Sunday, 5 January 2014

Must-try Places to Eat in Penang

Coming back home for the holidays over the last two end of semester breaks has definitely thought me a thing or two about Penang and her food. One - there is no such thing as going on a 'diet' in Penang because the food tastes too good and it would be a cardinal sin to forgo the good food for a better figure (yes the diet plans can wait). And two - almost everybody sees number one to be true. Also, most of us aren't beach bums and don't need to maintain a bikini body. Because Penang food is so good and because I'm proudly Penangite, I have decided to compile a list of the top go-to makan (eating) places here, in no particular order.

1. Gu Bak Koay Teow (Beef Noodle Soup)
This dish closely resembles the Vietnamese Pho, more commonly found in Australia than in Penang, probably because we have this beefy goodness as a substitute. Unlike the overly-expensive and watered down pho we find in Australia, this beef noodle soup is packed with flavour from the broth, which has been simmering in the pot probably since the wee hours in the morning.

Another dish to look out for at this coffee shop is the fried oysters - oysters fried with eggs. And no, they didn't just waste perfectly good oysters that could've been eaten in a fancy restaurant for this because it's really really good.

Beef Noodle Soup. We opted to take-away our noodles to avoid the crowd. Hence, the really pretty looking bowl.
Lam Ah Coffee Shop is located along the busy intersection of Beach Street and Chulia Street and is constantly packed, even after lunch hours. The opening hours depend on how fast they sell out that day. They start about an hour before lunch time and start taking their last orders a bit after 3 p.m. 

Pro tip: The coffee shop is probably pretty darn good if it is still super packed/has a line after the lunch rush. Most coffee shops in Penang are packed during the lunch hour.

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2. Hokkien Mee (Hokkien Prawn Noodles)
Hokkien Mee, otherwise known as Har Mee or prawn noodles in the southern parts of Malaysia and Singapore is a staple breakfast dish among non-Muslim Malaysians and Singaporeans. I say non-Muslim because most Hokkien Mee sellers incorporate sliced pork into the dish, making it non Halal (permissible for Muslim consumption/use).

Hokkien Mee with their homemade chili paste for that extra kick.
Trust me, don't ask for more. They know how much they're giving and it's just right.
This piping hot bowl of goodness can be found in Classic Coffee Shop along Perak Road in the morning. Be sure to be there early because the waiting time is immensely long but well worth it. Another thing to look out for at this location is the Pork Bone Soup (Bak Kut Teh), which is sold at night. Not too bad considering that you're in Penang and this dish is the star dish of Klang.

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More after the jump!

3. Joez Coconut Jelly
Fancy something cold to overcome the hot summer-like weather in Penang? Look no further than Joez Coconut Jelly found in one of the shophouses along the busy streets of Dato Keramat Road in Penang. According to their website, they have recently opened a new stall at KL Central.

Need I say more about this jelly? It's velvety sooth texture will have you coming back for more.

4. Shariff Nasi Kandar Istimewa 
We stumbled upon this stall in 2009 when we were moving and were looking for something to eat. The low price tag was the main selling point for us, as it was considerably cheap compared to normal Nasi Kandar places. 

This place opens at about 5.45pm, but be sure to get there early as the queue will start building up as early as 5.30pm.  

Orders like these will keep you well below the RM10 cap, which is rare. 
As you can see from the photos, it is always important to semi-drench your rice with loads of kuah (curry) because that's the essence of the whole dish. Don't stop the man from pouring on more curry onto your dish because that's how they would eat theirs. Alternatively, you could request for the curry to be packed separately if you want to control the amount of curry you drizzle over your rice.

Dishes to try out include the curry Kapitan chicken, fried eggs with onions and beef.

View Shariff Nasi Kandar Istimewa in a larger map 

5. Curry Mee (Curry Noodles or Singaporean Laksa)
I first tried this bowl of curry noodles last Winter when I was back in Penang and I was instantly blown away by how flavourful the soup was and how every element just blended so well with each other. Just looking at the colours in the bowl will set your senses tingling to dig in.

When I had my first mouthful of the noodles, the heat from the soup immediately set my tastebuds on fire. Then, the different flavours started to set in. I felt the heat from the curry, the sweetness from the fresh prawns and the freshness from the mint leaves to cut through the heaviness of the coconut milk and I must say, it definitely had me going back for more. It was that irresistible.

Curry Mee with extra prawns, mint leaves and chili. 
This curry mee can be found behind Campbell Street Market along the intersection of Campbell and Carnarvon Street. Another dish to try there is the Lam Mee. I haven't actually tried it, so I can't give my two cents on that dish but it should be pretty darn tasty since everything in Penang is pretty up to par anyway.

6. Wanton Mee (Pork Dumpling Noodles in Black Sauce)
This plate of noodles right here was the reason why I made the wanton noodles a few months back. Wanton Noodles is a staple dish for many Malaysians, as it is not only filling but very satisfying. The saltiness from the sauce (a combination of thick and light soy sauce, oyster sauce and pepper) is cut by the wantons, which are savoury. This combination of flavours in turn, create a balance of flavours that you won't be able to find anywhere else. 

Judging by the crowd at this place every single day, there's no denying that their noodles are to die for and worth the wait, for sure.

Wanton Mee with chicken floss sprinkled on top.
This wanton mee can be found at Tai Wah Cafe along Argyll Road opposite Caltex. Refer to the map below for the coordinates. (:

7. Yong Tau Foo 
I'm not really sure how to translate this dish but what I do know is that this place does is pretty darn well. I'm not a big fan of Yong Tau Foo but it's safe to say that this restaurant has converted me. In fact, I fell in love with the food there almost instantly. I'm not sure what it was that got me but it was a little bit of everything - from the fried wantons to the dried noodles in soy sauce. Everything just seemed so flavourful. 

So yes, pay this place a visit and maybe, just maybe they might be able to win you over too!

Yong Tau Foo
This can be found at Kampar Fish Jelly Restaurant, Pantai Jerjak in one of the shop houses on the opposite side of the road from the field after the flyover.

And this is why Penang food consistently tops world rankings. Still not convinced? Well, I'll leave you to try out these places below to see for yourself.

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