char siu), prawns, sliced pork meat and vegetables in a special sauce which varies from stall to stall.
  • Hokkien mee or Hae Mee (Chinese: 福建面 in Penang, 虾面 in Kuala Lumpur) - rice and egg noodles, served together with hard boiled eggs, small prawns, meat slices, bean sprouts and kangkung (water spinach) in a spicy prawn & pig bone (Chinese: 肉骨) stock. The signature stall operates at Burmah Road/Lorong Selamat with branch opposite Padang Brown along Perak Road. One stall at Macalister Road is famous for using small mantis prawns. Sometimes depending on location if the stall sells Loh Mee or Hokkien Mee you can request for them to mix half Loh Mee sauce with the Hokkien Mee soup.
  • Koay Teow Th'ng (Chinese: 粿条汤) - fresh flat rice noodles are served in a clear soup broth, topped with fish balls, slices of pork, chicken, golden brown garlic bits and chopped scallions. A condiment of sliced fresh red chilies in soy-vinegar usually accompanies the dish. One famous stall is located at Golden Lake Coffee Shop in the Relau Bayan Lepas neighborhood opposite the SPICE Indoor Stadium (formerly PISA). Its open between 5pm-12am and closes on Fridays.
  • Kueh Chiap or Kueh Chap (Chinese: 粿汁) - A Teochew soup dish of broad, flat rice noodles in soup. The flat noodles tend to roll up slightly in the soup, which is a dark herbal broth. It is usually served with duck meat, coagulated blood and offal, bean curd, hard boiled eggs, coriander leaves as garnishing and a saucer of sliced chilli. The most famous kueh chiap stall is along Kimberley Street and Kim Hee Cafe in Jelutong Market.[11]
  • Lor mee (Chinese: 卤面) - rice and egg noodles in broth thickened with corn starch and beaten eggs, served with eggs (some feature duck eggs), meat slices and bean sprouts. The noteworthy stall is located next to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, with branches in Jones Road and Pulau Tikus.
  • Sar hor fun or Char hor fun (Chinese: 炒河粉) - Fried broad rice noodles of Cantonese origin.
  • Tai Lok Mee (Chinese: 大碌面) - Fried thick noodles with thick soy sauce. Ingredients used are barbecued pork (char siu), prawns, sliced pork meat and vegetables, sometimes egg is beaten into the sauce.
  • Wan Than Mee (Chinese: 云吞面) - also known as Tok-tok Mee from the sound of knocking bamboo sticks made by the vendors in former times to draw attention to their food, of a dish of egg noodles and wontons with sliced barbecued pork and vegetables. It is served either dry with soya sauce and sesame oil, or in a clear pork stock. In Penang, many spellings exist for "Wonton", some examples being "Wan Thun", "Wan Tan", "One Ton", and so on. (Cantonese as: 馄饨面), Penang Wan Than Mee or Tok-tok Mee is also a spin-off from Hong Kong, but Hong Kong style is served with dumplings (馄饨) or either with sliced barbecued pork (叉烧).
  • Yam Rice - Rice cooked with yam, dried prawns and mushrooms often sold at hawker centres with a bowl of spicy meatball soup.
  • Yee Foo Mee (Chinese: 伊府面) - Cantonese style egg noodle made from wheat flour. The noodle is fried with slices of barbecued pork (char siew), egg, fish cakes, prawns and mustard greens.


  • Penang Laksa (Malay: Laksa Pulau Pinang), a dish of thick round rice noodles in a spicy and sour tamarind-based (or assam fruit-based) fish soup. The dish is garnished with mint, cucumber, onions, shreadded lettuce and pineapple. [12] If you are in the city, the stall at Lorong Selamat off Macalister Road is a premium choice. Another famous stall sits behind the Gama department store. For years, the market-place in Ayer Itam, near the famed Kek Lok Si Temple, has been the place locals congregate to enjoy their feast of beef and other meat. Another famous place to go is Gurney Drive where visitors will be spoilt for choice.


  • Ikan Bakar - is a general term meaning grilled or barbecued fish. A popular local fish for grilling is Ikan Kembong (Mackerel Fish). The fish is usually marinated in spices, coconut milk, sometimes stuffed with sambal, then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over hot charcoals.
  • Mee Jawa - A dish of egg noodles in potato-based tomato gravy, topped with sliced boiled eggs, prawns, beancurd, fritters, a sprinkling of toasted grounded peanuts and chilli paste.
  • Mee Udang - A Malay style prawn noodle. Teluk Kumbar, on the southwest corner of Penang, is the most popular place for Mee Udang.
  • Nasi Lemak - A dish of rice served with peanuts, anchovies, boiled egg, cucumber, fried chicken and chilli paste. The rice is cooked in coconut milk.


  • Tari Burger - Penang is also famous for its local style burger which is usually served by burger stalls by the roadside. This type of burger is quite different from a mainstream western burger. The roadside stall's burger is way cheaper and can be customized to satisfy one's taste. The most famous burger stall in Penang was Tari Cafe but now shunned due to being overpriced.
  • Chicken Chop - A popular western dish in Penang. It is chicken meat served with gravy and chips. There are many variation of this dish.


  • Almond cream - A local dessert available at Restoran Traditional Home of Dessert along Kimberley Street which has been operating at the road side stall for three decades. Many people who have tasted it have described it as having the smell of cockroaches and a bitter aftertaste. It is usually served with eu char koay (fried bread fritters).[1]
  • Cendol - a dessert with green noodles in coconut milk, brown sugar and shaved ice. There's a very famous stall along the busy street of Penang Road near the "spider" pedestrian bridge leading to KOMTAR.
  • Ching pu leang thang shui or Ching Pu Leang Dessert (Chinese: 清補涼糖水) - Ching pu leang thang shui means a cooling and rejuvenating dessert. Most people simply call it ching pu leang. It is a type of healthy dessert consisting of sweet potatoes, red beans, jelly, white fungus, sago, atapchi, longan, ginkgo, winter melon, rambutan and many more. The syrup of the ching pu leang is made from longan and sugar. There is a very famous stall in Penang that sells ching pu leang called Mat Toh Yau (means complete in Cantonese, because the stall sells many high quality ingredients of ching pu leang), opposite Jelutong Market. There is also a branch of Mat Toh Yau at Terengganu Road. There are many stalls copying or trying to be better than Mat Toh Yau since it is very popular in Penang. Mat Toh Yau even has branches in the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Its Penang branches sell the dessert only at night and the Kuala Lumpur branches sell the dessert in the morning and afternoon at some places, and at night at most night markets.
  • Tau Foo Fah or Tau Hua (Chinese: 豆腐花) - Chinese pudding made with soft tofu in sugar syrup.
  • Ice kacang (Malay: Ais Kacang) - sweet red beans, seaweed jelly, barley pearls, sweet corn and fruits are covered with shaved ice, then laced with rose syrup, brown sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Certain stalls make the Ais Kacang Uniquely "Penang" by adding shredded nutmeg (A native fruit to Penang) pickle and raisins or sultanas over it.
  • Muar Chee - Sticky glutinous rice balls coated in a sweet mixture of pulverized peanuts, sold at many hawker centres.
  • Rojak - A fruit and vegetable dish in shrimp and chilli paste.

Festival Special[edit]

Below are dishes that are special during festivals


  • Panjamirtham - Seasonal Fruit savoury dessert. Can be found during Thaipusam Festival.
  • 'Pongal (Tamil:பொங்கல்)- Every January, Tamils and Telugus celebrate the harvest festival Thai Pongal / Sankranti during which Pongal is made.There are two varieties of pongal, Chakkara Pongal which is a sweet, and Venn Pongal, made from clarified butter
  • Murukku(Tamil:முறுக்கு) -savoury, crunchy Indian snack,famous during Deepavali


  • Lau Hau Peng - Penang's popular iced nutmeg juice.
  • Neslo (Malay: Neslo Ais) - A combination of Nescafé and Milo.
  • 932 or Kau Sah Jee (Chinese: 九三二) - A lime and sour plum drink.


  1. ^ a b "Penang hawker food (Penang street food)". 
  2. ^ "Asia's 10 greatest street food cities". 
  3. ^ "Where are the foodies going in 2014?". 
  4. ^ "Penang Special Samosa @ Little India". 
  5. ^ "Woodlands Indian Vegetarian - Penang". 
  6. ^ "Ghee Hiang". 
  7. ^ "The unbeatable banana leaf rice that hits the spot". 
  8. ^ "Passions of Kerala New World Park". 
  9. ^ "How to make Penang Acar". 
  10. ^ Penang Hawker Food
  11. ^ "Koay Chiap stalls in Penang". 
  12. ^

External links[edit]