If you haven’t been on a Penang Food Tour yet, you haven’t really visited Penang yet!
Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is most widely recognized for its famous street art. But what it’s really famous for, and for good reason, is EATING! In 2014 Lonely Planet ranked first in Penang in a list of 8 culinary hotspots in the world. In 2016, Forbes Magazine Georgetown ranked number 1 among the 10 best budget travel destinations. In 2004, Time Magazine awarded Penang the title of the best street food in Asia. And that’s why a Penang Food Tour in Georgetown is a must when you visit Penang!
When we came to Penang with children, we wanted to find a food-friendly food tour in Georgetown, and that’s exactly what we brought with us Enjoy Asia, And so much more! We chose the local market and food tour in Penang because we had done a similar food tour in Kuala Lumpur and we all seven just enjoyed it every moment.
From the moment Joy, our host, picked us up from our hotel, we were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm. When she drove us to a local market in the heart of Georgetown, she talked about the history of the region, including the culture and background of the food that we should try soon. She was absolutely curious and enthusiastic about Georgetown, Penang and Malaysian food in general. When we arrived our mouths were already watering and we were excited about what was to come.
The market was incredible. Colorful, loud and full of life! On the way through the narrow streets full of fresh fruits, vegetables and delicacies, Joy held two hands of our children and pointed out various interesting items for sale. After we picked up some fresh, hot curry puffs, we made our way to a small area called the coffee shop, located at the back of the market. When we were sitting at one of the many tables and started devouring our curry puffs, Joy went to one of the snack stands in the coffee shop area to order more delicacies. The curry puffs were amazing. The pastries melted in our mouths and the curry-potato filling was a subtle mix of sweet and savory with just enough spices to kick it off but not to blow your head off. All the children loved her, even our 2 year old!
Joy returned to our table with an amazing selection of Malaysian dishes. My favorite dish, and perhaps still my favorite dish in Malaysia, was the Char Koay Kak – an exclusive dish in Penang. The dish consists of sliced rice waffles, which are fried with a delicious dark sauce and served with mixed soybean sprouts. We also tried Ban chiang kueh – Asian pancakes filled with crushed peanuts, sugar and either sweet corn or sliced bananas. The kids in particular thought that was incredible and are now asking for them at every Malaysian market we visit.
A sweet toast with butter and sugar followed, accompanied by half-boiled eggs. At first I thought it was pretty strange, but when Joy took a piece of toast and dipped it in the egg, it all made sense. So smart and so tasty! We rinsed our food off with a cold Milo drink before going back to the market to try fresh fruit. We tried jackfruit and chiku (sapota). Both are quite unusual for our palate, but so delicious. Especially the jackfruit – now a firm family favorite when visiting Southeast Asia! The sellers in the market were all so friendly and talkative and Joy was wonderful and showed us so many interesting items that we had never seen or heard of before.
From the market we walked into a traditional Peranakan cafe. The Peranakans, also known as Peranakan Chinese, were Chinese immigrants and traders who married Malay women and adopted many Malay customs, including the way they cook and the ingredients they used. It was a pretty small shop with little tables and stools. Just as I was thinking about where we should all sit, the owner went to one of the large, elegant wooden panels that lined the wall and began to lower it. And suddenly there was a table that was big enough for all of us. So cool! In the café we tried a variety of cows – an Asian version of steamed cakes and fried dough donuts dipped in chicken curry. It was incredible and even though we were already so full, we devoured everything! On the back wall of the cafe was a long table with all sorts of sweet Asian treats for sale. Before leaving, each of the children chose one to take home for later.
From the café we jumped back into Joy’s car and made our way back to the heart of Georgetown to make our last stop there. After walking through a few narrow, busy streets of the city, Joy led us to a small, unassuming restaurant that was hiding in the back of a pretty little shop front. The air was filled with the incredibly sweetest and spiciest flavors and we knew immediately that we were looking forward to another amazing treat. And what a pleasure it was! We tried three absolutely delicious dishes, both very popular and important Penang dishes. The first was Assam Laksa – a spicy, sour dish made from fat rice noodles, cooked in fish broth, tamarind juice and peel, garnished with lettuce, cucumber, pineapple, ginger torch flower, mint leaves and chilli. Joy explained to us that it is a traditional Malay fish dish, inspired by the remains of fish, vegetables and fruit. The Peranakans enriched the dish with the ginger torch flower.
The second dish, another favorite of the day, was Char Koay Teow – fried flat rice noodles with bean sprouts, mussels, Chinese sausage, and eggs. We have learned that Char Koay Teow is essentially a Chinese fish dish. They usually fried their noodles with dark and light soy sauce, added common vegetables such as bean sprouts, and ended the meal with leftovers from their catch that day, such as mussels and shrimps.
Our third dish was Popiah – something we had tried on a food tour in Singapore before. These fresh Chinese-style spring rolls are made from a very thin, crepe-like sheet made of dough that is cooked on a hot frying pan. The crepe is then filled with fresh, chopped vegetables and various types of meat, sauces and side dishes. So healthy and so tasty. At the end of these three dishes, we were all overcrowded. It was the most beautiful tour. We had all learned so much about Malaysian and especially Penang cuisine and all seven of us enjoyed the food immensely. The children were sad to say goodbye to Joy. She had been so nice and fun and they had enjoyed the tour even more than I expected.
We cannot give a rating for anyone traveling to Penang with children DelishAsia high enough! And for those who travel to Penang without children, we cannot rate DelishAsia highly enough! Seriously, whoever you are, whoever you travel with, be it your first or fifth visit, do yourself a favor and book a Penang Food Tour with these people! You will learn, eat and enjoy so much!
Disclaimer: We were sponsored guests of Delish Asia. All experiences and opinions expressed in this article are our own.
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