5 Reasons Why Penang, Malaysia is a Foodies Paradise

1) A diverse palate: Penang island is a hub for diverse and exotic street food cuisine from all over the world. Whether you’re looking for Arabic, India, Malay, Chinese, Thai, or even Italian food you will not be disappointed here. While halal cusine dominates, because Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, plenty of non-halal restaurants and bars can be found in the area.

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A vendor cooks a Chinese noodle dish. This was taken right outside our hostel in the heart of Georgetown, Penang.ย 

2) ย English Menus: In 1771 the British became involved in Malaysia for the first time when they tried to turn Penang island into a trading port. Malaysia remained a colony under British rule until their independence in 1946. Today the impact of colonization remains in some ways, including that all Malays speak English. Ordering food has never been easier. In China we would never have been able to ask a vendor what the best food on the menu is – unless of course we spoke Mandarin. Here in Penang you can eat delicious food without the hassle of struggling to communicate what you want.

A juice vendor and his cart in Penang.

A juice vendor and his cart in Penang.

3) Little India: Little India is hands down my favorite place in Malaysia. The streets are lined with vendors and the delicious smells of curry and spices. Pop music from 2008 blasts out of stores selling sarees or copy written movies. What’s even better is that Little India is even more popular with the locals than it is with foreigners. My recommendations would be to try the Indian tea, a sweet creamy tea with condensed milk, vegetable somosas, and to find a vendor who is cooking his bread on site.

Why Penang is a foodies paradise. Colorful Indian food.

Our Indian food which was devoured mere seconds later.

4) It’s Cheap: For one of the most tourist frequented destinations in Malaysia, Penang is incredibly inexpensive – that is if you eat street food like the locals. My family was able to eat a full meal of dhal, chicken curry, a ton of naan, rice, and indian tea for just 1 USD each. A bowl of chinese soup usually costs just 1 or 2 USD.

Why Penang is a foodies paradise. Hand pulled noodle soup.

Hand pulled noodle soup

5) Clean and Fresh: Overall the standards of cleanliness and freshness I saw in Penang were very good. Vendors seemed very clean in their practices. Some Chinese restaurants even provided boiling water to sterilize our cups and silverware. I ate very adventurously at places no tourists seemed to be eating at and never got sick. The food is very fresh and meat and vegetables come from the morning markets.

Why Penang is a food paradise. Street vendor cooks chinese food at night.

All the ingredients necessary for a delicious Chinese meal. Seen in Georgetown, Penang.

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