“Special Post” Penang Part Three

Penang has a population of 1.7 million people, with approximately three quarter of a million living in Georgetown and the surrounding suburbs. It is arguable whether Georgetown, the capital of Penang, is spell as one word or two words “George Town”.

I grew up learning in school to read and write Georgetown as one word. However, lately I noticed a couple of local tourism publications and websites – InPenang magazine and Visit Penang website – spelling the capital as George Town. I don’t know why and have ask the question on my Twitter account, which I believed prompted VisitPenang to ask a similar question on their Facebook account. In my opinion, it is not a matter of whether the new spelling of “George Town” sounds and looks better than “Georgetown”. It has to have a historical meaning and evidence or documented record to suggest and warrant the change in spelling.

Eastin Hotel

Queensbay Area – Queensbay Mall on the right and Pulau Jerejak in the background

In my last post, “Penang Part Two” I explore the area of Queensbay, where I stayed at Eastin Hotel. I stayed 3 nights at a promotional rate of $220 Malaysian Ringgit, or AUD$70 per night. The room comes with free Wifi and a buffet breakfast. It was close to mum’s place. The area has a nearby secluded beach. I have no intention of swimming there. But, lovely to take a morning stroll. It has the biggest shopping mall, directly adjacent to the hotel, in Penang. So my time was mostly spent browsing the shops. There is nothing historically significant or interesting about the place, except the entire area was built on a reclaimed land along the eastern coast of Penang.

In Penang, it depends on where you stay to make the trip worthwhile, interesting and memorable. The only way to travel around is either by taxi or bus.  Public transportation is not as well serviced as the Australian capital cities. Penang is a small island, and Georgetown and its greater area will normally take 15 minutes to half an hour to reach the destination, depending on traffic. It is really easy to get around if you have a car. Otherwise, a taxi depends on your skill to negotiate. The driver here refused to use the meter and charge a fixed price! I hate taking the taxi because it is usually dirty, smelly with unscrupulous rude driver. But in my previous trip and this trip, I am quite happy to see the taxi service and image has improved – cleaner and newer car, pleasant drivers, including a couple of female drivers. I would rather walk or take the bus “RapidPenang”, which has improved in service, and very cheap to travel.  The time and frequency, however, is quite irregular which can make the trip quite long.

Thus, my reason for moving to an inner city hotel, Tune Hotel for the next seven days. Tune Hotel is a no-frill hotel with the comfort and cleanliness of a self proclaimed 5-stars hotel. It is like flying with a no-frill airline, except it is not airborne! And, you can actually sleep on a nice comfortable bed, with a nice clean bathroom and hot shower. It is better than staying at a budget hotel. The location is superb, right smack in the city within walking distance to all the food places and heritage buffer zone precinct gazetted by UNESCO. I paid $400 Malaysian Ringgit for six nights, the equivalent of AUD$20 per night! What a bargain! I paid extra for using the aircondition and a day Wifi in my room. They provide free internet service at the lobby area.

I can walk to almost every place that I wanted to explore on this trip, to relive my childhood memories. There are so many, many places to eat. Next door is “New World Park” – a food court with over 20 variety of hawker stalls. Every street nearby has a Penang style “Kopitiam”. “Kopi” is “Coffee” and “Tiam” is “Shop”. Thus, translated as “Coffee Shop”. It is a Hokkien word, a Chinese dialect, which is predominantly spoken in Penang.

All I did was eat, eat and eat! Well, not entirely. I did a lot of walking and exploring of some historical significant places to me, which I will write on another post.

Penang is so famous for its food that it is rated number one reason by tourists for visiting the island!

I had the following hawker food in the last few days. All within walking distance and at different Kopitiam. I had so much pleasure walking around and spontaneously choose and decide to eat what my heart desire at the time. The serving size is generally small, and range from $2.50 to $3.50 Malaysian Ringgit or AUD$0.80 cents to AUD$1.20 for a bowl. I don’t feel I have overeaten. But, the truth is I ate too much!

Some of the street foods that I have eaten so far were:

Hokkien Mee

When in Penang, Hokkien Mee is a must! Almost every Kopitiam has one of this stall. In Australia, it is known as Prawn Mee. The bowl of noodle is judged by the quality and flavour of the prawn stock, and the chilli paste that is mixed into the stock.

Lor Mee

Most Hokkien Mee stall will also offer a starchy version known as “Lor Mee”. The “Lor” or “Gravy” is made from soy sauce, starch, eggs and spices. A good bowl is again judged by the starchy gravy stock, mixed with garlic and chili pastes. I had the pleasure of taking a photo of the owner and his stall. The stall is very compact, but big enough to have all the ingredients, bowls, pots to work. Most of the preparation are done at home early in the morning, including peeling the small prawns, spiced and fried them, then sliced in half! The preparation takes time, but once all ingredients are assembled on the tiny stall, it takes less than 2 minutes for the stall owner to plate all the ingredients in the bowl – make to order on the spot!

Nasi Lemak

This is a Malaysian most favourite dish, that can be snack anytime of the day – breakfast, lunch and tea break! It is simple but utterly delicious! And, cheap at $1.50 Malaysian Ringgit per packet, or AUD$0.50 cents!!!! It comes with fragrant coconut rice, half hard boiled egg and sambal ikan billis (anchovies), or sambal ikan (fish) or sambal udang (prawn). Sambal is a special homemade chilli paste.

Keow Teow T’ng

This is one of my favourite rice noodle soup. It is subtle and non-spicy. Well, almost. Some time I like to dip the fish ball and meat in the “chilli padi” soy sauce. “Chili Padi” is bird eye chilli. It is very spicy. This stall is very famous in Penang – my late grandfather took us there when we were young. The Kopitiam has this stall and two other stalls. And, it manages to survive all these years in spite of many more Kopitiams and eating places in Penang. I ate at this stall twice for breakfast, and it was busy.

Curry Mee

There are many different version of Curry Mee across Malaysia. This is a Penang version served with baby cockles and chicken blood!

Ice Kacang

On a hot day like today, I had to have a bowl of Ice Kacang. It is sweet and helps cool me down. It is better than eating ice cream! A Malaysian way of enjoying the cooling effect of a sweet dessert.

Nasi Campur

This local Malay fares with several different curry dishes; ranging from seafood to meat and vegetables, are so delightful to look at! I happen to walk passed the front of the shop at a corner of a busy intersection. I can smell the beautiful spiced aroma in the air leading me inside to the beautiful and colourful array of Malay dishes beautifully plated on a large banana leave on top of a wok. I was so tempted to sit down and eat, but I just had a bowl of noodle and it was 9:30am. Too early for a heavy meal. I promise myself I will be back to try and sample the food another day.

Penang is all about food, food and food. If you have a big appetite for food and different variety of food, you must come to Penang! There are many, many more but I cannot list them all in this post.

Have I make you hungry yet??

10 responses to ““Special Post” Penang Part Three

  1. Victor
    Oh those dishes are just to die for !!!!!!!!!
    When Anthony Bourdain visited Malay I don’t think he had this much local dishes. The spices are on all the dishes will definitely wakeup some Western palates. It is a major gastro-violation I could see me eating those dishes and I’ll be sweating, my eyes will watering, my nose will be running, my mouth will be in flame, my ear will be ringing. I’m going to need lots of tissues, ice cold water, oh yeah that ice kacang will do just fine to sooth my tummy….. hmmmmmmmmm
    Yes my next trip to Laos, my side trip be Penang!!

    • LOL! Salalao. Yes, if I have to tick the correct answer to each of your description – they will all pass with a big TICK! 🙂
      If plan early, you can definitely fly to Penang quite affordably from either Bangkok or KL direct. And, if I am around it will be nice to meet up for a gastronomy tour of Georgetown – my future dream of living in Penang.

    • Victor
      Your’re on Georgetwon it is

  2. Are you on holiday again? Half your luck! Well, and lucky for us too as we get to hear about your wonderful adventures. Just for next time, if you need a caddy and or live in maid for your travels, I am your lady!


  3. Yes you have definitely made me hungry!

    Queensbay is ok, did you go into the mall? It is my sister’s favourite, I think because it has so many designer shops. I like it less because it is so far away from Georgetown (one word I think!).

    I have never heard of that budget hotel, it is a good idea! Nice and close without paying exorbitant rates (like at Traders).

    That row of Nasi Lemak looks great!

    • Yes, I have been to QBM many times. As many as Gurney Plaza. For me, not a whole lot to shop but enjoy the icy cold AC after a sweltering heat from walking outside.

      Tune is very cheap if you can plan ahead and book during thier promotional period. The room is tiny but clean. My only issue with the place is noise from the street and other guests/children in the hallway. The noise does travel into the room. I am a light sleeper so find it hard to sleep eventhough the bed is comfortable. The best things I like about the hotel is its location and price.

  4. Oh my Victor, that all looks so delicious. I’ve just had dinner and you’ve made me hungry again.

    I love Nasi Lemak – one of my favourite dishes. And I used to visit the ice kacang stall at one of the food halls in Haymarket. I loved having to choose my favourite embellishments, palm seed, red bean, lotus root, jelly and others that I can’t remember.

    But the big question, how do you stay so slim?

    • LOL, Michelle. The portion here is very small compare to food in Australia. We may eat 5 meals a day, but they are generally small except dinner time which is usually rice with a few dishes. I think also is the heat in Penang – I sweat a lot and walk a lot. Kind of very strange for Penangites. They don’t walk and drive to every place. That’s why the traffic is quite bad here.

  5. Victor – You’re making me hungry already and it is only 8:06am here. The Hokkien Mee reminds me of “Kaow Soy”, a popular bowl from Northern Part of Laos. Thanks for sharing all those dishes with us and looking forward to the next update.

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