I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I love Malaysian food.
I have heard that Penang food is famous (amongst other things of course!). So of course when I was planning to head to Penang, my stomach was already grumbling with excitement about all the delicious Penang food I was going to have.
I linked up with Food Tour Malaysia, who run food tours around Malaysia. When I was in Kuala Lumpur (KL), my Dad and I joined their tour in KL and it was a great experience. The tour in KL focused on places where the locals eat, which is exactly the kind of experience I wanted. The tour avoided tourist traps, and they focused on good food which was authentic.
And so I joined their Penang food tour, because I knew that I was going to get a more authentic local experience. Plus, I’ll even get to try foods that I probably wouldn’t even have known of. Here’s an overview of my Penang food experience with Food Tour Malaysia.
The Penang Food Tour Experience
The day was just turning into dusk and we met Junie, our Penang food tour guide at 5pm. With her was another couple, who would be joining us on the tour. After we met, we all got into a car and the Penang food tour officially began.
While in the car, Junie introduces herself, and gives a bit of a background about herself and the tour. She explained that we would be making a total of 5 food stops around Georgetown. At this point I was starving, and could not wait to get Penang food into my belly!
As we drove around to our different spots, Junie provided commentary about the history and culture of Georgetown. It was a great way to learn more about this city, and understand how the Penang food fits into its culture.
The First Stop
The very first meal of the tour…dessert. What a perfect way to start the evening!
Junie brings us to have Ice Kacang, which is essentially shaved ice with pandan jelly, red bean, palm sugar syrup, and coconut milk. It was refreshing, and delicious. Apparently this particular Ice Kacang that we got to try was the most popular vendor in Penang – and we could tell because there was a huge line up in front of the stall…like at least 30 people deep.
I gobbled up the Ice Kacang, because it was delicious. And just when we thought we were done and onto the next stop, Junie brings us Assam Laksa. Yes!!! One of my favorite dishes of all Penang food.
Assam Laksa is Penang’s most well known dishes. So popular in fact that it even made #7 on CNN’s World’s 50 Best Foods. This dish is made of a broth using flaked mackerel fish, with a hint of sourness from tamarind juice, spice from chili and then toped off with noodles, fresh herbs, red onion and pineapple….simply delicious!
One stop done, four more to go.
The Second Stop
Off to our second stop and this time to taste afternoon tea snacks, which is another important part of the Penang food culture.
We first arrive at a stall selling a variety of fritters, and my favorite ones included the prawn fritter and the tofu fritter that came paired with an even more delicious chili sauce. Apparently this particular stall is most well known for their chili sauce, which I must agree was to just delightful.
We also stopped by another stall, and the highlight for me here was the kuih bakul. This snack is a made up of a slice of yam and a slice of sweet potato with moon cake in the centre. This ‘sandwich’ is then dipped into batter and fried.
This stop was super local, because we only saw locals stopping by the stalls to purchase… not a tourist in sight.
Planning a visit to Penang and looking for somewhere to stay? Check out the beautiful heritage boutique hotel 23 LoveLane.
The Third Stop
Our third stop took us to a local food market.
The first stall we stop at specialises in making Chinese pancake, also known as Ban Chang Kuih. Junie explains that the owner has been running his stall for over 16 years, and has become quite known around Georgetown for his Ban Chang Kuih.
There are a variety of flavours you can try, but we tried the more traditional one, which consisted of corn and peanut. I really enjoyed it, because it was crisp on the outside and slightly soft on the inside. The vendor was generous in his serving of crushed peanut, which added a lovely mix of flavour with the corn.
There is a thicker version of Ban Chang Kuih you can try, which reminded me of the Indonesian sweet martabak.
The second stall we stopped at sold a variety of tropical fruit. Junie first gives us a brief overview of the fruits that are popular in Malaysia. She then arranges for us to try sliced guava with fruit salt. I loved it! The fruit salt is a blend of salt and dried plum, which added a lovely sweetness-sourness-saltiness to the guava.
And just when we thought we were done trying food at this stop, Junie takes us to try Appom Manis at a third stall. Appom Manis is an Indian fermented rice pancake made up of coconut milk, egg, rice flour and sugar.
Junie explains that it is best to eat these pancakes hot, and so she asks the stall owner to make a fresh batch for us. We got to watch the stall owner prepare the appom, and Junie explains that the owner uses a more traditional cooking method, which is cooking with a clay pot and charcoal. In fact, it’s not that easy any more to find Indian restaurants making appom manis, so I was quite excited that this was included on the food tour.
The Fourth Stop
I have to admit, I was starting to get a little bit full at this stage, but at the same time, I was so excited to find out what else we were going to try next. For the fourth stop, Junie brought us to a Pasar Malam, otherwise known as a night market.
We tried the Curry Mie (also know as Curry Laksa), which is a curry based broth served with tofu, prawns and noodles. I liked it, because it had a good level of spice and the broth was really flavoursome. We also got to try Popiah, a local fresh spring roll filled with ingredients such as shredded vegetables and prawn.
My favorite dish at this stop was the Char Kway Teow, a flat rice noodle dish cooked with seafood, egg and bean sprouts. We also got to try Chee Cheong Fun, which is rolled rice noodles served with 3 different sauces, including hoisin, shrimp paste sauce and chili sauce. And finally, we also had satay, which is small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer – yum!
Paired with the food, I had nutmeg juice, which is a speciality in Penang. The best way to describe the taste of nutmeg juice is flat coca cola. Junie explained that the reason it tastes like coca cola is because one of (the many) ingredients in coke is actually nutmeg – talk about fun fact!
The Fifth Stop
So for the fifth and final stop, we visit a vegetarian Indian restaurant. Here we tried Tosai, a tissue like bread made using fermented rice flour. It came paired with an array of sauces, my favorite being the mint sauce.
Junie also organised for us to try a ‘chicken’ martabak. Even though it was called chicken martabak, it was actually vegetarian, and equally delicious and filling. And to top off all the Penang food, I had a calamansi lime juice, which was refreshing and a nice way to end the evening.
The fifth stop marked the end of our Penang food tour experience. We all jumped back into the car and Junie dropped everyone back to their respective hotels.
Our Penang food experience with Food Tour Malaysia was so much fun. I loved that we tried a huge array of dishes, while also learning so much about Georgetown and its history. This Penang food tour focused on all things local and authentic, by supporting local vendors, that are off the beaten path.
Penang food is well known, but there is truly so much to try. The best way to try a variety of food (especially if you are time poor) is to join a food tour. So if you do find yourself either in Penang or KL, I recommend experiencing a trip with Food Tour Malaysia.
For more information about doing a Penang food tour or to book your experience, CLICK HERE.
For more information about doing a Kuala Lumpur food tour or to book your experience, CLICK HERE.
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No compensation was received for this review. Food Tour Malaysia kindly offered my tour complimentary. All opinions remains my own.
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