There’s something special about food in Penang. Putting your finger on it is really tricky. Yes other places have street food, yes other places have thrive on a melting pot of influences, yes other places have exciting pop-up boutique cafés but something, something about Penang has meant that the result is more magical. Street food is a way of life here; It’s ‘hawkers paradise’.
When you’re travelling like we were, one of the problems is never having enough time anywhere and that’s certainly true of Georgetown. Running around like a kid in a sweet shop, eyes agog at the choices of what to eat next meant that prioritising tummy space was tricky. Choosing what deserved tasting more than anything else became a daily obsession.
Georgetown has skilfully straddled a fine line. What makes the city great is the diversity and authenticity of it’s street food; round the clock offerings of the best of Malaysian cooking, whipped up to the same recipe for generations. What makes the city even greater is the direction the new foodie establishments are taking, weaving the vibrant strands of influence with new techniques and quirky ventures meaning that Penang boasts a plethora of new trendy cafés and restaurants alongside fabulous street stalls making for the most vibrant of culinary rainbows.
Somewhere you can’t miss this deluge of colour, aromas and noise is in little India. We were lucky enough to pitch up at festival time and so the street stalls here were even more exuberant and all the more buzzing. Here you can buy the best samosas you will ever eat and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that. They could run circles around every other one I’ve had and all for the grand total of about 10p? Quick tip – they make fabulous packed lunch snacks for long journeys onwards from Penang if you don’t mind stinking out your coach/train carriage.
On the flip side, the cafés and restaurants I mentioned earlier are equally as intriguing. I could rabbit on but our favourites were ChinaHouse and The Mugshot Café. Mugshot first. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mugshot-Cafe/217836308341636 If you’re after a break from Asian influenced breakfasts, and I appreciate when travelling for a while it sometimes happens, The Mugshot Café does decent bagels and soothing creamy yogurts with pretty good coffee too.
Our all-time favourite though has to be ChinaHouse. http://www.chinahouse.com.my/index_page04.html This is so many venues under one roof that I wont try to list them all but essentially they have a restaurant, a bakery and play live music in the evenings. There’s a great and unique vibe in each little pocket of this place meaning you should take some time to wander and deliberate before you settle down for the evening. A word should also be saved for the cakes which are breath taking. I’m inclined to say it’s more a case of being bowled over by choice than anything else but regardless they are spectacular.
My main point in this post is that Penang should be high on any foodie itinerary. Kuala Lumpur is obviously still going to feature and quite rightly so but personally there was something far more endearing and authentic about Penang. Ask Malaysians where to go for good food in Malaysia and they would probably point you hear and that says more in my opinion than any guide book could.