Before my 4 month stay in Osaka this end June, I decided to take a short family trip to my mother’s birthplace, Penang.
We last visited Penang 2 years ago so pretty much we expected it to be a food trip more than anything else.
Penang as we all know is famous for its local classics like Char Koay Teow, Assam Laksa, Curry Mee to list a few so we made it a point to attempt all of the island state’s best offerings in our 3 days there.
Having arrived on a Thursday night, we were pretty famished since it was well beyond dinner time so after dropping our bags at Mansion One (our Airbnb), we proceeded on foot to the nearest hawker centre, Northam Beach, recommended by our Uber driver.
There’s a wide selection of both Asian and Western style food, beyond the Penang classics.
The Penang Prawn (Hokkien) Mee was surprisingly delicious, chock full of pork ribs and with a delightful, sweet broth made from brewing the prawns for a long time.
The oyster omelette was decent as well, with plenty of small oysters mixed into the batter.
The Assam Laksa was arguably the best dish of the night, the thick soup providing a intense assam flavour with a hint of sweetness.
Despite looking like a tourist trap of sorts, the food at Northam was actually better than we expected. Perhaps the fact that we were famished played a part, so we might have to go again one day to certify the truth.
The next day was to be a full day foodie’s delight. We started the morning with a great breakfast at Kedai Kopi Seow Fong Lye.
This coffee shop is largely known for its Char Koay Kak (carrot cake), cooked by 2 sisters, who were really charming people.
There’s also a famous Chee Cheong Fun stall near door, which was one of the highlights of the trip since this is one of the few Penang dishes you can’t find in Singapore, in terms of the style of preparation.
What I loved was the sweet prawn paste generously drenched over the supple Chee Cheong Fun.
From there we took a 15 minute walk to our next stop, Tua Pui Curry Mee.
Unlike the usual Laksa we have back home, Penang’s Curry Mee is less lemak, using little or no coconut milk in the gravy. The addition of pig’s blood was a god send-it’s unfortunate that these little cubes are banned in Singapore for health reasons.
A short walk from the curry mee stall were 2 places commonly recommended by most food bloggers, Pitt Street Koay Teow Thng and Tiger Char Koay Teow.
I tried Pitt Street 2 years ago and came away unimpressed, but this time the experience was much better, perhaps because I ordered the soup version.
The uniqueness of this stall is that they use eel meat to make their fishballs, but to me they are more an acquired taste due to its gooey texture as compared to the bouncy and springy ones we have back home.
If you never had Penang Fried Koay Teow before, this is probably a good place to start. I wouldn’t grade it as the best (not a fan of Penang Fried Koay Teow generally anyway), but certainly good enough for me. Add the duck egg for added fragrance to the dish.
As we were starting to reach our stomach capacity, we decided to burn off some calories by exploring Pasar Chowrasta. It’s a place you should go if you love preserved fruits, a great souvenir to bring home.
Don’t be afraid to bargain here – you may find prices more expensive and the lack of price labels means you may be quoted a higher price once you are exposed as a tourist.
After a little shopping at 1st Avenue Mall and Prangin Mall, we started to feel hungry again so we proceeded to one of the institutions of Penang, Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Kueh.
This shop probably serves the best Nyonya Kueh in town. You will be hard pressed to find anything you didn’t like here, especially if you are a Kueh fan.
Having the kuehs available in bite sized portions allow you to try a larger variety, so don’t be afraid to order more at one go.
Moh Teng Pheow also serves up a good bowl of Assam Laksa and other dishes if you are feeling hungry.
The old school furnishings certainly do their bit to make you feel back in time.
Following a short rest back at the apartment, our final stop of the day was to explore the night hawkers.
We first went to Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls, before proceeding to New Lane Hawker Centre.
Some of the stalls were still setting up as we were a bit early, so we couldn’t experience fully what the whole place had to offer.
The wanton mee was worth the effort in visiting. You can also find 2 burger stalls in the vicinity if you are craving for Western cuisine.
Not fully satisfied, we moved to New Lane Hawker Centre, a 15 minute car ride away.
New Lane was certainly more crowded and had more options than Chulia, but it felt like a more condensed version of Gurney (tourist trap). While Chulia had lesser options, more locals seemed to be present, usually a good sign when it comes to food. It was also unfortunate that the best stall in New Lane, selling almond soup, was closed when we were there. For a quick introduction of Penang Food though, New Lane is a decent place to visit since you would be able to try a bit of everything.