Malaysians are passionate about their food. Each state in Malaysia is famous for one or two dishes (Johor is well known for its asam laksa) but Penang on the other hand, has long been known as the food capital of the country. The proof lies in various blogs and websites dedicated in writing about the food, especially the street food in Penang.
In 2004, Time Magazine recognised Penang for having the Best Food in Asia. The article spoke about the various types of food one can find in Penang. It also wrote that Penang is the only place where you can find great tasting food for a really cheap price.
The three main races in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Each of these races has their own unique style of cooking using different ingredients, seasonings, condiments and even a different way of slaughtering meat. Malay’s are famous for the nasi lemak, ikan bakar and ketupat with rendang. The Chinese are famous for chilli crab, dim sum and bak kut teh, while Indians are well known for banana leaf, thosai and tandoori. There are many places where one can go, to indulge in these delicacies.
We talk about how chefs love fusing together western and continental dishes, but in Malaysia, it’s a fusion of three different races that make the food all the more delicious. For example, the Chinese are now using more chilli to make their food spicier, nasi lemak can be found in Indian restaurants, and the Malay food is hugely influenced by Indian cooking, and vice versa.
Probably the most famous type of food in Penang is nasi kandar. Originating from Penang itself, the meal is basically a plate of steamed white rice, topped with a variety of curries, and accompanied with your choice of side dishes such as vegetables, fried chicken or fish, boil or fried egg and papadums. In Penang, there are two very famous nasi kandar stalls; they are Kassim Restaurant and Line Clear. These are not big franchises; in fact, Line Clear is located in an alleyway, but it is so famous, that you will now be able to navigate your way over there via google maps.
In Penang, visiting your local hawker/ food court will ensure that you can order different kinds of cuisines, even Western dishes! Nasi kandar, asam laksa, popiah, rojak, chee cheong fun, beef kway teow soup, cendol, fried kway teow, nasi dagang, tau foo far, fish and chips, tandoori chicken, cheese naan, grilled sting ray, hoe peng biscuits, curry mee, roti canai, ikan bakar, chicken chop; These delectable dishes can be found in one of the many food courts and hawker places around Penang, such as Penang Road, Pulau Tikus and Chulia Street. But the most famous place to eat, is the huge outdoor food court located at Gurney Drive. There, you can find all the local dishes that you must try; all for a very, very cheap price.
If you are eating at one of the many food courts in Penang, then be prepared to spend very little on your food. A dozen sticks of satay, a plate of Chinese fried rice with a side of grilled fish and a tall glass of juice will cost you around RM15 max. Nasi kandar in Penang is also cheap compared to the bigger franchises in KL. A plate full of rice, three different curries and vegetables, with fried chicken or fish will probably cost you around RM10.
The perfect package
So in conclusion, Penang is a lot more than just fun on the beach, budget shopping and interesting attractions. Adding food into that list makes it the perfect package. If you are not working this weekend, why not take a scenic drive up to Penang to try some of the delicious food? Driving for eight hours (back and forth) just for food, is a normal occurrence among many Malaysians (and some expats too!), especially those living in KL. The majority of hawkers and nasi kandar stalls are open 24 hours, so you can go anytime you please.
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