George Town, Penang - Street Food in the Morning


Char Koay Teow - significant are the subtlety in fresh ingredients, how they are sliced, clever use of the wok heat and the texture of rice noodles.
Every Penangite has his or her own preference of how you want this dish, so go for your inner heart in whether you prefer it a bit wet with scrambled eggs, or take with fancy seafood or go with the basics - Cantonese sausage cuts, fresh springy bean sprouts, pork lard bits, garlic accentuated flavours and with kuchai greens.  The version shown above was captured by me at the Padang Brown food stalls which are open from late morning till sold out - my rating is 6.5 out of ten.  Padang Brown, named after colonial figure David Brown, is a rectangular field surrounded by Anson, Perak and Datuk Keramat Roads.

Suggested Other Sources of Char Koay Teow:

1. Ah Leng Char Koay Teow, at the Khoon Hiang Cafe, corner of Merican and Datuk Keramat Roads, a good stop by on your way to the Kek Lok Si Temple Complex in Air Itam (Black Water Village). Visit this stall early, as on popular days the stall is closed by 1pm.  They have versions with duck egg or large mantis shrimp. (Please note that in the evenings the father of the family running Ah Leng, Mr Teoh Koon Leng, runs his pop up char koay teow stall in suburban Air Itam from 5pm in the evenings at Lorong Zoo 6, opposite a seafood restaurant.).
2.  Road side push cart hawker at Siam Road - the veteran cooks using traditional charcoal, so the taste is enhanced and special as opposed to gas cooked food.รถ
Available from 2pm till sold out.

3. CKT stall at the corner coffeeshop Sin Guat Keong, Kimberly and Cintra Streets in the Chinatown section of the UNESCO designated heritage area. Open from 530pm to midnight every evening.

We arrived too early for the char koay teow stall to open in the evening from 5pm - corner of Kimberly and Cintra Streets  in the heart of Chinese Georgetown.


More significant than just providing wi-fi, service engagement and cafe location is the the aroma and play on your taste buds from the so many blends of barista coffee these days.  Philip suggested the SiTigun Cafe at 30 Nagore Road near the New World Park hawker and restaurant hub (cafe closed on Mondays). I tried the Sicilian ice coffee blend and it was above satisfactory, robust in aroma, strong in taste and made well to quench the thirst on a humid morning.  We also got to unexpectedly enjoy a live lion dance performance across the road through a heritage styled window frame.  I enjoyed this coffee - my rating is 7.5 out of ten.

Suggested Other Sources of Barista made Coffee:

1. Coffee Atelier, 47-55 Stewart Lane, behind the Goddess of Mercy Temple  (within the UNESCO designated heritage area)  Open every day from 830am till late.
2. ChinaHouse, 183B Victoria Street  (also accessible from 153-155 Beach Street) near Penang Harbour. Open every day from 10am till late.
3. Moustache Houze, 24 Campbell Street (within the UNESCO designated heritage area)  Open every day but usually from 4pm.
4.  Twelve Cups, White Aways Arcade, 12 Beach Street  (in banking district, near the cruise passenger terminal and Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower and within the UNESCO designated heritage area) Open every day from 10am till late.
5.  Bibi's Fashion Bakery and Cafe located in a bungalow at 87D Kelawai Road at corner with Leandros Lane (open every day from 9am to 7pm except Thursdays)

6. Coffee Lane at 10B King Street, a brew to order cafe in the colonial part of the UNESCO designated heritage area. Operates from 11am to 8pm daily except for Thursdays.


To me, the best such soy sauce mixed egg noodles with char siew and prawn-pork dumplings (locally known as wanton mee or tok tok mee in Penang) are found in Hong Kong, Vancouver and Kuala Lumpur.  My recent experience of this dish in Penang was at the Gou Lou coffee shop ( at 55 Lorong Kampung Malabar, near the corner with Penang Road in the city centre of George Town)  The texture of the al dente noodles, with freshly made dumpling skin and accompanying vinegar green chili cuts - make this rated a 7 out of ten; only the red lined char siew could improve in my opinion.  Also to try in the same coffee shop - sar hor fun, with broad rice noodles, seafood and a zesty wok stir fry aroma; and pan mee, those hand made noodles that first came to peninsular Malaya through Sabah and China.

(Note - within the Chinatown section of the UNESCO Heritage walking trail area)

Suggested Other Sources of Wanton Mee:

1. Sai Lam where Chulia and Carnavon Streets
meet, a true street side experience.
2. Chee Meng Cafe, 20 Dato Koyah Road, near upper Penang Road. Closed on Tuesdays 

and otherwise open from 7am to 1pm.

3. Tai Wah Coffee House, 86 Argyll Road. Closed every Tuesday, otherwise open from 730am to 1130am.

4. Pop up stall in front of the Union Girls Primary School, Burma Road (only at night)


Bak kut teh, with herbal mixes in the dark soup, accompanied by succulent stewed pork ribs, was created by Chinese immigrants for working class consumption in 19th century Malaya and Singapore.  It has nutritive qualities apart from being eaten at any time of the day, but more popular at night.  Fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and dang gui Chinese herbs are utilised to prepare the soup in  flurry of fusion between south-east Asian and Chinese culinary influences.

Often served with hot piping smoked tea like at yum cha sessions, there are related servings of the deep fried yau char kwai (Cantonese for deep fried crullers or you tiao in Mandarin), fish balls, mushrooms and stir-fried greens.  The version above was served at Aristoga , an informal dining area under an elevated warehouse cover but open to the sea breezes along Penang's iconic Gurney Drive.   Street parking is limited so many customers do park their vehicles at the nearby Corner Club and this cafe is also near the long established New Zealand Cafe.  My rating for the Aristoga  Bak Kut Teh?  A 7 out of ten.  The Aristoga is open from early morning till night time. 

(Note - within walking distance of the Gurney and Paragon shopping centres)

Suggested Other Sources of Bak Kut Teh:

1. Super Lai Lai BKT, at corner of Naning and Macalister Roads, a walk of a few blocks from lower Penang Road. Closed on Thursdays,  otherwise open in the evenings every day from 6pm till 1am.  Opposite the Red Rock Hotel.


Modest looking as it may be, the pork based congee is one of my favourite comfort food dishes. With the stock soup brewed overnight, before being dished out in the morning, it is a benign choice for old and young alike. The key is in its stock - followed by the freshness and suppleness of its varied ingredients and garnishing.  You have to slice it thin and bite-size, whether you just have the minced pork, pig liver, cooked innards, spring onions or more. A choice of good rice and pepper gives the X factor.  The picture above shows the variety served at the Hon Kei Food CornerCafe located at 45 Lorong Kampung Malabar in central Georgetown, open for business from morning.  My score for this bak moey dish is a 7.5 out of ten.
(Note - within the Chinatown section of the UNESCO Heritage walking trail area)

Suggested Other Sources of Pork Congee:

1.  Pop up pork congee stall on street side in front of the Ho Ping Cafe at Lorong Kampung Malabar from 6pm to midnight every evening.  You sit on chairs at tables just opened for the few hours and there is a community feel to the experience.
2. Chee Cheong Chok stall at the corner of New Lane and Macalister Road, from 5pm until sold out (outside the heritage zone but a few blocks away from lower Penang Road)

Suggested Sources of Chicken Congee:

1. Yee Sang Kai Chok along Cintra Street (near to junction with Chulia Street) -  again only at night from 8pm but closed on Sundays.


Lobak, or deep fried soy bean skin rolls with a pork packing inside, accompanied by hay ken (or deep fried battered shrimp snacks) are great with beer and served with a choice of sauces (one brown and another chili hot) and cut cucumber slices.  Servings are delicate and compact at this Hon Kei Food Corner/ Cafe outlet but every bite is yummy.  I found this particular lobak shown above crunchy outside, not salty and with quality ingredients inside, with no over whelming hint of the Chinese five spice powder used to marinate the meat.
My rating is for an eight out of ten.
(Note - within the Chinatown section of the UNESCO Heritage walking trail area)

Suggested Other Sources of Lobak:
1. Kheng Pin Cafe, 80 penang Road, at the corner of Penang and Sri Bahari Roads.  Backpackers can recognise this aging corner coffeeshop if they hang around upper Penang Road, buy their nutmegs at nearby Chowrasta Market and have their share of roti canai at roadside stalls and and consume their Nasi Kandar at Line Clear.  Closed on Mondays, open from 7am to 3pm.

2. Kek Seng coffee shop, 382-384 Penang Road, open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Map of Georgetown - Copyright

The staff preparing the lobak at the Hon Kei Food Corner/Cafe are energetic, confident and know their stuff!


1.  Kaya spread toast, poached eggs and local Penang coffee - Toh Soon Cafe , near corner of Campbell Street and Upper Penang Road. 7 to 8am every day.
2. Hainan Chicken Rice - Tho Yuen Chicken Rice Restaurant, 94 Campbell Street. Open 6am to 3pm every day.
3. Straits Chinese snacks and cakes - Moh Teng Phew Nyonya Kueh, Jalan Mesjid, off Chulia Street. Closed on Mondays.
4. Ban Chien Kueh or the peanut filled pancake laden with smashed corn, at the Pulau Tikus morning markets  or in the evenings from 6pm, at the Anson Road pop up stall in front of the Lok Pin coffee shop


POST NOTE: Do plan your route ahead when exploring Georgetown's street food.  Public transport quality can be patchy and not on schedule.  I recommend hiring a bicycle/motor bike/ car or getting a friend to drive! The weather can be warm, humid or rainy at times.  Always have pocket tissues with you, for unlike in Australia and New Zealand, no vendor offers such tissues with your food. Always be ready to be able to pack snacks or left overs. Be careful when crossing streets for motor cycles, usually small powered Hondas, as there can be a casualness with these local riders on narrow streets and pavements, especially in the UNESCO designated heritage zones. Most businesses open late from 11am.  

At the time of this posting, most of the dishes recommended in this blog post cost from Malaysian Ringgit 3 to 5 per serving.  Coffee and most other drinks  in traditional coffee shops can be yours for a couple of Malaysian ringgit on average. The GST is planned to be introduced to Malaysia from April 2015. For local barista places, be prepared to pay around Malaysian Ringgit 4 to 8 for their drinks.

Common Malay words in maps are as follows: Jalan is a road, and Lebuh refers to a street, Solok indicates a cul-de-sac, Lorong means Lane and Lebuhraya is an  avenue.  Jalan sehala indicates one way only for vehicle traffic.

Have on hand small currency notes - and a coin purse to handle change.  When consuming street food on a provided table in a food court or traditional coffee shop, you are expected to order drinks from the drinks stall. Street food stalls can be finicky handling opening hours, it can depend  on their other job, festive days and ingredients running out. The above food outlets featured in this specific blog post are open in the mornings at least until lunchtime, unless otherwise stated.  Portions can be rather small when compared to what you have in Asian outlets in Western countries but it is a perfect opportunity to sample the variety of what is available before you go to hit the gym, beach or park.  Acknowledgement and thanks to several of my family and friends, especially Mr Philip Yeoh, for their valued guidance and efforts in helping us identify and visit a spectrum of street food places in February 2015. Feedback from readers of this blog post is most welcome.


Philip Y said…
I dunno how you got to Datum Kermit Rd. from George Town, but if the food's that good you must lend me the GPS device you used. :P
Tze Yin said…
Wonderful recommendations and photos (it's hard not to drool...)! The post note is definitely useful for those new to the Penang hawker food eating experience.
Kin Yuen said…
Lol Philip Y, it teaches me not to rely on auto spelling from cyberspace, now corrected. would be lovely to have a major road named after Kermit the Frog in George Town!
Kin Yuen said…
Thanks Yin, I plan another two postings on street food in George Town later this month.