Going Native: Penang street food

January 27, 2014
I'm always telling my London friends to visit me whenever I'm in Kuala Lumpur. Typically they enthuse 'YES!' with the shiny-eyed wonder of a child who's found a golden ticket before their expression drops to a crestfallen 'Oh...but it's so far away, it must be expensive.' Noooo, not quite, just like how everything in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory is edible, a trip to Malaysia is self-sustaining. By that I mean that flights aside, everything else is dirt cheap (free if I like you enough to invite you to stay with me) especially the food...oh the glorious street food! Nothing inflames the passions of Malaysians quite like street food; we argue about which lok lok cart is the best, we plan our days around meals, and we drive all the way across states just to eat local specialty dishes...and this Holy Grail that pulls pilgrims across the country is almost always served at a grotty little coffee shop where the plastic tables spill out onto the road and one hunches over a bowl of soup as traffic rumbles by. It's all terribly street, very Malaysian (no one is too snobbish for it), and prove that some of the best things in the world cost next to nothing.

Last week I endured a one-hour flight to the charming Chinese-majority, tourist hub of Penang island  for a couple of days. Not only to bergolek-golek with Sheena, David, Sroop, and Drew but also for my annual visit to all of my favourite Penang street food places. These are my Meccas. Mecci? Meccases?


First stop; the famous Lorong Selamat char kuey teow by the infamously brusque aunty in the red cap.


Deep fry my arteries in lard, throw in some prawns and cockles, drench the whole thing in oil topped with crispy bean sprouts, and give me a coronary...my body is ready.

Second stop; Green House Hokkien mee (Hokkien noodles).


All that fiery, spicy, soupy goodness washed down with a cripsy, cold, Tiger beer on a hot, humid, tropical Malaysian night...apparently it is the things that dreams are made of. But I wouldn't know, I don't drink beer.

Of course I have to eat kari mee (curry noodles), Penang laksa, and wan tan mee (wonton noodles)...and although I didn't have the time to visit the places that were especially famous for those dishes it didn't matter. I'm in Penang! Even their 'mediocre' street food is better than K.L's. I admit it.


Oh hello Penang laksa, I blame you for the 3kg I gained last week.


You too kari mee. I would love you better without the blood pudding.


Wan tan mee, you're alright. Mostly all wan tan mees taste the same to me. But I'm in Penang and surrounded by Penangites so I have to say you taste better in Penang or I'll never make it back alive to K.L.


My tipple of choice...limau ais...literally a slice of lime, syrup, water, and sugar. It's so bad for me that it must be good...right?

So yes, London friends, fly down to Malaysia...all you need to spend money on are your flights. RM10/£2 for a meal, you will hardly be wanting. Don't worry about food...the streets will sustain you. 

16 comments:

  1. I would only ever try unusual street food with someone who knows exactly what they're eating and can reassure me! :)
    Looks delicious though.

    On a side note, regarding your blog redesign: I noticed there's an extra comma in Posh, broke (,) & bored! Just a tip! I am not a grammar nazi :D

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    1. Oh the extra comma is an oxford comma, I'm obsessed with using them :D

      I feel the same about street food, I'd only eat it with a local guide, I don't dare risking food poisoning. I once ate fried locust without realising what it was and it didn't make me sick but I was nauseated for days after :X

      x

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    2. Ah I see ~ fancy! (had to google it, lol - not my native tongue)

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  2. Jas! Kway teow looks delicious! But how come the shit of the prawn was not de-veined! I cannot tahan lor! The only thing that looks delicious and worth the calories to me is the kway teow. As for the curry mee, assam laksa and wan tan mee i can find better versions in KLANG! Come to Klang and i shall let you try it heheh

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    1. NOOOOOO WHY YOU TELL ME NOW I CANNOT UNSEE IT ARGH *throw Mac across room*

      Ooooh Klang, I'm not familiar with it, I must take you up on that offer someday! x

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  3. Oxford comma.

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  4. speechless. I can SMELL IT FROM HERE AND MY GOD I AM SO HUNGRY! get in my belly, prawn shit and all!!!

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    1. I need to find somewhere in London that serves char kuey teow just like Penang's! Any ideas? x

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    2. C&R in either Chinatown or Westbourne Grove or Kopi Tiam on Shaftesbury Avenue does a decent char kuey teow. I've heard good things about Tuk Din in Paddington too. Nothing compares to the real thing sadly :( OH! and my mum really rates the food at the Malaysia Hall canteen (i've been once, I couldn't bear being stared at!)

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    3. I've never been to Malaysia Hall, all my Malaysian friends talk about it. Let's go when I'm back? x

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  5. Ahmagad that looks SO good! x

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    1. It's so yummy! You need to come to Malaysia, I'll take you around to try them all! x

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  6. LOVE street food! It's an example of how you can find happiness in the simplest of things :) pretty pictures too, although I'd agree I would never eat anything I didn't know what it was, unless someone who knew would reassure me :) and kudos for the oxford comma!

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    1. You need a local guide to help you go native! x

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