As the ferry rolled into the dock of Georgetown; you can hear the sound of prayers singing in the distance; accompanied by a warm breeze rolling off the sea as the city awoke with me.
I’m half asleep and yet wide awake after a 5 hour long (yet cozy) bus ride to Butterworth ferry terminal and all I can think is “Hello food heaven; forget sleep – feed me!”
I walked through the sparking and barren lanterned streets at 6am, coming across my first sighting of street art and on a mission to eat my first meal in the famous food hub of Georgetown.
My first attempt looked promising. A small side street filled to the brim with locals and not a foreigner in sight! (Usually a good sign of mind-blowing gastronomy in my years of food hunting around the globe). My first Curry Mee was a hawker stalls signature dish comprised of something I’ve never tried before – stingray with a mix of clams, prawns, tafu bo, long beans, bean sprouts, egg and glass noodles in a sweet and sour broth.
(Never try; never know – but now I know I won’t be going out of my way to eat the gelatin-textured stingray again.)
The next 8hours were a shockingly failed attempt at finding any meal or hawker snack even worth mentioning (even some of Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations that are typically decent were tasteless and loveless in my opinion) but my silver linings my was in finding hidden art galleries, a never-ending supply of captivating street art, temples and later; my dubbed “Penang food guru” and absolute legend of a person: Boris who instilled hope back into my life when it came to food quality in Georgetown.
If you’re an art lover and a hardcore foodie, you’re going to want to do yourself a favor and eat your way through the list below. We promise; you won’t be disappointed. Two words: Quality over Quantity.
You can book your ticket online at busonlineticket.com or simply at the bus station. Busses are leaving every hour until midnight while the ferry runs ever 15 minutes.
Take the 12:45AM overnight (yet surprisingly spacious and comfortable) Alya Express sleeper bus from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan; sleep your way through the night and you’ll arrive at the Butterworth terminal.
Head up the escalator to the 2nd floor, follow the ferry terminal signs & hop on the 6AM ferry to Georgetown – only 15minutes away!
Bus Ticket: 30-35 Ringgit
Ferry Ticket: 1.20 Ringgit
Drippings’ Dragon Hostel
32, Jalan Hutton, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Recommended by a friend, I headed to Drippin’ Dragon hostel. Online, it looks like a party vibe but it’s luckily not so. The vibe is relaxed, the rooms are clean (and bedbug free unlike the other budget friendly hostels), offers free breakfast of coffee, tea, toast and jam; a bar with reasonably priced drinks, a large pool to cool off in after a day of wandering around and the staff as well as the tourists are friendly and the perfect location to eat your way through Georgetown.
Yeap Noodles Cafe
227, Chulia St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
A hidden little gem with some of the best fresh and handmade noodles I’ve ever had besides in Japan.
You can tell from each bite that the cooks and owners of Yeap Noodle put every ounce of love into each dish and whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat eater they are more than happy to accommodate and alter their dishes to suit your needs.
Top Recommendation: Dry Spicy Clams Yeap Noodles
All that needs to be said about this dish is that after the first, I ordered a second and ate here every day.
Assam Laksa should be your first gastronomic venture when getting to Georgetown. This flavor explosion is a slightly spicy and sour fish based soup comprised of mackerel/sardine, egg noodles, tamarind juice, lemongrass, chili paste, lemongrass and prawn paste.
#1 Assam Laksa Hawker Stall at Hin Bus Depot
31A, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
A secret spot that we feel is the best Assam in the city! Look for a hawker stall around Hin Bus Depot – The man selling and creating these incredible bowls of deliciousness uses cuts of fresh white fish rather than sardines, fresh ingredients and a perfect balance of hot and spicy. Every bite you can taste the love!
#2: Penang Air Itam Laksa
Jalan Pasar, Paya Terubong, 11500 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Praised by Anthony Bourdain and not a fail like the rest we tried; this famous hawker stall is worth taking transit too in order to try the notorious soup Penang has been put on the map for. Personally, the sardine was a little too overpowering for our liking and more on the sour side but still good regardless.
#3: Assam Laksa Jelutong – Food Truck
93, Lrg Ipoh, Taman Jelutong, 11600 George Town, Pulau Pinang
A little off the beaten path but a local recommended this hawker stall for the best Assam Laksa. If you can make it; try it!
Oh mee oh my! This traditional Chinese dish will blow your mind. This dish is typically comprised of yellow noodles in a spicy curry/coconut soup with tofu, cuttlefish, egg, mint, samba like and cockle.
Air Itam Sister Curry Mee
612 T, Jalan Air Itam, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
(Closes 1 pm)
Hands down my favorite dish in Georgetown. The Curry Mee here is rich, aromatic with a perfectly balanced spice and good quality cooked fish. (We bet you can’t just eat one bowl! We opted for seconds half way through finishing the first bowl. It was THAT good!)
One of my all-time favorite meals in all of Malaysia: The glorious Banana Leaf. It’s an all you can eat extravaganza of Southern Indian cuisine all on a giant banana leaf! It’s A mountain of white rice an assortment of vegetables, appalam, pickles and a perfect balance of spicy, salty and sour elements!
Mutu Restaurant Chettinad
(next to Chiat Cheong Sdn. Bhd.)
145, Lebuh Acheh, George Town, 10200 George Town
If you haven’t tried one of the best Indian dishes referred to as Banana Leaf, make a point of trying it on your trip to Georgetown. Come with an empty stomach and prepare for a food coma directly afterwards.
Ah Soon Fried Oyster
58, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
I’m a sucker for seafood and this oyster omelette is worthy of praise. The price is steeper than hawker stalls but the quality of each dish and the ambiance is worth the price tag.
Penang Road Beside 161 & 177 Penang Road, George Town, 10000 George Town
Surprised by this establishment being an Anthony Bourdain recommendation as my hopes were high but after trying it myself, I was disappointed by the fish head curry and other seafood dishes in terms of flavor and quality.
Note: A local informed me that the dishes here are full of MSG.
Truth: Go ahead and try it for yourselves but the only dish that I found to be worth mentioning was the vegetarian Murtabak: A spiced and folded omelet; crispy on the outside and filled with vegetables on the inside.
These crispy prawn fritters are fried in light flour mixed with beansprouts, various spices and obviously prawns! Served with a sweet and spicy peanut chili sauce.
Truth: In our opinion they were lacking flavor, very oily and although only 2RM, we found most fried street snacks weren’t worth snacking on throughout our food extravaganza.
If you’d still like to try; below are the two famous locations:
Cucur Udang – prawn fritters
Where: Pasar Chowrasta
2-36, Lebuh Tamil, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Apom Manis Telor
Where: Apom Manis Telor Traditional
173, Jalan Dato Keramat, George Town, 10150 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Dragon Beard Candy
There is no official address but on the way to Kek Lok Si Temple look out for a small booth called “Dragon Beard Candy.”
If you’re a peanut fan you will love this treat!
Tradition Chinese Pancake with Charcoals Baked (Thick Style)
Jalan Rambutan, Kampung Rambutan11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
One of my favorite snacks in Malaysia is the traditional Chinese/Taiwanese pancake! A perfectly crispy yet fluffy sweet pandan and coconut pancake folded in half and stuffed with filling; typically with crushed peanuts!
As an ice cream lover; I’ve tried every ice cream/gelato/ you name it – I’ve even moved to Florence where it was invented just to eat gelato every day. Given the facts; it’s no surprise my hunt for the best ice cream in a scorching island such as Georgetown required a hunt for the best shop in town.
Urban Artisan Cafe Penang Georgetown, 122-C, Jalan Burma, Georgetown, 10050 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
With a variety of brightly colored soft serve cones with interesting flavors such as Oceanic Seasalt & milo Tarik, summer peach & pure lychee or their ever changing list of bubble waffle cones; this is ice cream heaven. Point blank.
153, Beach St, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
A cake lovers dream! The amount of options are bound to suit your tastebuds no matter what your preference! Skip the coffee and as they say – just eat cake!!
21, Lorong Stewart, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
After a day of exploration and eating your way through Georgetown; nothing beats an ice cold drink. Don’t let this liquor shop fool you from first glance – there’s a wide selection of drinks to choose from at cheap prices and as the sun goes down; this side street is packed with an eclectic mix of locals and tourists sitting amongst each other on plastic chairs, playing guitar and drinking the night away. (Note: it was so great we came every day)
For a night of fun filled dancing (to music you’d actually enjoy), affordable drinks and a good vibe all around; George bar is the place to be after 10:30pm
401, Chulia St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
For all you dive bar and craft beer lovers; look no further. Expensive but worth the price tag.
Besides the captivating graffiti lined streets to wander through, Georgetown also offers an array of art galleries, 360-degree views overlooking the city and more!
Be sure to check out the following spots on your next trip to Georgetown.
Easily missed and one of my favorite hidden gems within the city; this free art gallery hosts a beautiful display of temporary works. A must see for any art enthusiast.
Fuan Wong The Gallery
13, Lebuh Armenian, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, 10200 Georgetown, Malaysia
This two-level gallery hosts local artists with impeccable talent. Walk in and be welcomed by the artists themselves while you wander through this funky and free gallery. From glass blowing to striking paintings all available at a reasonable rate; these artists deserve all the support they can.
Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si Temple, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
After living in Thailand it’s easy to get “templed out”; however Kek Lok is not to be missed! Every corner you turn whether wandering through their lush floral gardens with colorful Buddha’s everywhere, to the intricate artwork carved within the temples ceilings, walls and floor to the panoramic viewpoint overlooking Georgetown from the very top of the princess-like tower – this temple covers all the bases. Furthermore, the best street snacks, curry mee and Assam Laksa is within walking distance.
Hin Bus Depot
31A, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
A Bus Depot converted into a funky art gallery both indoor and outdoor. They also have a weekend market selling handicrafts and assorted goods!
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