The Ultimate Penang Street Food & Street Arts Experience 2013August 25, 2013 | 5,602 views
”Reach Up & You Shall Be Rewarded” – One of the wall paintings by the artist that started this all; Ernest Zacharevic on the opposite side of the street (Lebuh Acheh) where Khoo Kongsi temple is.
If there’s one state in Malaysia that I don’t mind spending my traveling days in (aside from my hometown Perak, of course), it has to be Penang.
The thing about planning an excursion to the island proudly named “Pearl of the Orient” is that; the exploration possibilities are almost endless. If you’re a shutterbug with deep interest in taking photographs of heritage buildings, pre-war shophouses and street murals, then you will have a whale of a time around Georgetown.
Even if you’re looking forward to a beach retreat and a durian binge on the quieter, hilly terrains of the island; Penang’s the spot for you. And the #1 reason on why Motormouth kept returning year after year (this was my 3rd visit this year; twice for work)? The amazing Penang Hawker Food.
Yut Sun Restaurant @ Jalan Pasar, Taiping – First stop for brunch in the midst of the journey up north.
Come along now dear hungry readers, and hop on the bandwagon. This journey up north spans 3 days, 2 nights in Penang filled with food stops, street walks and a whole lot of lip-smacking photos.
Swatow Lane Ais Kacang – Lost the old school charm when as students back then, we had to literally sweat off the heat by the small lane while lapping up the syrupy sweet shaved ice concoction literally packed with fresh fruits and a dollop of ice cream.
1. Yut Sun Hainanese Restaurant, Taiping – Started off with a brunch stopover in Taiping, Perak. Initially planned to savour the delicious chicken chop and overflowing Hainanese coffee at Wan Li Restaurant @ Jalan Kota, only to discover that the outlet has since closed or moved. Ended up at Yut Sun on the parallel road of Jalan Pasar. The Hainanese chicken chop, onion omelette on toast with fried potato wedges and ‘roti sayur’ were still good stuff, authentically Hainanese and luring customers from all walks of life; being a pork-free establishment helped somewhat. *Yut Sun is located at 78 & 80, Jalan Pasar, Taiping, opens from 8am – 7pm. Google Map, GPS:4.852843,100.741413
2. Swatow Lane Ais Kacang/ABC - Upon arrival in Penang, after checking in into our hotel, we immediately doused the flaming heat with a bowl of icy cold ais kacang (also known as ABC; ais batu campur) from Swatow Lane. The special ABC comes with a scoop of ice cream, various cut fresh fruits (papaya, banana and mangoes), and the usual heaps of red beans, cincau (grass jelly), sweet corn, attap seeds and generous drizzle of red/brown sugar syrup & evaporated milk. *The ABC stall is located at New World Park Food Court, along Jalan Burmah on your RIGHT after passing by Tune Hotel and before reaching Penang Plaza. GPS:5.420491,100.325818
Siam Road Char Kuey Teow Uncle – If you have an hour to kill, then please give this stall a try.
One of the best Char Koay Teow on the island; Siam Road’s version was fried with such intense heat from the wok; partially thanks to the smoky aroma imparted by the charcoal-fuelled fire frantically fanned by the old uncle. And that’s why it took him some time (more than half an hour) to dish up the plateful of sins.
3. Siam Road Char Koay Teow – At the northern end of Jalan Siam (Siam Road), at the junction connecting to Jalan Anson, perched a mobile stall selling Char Koay Teow (CKT) that is perpetually crowded in the late afternoons. Open from 3pm onwards, be prepared for a test of patience especially if you’re here on a weekend. Go place your order, then proceed to the corner coffee shop across the road for some mean of comfort and refreshing glass of nutmeg juice. The delightful fragrance from the lard oil, fresh shrimps, sliced waxed sausages and cockles will make you drool upon served. The intense ‘wok hei’ coupled with a generous scoop of chili sauce mixed in during the frying process provided much oomph to the CKT here. *Siam Road Char Koay Teow stall is located near the junction of Jalan Siam – Jalan Anson. Opens from 3pm onwards. Closed on Mondays. GPS:5.415399,100.320284
Shot of a beautifully-designed and refurbished premise next to the coffee shop where we had the CKT along Siam Road. Marvel at the tiles with flower motives and gorgeous doors and windows.
Sights around Georgetown – Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi Temple @ Cannon Square along Lebuh Acheh. Opens from 9am – 5pm daily. The RED robot was a display outside of Penang Vintage Toy Museum next to Acheh Street Mosque.
The iron caricatures along Lebuh Cannon (Cannon Street). There are at least a few dozens of this around the vicinity. So have fun searching for them all! (Or you can cheat and grab a guide map at the Tourist Information Centre or download from HERE)
Hands down the MOST photographed and iconic of them all; the “Kids on Bicycle” mural at the start of Lebuh Armenian, near to the junction with Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street).
Now, the popularity of the Street Arts and Iron Caricatures led to the next big project; “101 Lost Kittens” by a group of feline-loving artists named ASA or Artists for Stray Animals. This is part of the 12 murals around Georgetown depicting lives of stray animals and the plea to save them.
Look for the GIANT golden feline and the black rodent hidden behind a corner along Gat Lebuh Armenian.
More wacky murals on the walls of the houses at Chew Jetty
Chew Jetty – Back to the days when life was carefree, meals were prepared fresh on the spot consisting of fresh catches from the sea and entertainment was sourced from watching boats passing by and playing with pets.
Rendezvous for Grandma. Bet it was never in her wildest dreams to see so many tourists happily flocking over to Chew Jetty these days.
The mural “Boat” @ Chew Jetty was scrapped off the walls of this wooden house on stilts; to prevent the collapse of the platform due to the large crowd on peak days.
Sekeping Victoria; the latest addition to the Sekeping family of retreats located in the heart of Georgetown, within a stone’s throw away from China House on Beach Street; one of the most popular hangout spot (and one of my favourite) for coffee, desserts and their killer “gula melaka” ice-cream.
China House @ 153, Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), 10300 Georgetown, Penang – An all-day cafe best suited for lazy retreat from the sweltering heat of the afternoon. GPS:5.414742,100.338668
“Old Motorcycle” and “Boy with Pet Dinosaur” on Lebuh Ah Quee was this case of vandalism gone ‘right’. Somewhat. The boy and the bike was there first, then some jokers drew the ugly T-Rex (barely visible now) behind the bike. Almost tongue-in-cheek style, the artist completed the mural with a second boy holding a leash on the dinosaur.
Part of the “101 Lost Kittens” project, we have the iconic Bruce Lee doing his signature flying kick on a fat, tabby cat. Anyway, this was named “The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This”, so there’s salvation after all. At a back alley between Lebuh Ah Quee and Lebuh Pantai.
Now this was a pretty comical scenario of a Malay couple in the midst of a wedding shoot, desperately seeking for a trishaw as part of the props. And guess what the Chinese uncle was more interested in? His late afternoon nap.
4. Chia Yean Cafe @ Sungai Nibong (opposite Sungai Nibong bus station) – Now this won’t be in any guide books, or any tourist’s must-do list. But this ‘chu char’ restaurant across the Sungai Nibong bus terminal around Sungai Dua/USM area was one of our favourite dinner spots back then. Their specialties? The curry fish, sambal belacan kangkung, homemade yong tau foo and butter mantis prawns. Be prepared the face the wrath of the intimidating crowd during dinner hours though. *Chia Yean Cafe is located at the intersection of Jalan Aziz Ibrahim and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, directly opposite of Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal. Opens for dinner. GPS:5.34214,100.300817
5. PIK NIK - Along Nagore Road off Jalan Burmah, the usually serene night time environment has been transformed slightly with a new cafe named Pik Nik that opens until 2am on weekends. Grateful for this; as we have been conventionally relying on 24 hours ‘mamak’ stalls for our late night fix. Pik Nik serves routine cafe fares with some twists; their signature waffles served either in sweet or savoury forms. We picked the one with a scoop of New Zealand natural ice-cream, caramelized bananas and almond flakes, complemented by a cup of latte to drive me into slumber. Yup, I am unorthodox that way. *Pik Nik Cafe serves no pork, and is located at 15, Nagore Road, 10050 Penang, Malaysia. For business hours, please refer to their Facebook page. GPS:5.421637,100.326376
6. Seow Fong Lye Coffee Shop – The best Penang chee cheong fun (Steamed rice noodle rolls with a hefty amount of shrimp paste (har kou), toasted sesame seeds and chili sauce. Other options include Char Koay Kak, French toast with sugar and Wanton Mee. Come early (we reached about 8 – 8.30am I believe) to avoid the wait. *Seow Fong Lye is located at Lorong Macalister, in between Jalan Burmah and Jalan Macalister. More info can be found from THIS POST. GPS:5.417162,100.329071
7. Nyonya Breeze Desire @ Straits Quay - With dishes like Babi Pongteh, Lor Bak and Joo Hoo Char on the menu, this slightly upmarket Nyonya restaurant is a spin off from their original outlet on Abu Siti Lane in town. Some hits and some misses, this was my second visit for Nyonya food here. Pricier than similar restaurants in town, in my opinion. *Nyonya Breeze Desire is situated at 3A-1-7, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, Georgetown, Penang. Opens 11am – 10pm daily. GPS:5.458089,100.31294
8. Delicious @ Straits Quay – On the ground floor of Straits Quay mall, facing the sea, Delicious seems to be the most successful establishment around this relatively quiet commercial centre. Menu, food selection and price as expected. Ambience was excellent though; definitely one of the coolest hangout spot around the area. *Straits Quay is a seafront retail establishment packed with restaurants and retail stores, yet we don’t see this being the ultimate replacement for say, Gurney Plaza or Queensbay Mall in terms of popularity. Maybe not yet.
9. Air Itam Wet Market Asam Laksa - If you love Penang style of asam laksa (sour tamarind fish-based broth with rice noodles), and you wonder where’s the BEST on the island, I guess 7 out of 10 people that you ask will point you to Air Itam market for this legendary stall. The other 3 will either be fans of Balik Pulau’s (you can read my review of Nan Guang here), or plain lost. This reunion is timely, for I have not been eating from this stall since 12 years ago or so. Seriously. And I concur, still the best in my books. The Char Koay Teow was a supplementary choice though. *Junction of Jalan Air Itam and Jalan Pasar, Air Itam town, Penang. GPS : 5.40129,100.278019. Opens from 11am onwards.
Air Itam Market where the famous asam laksa stall is located. The road leads to Kek Lok Si temple.
Kek Lok Si Temple @ Air Itam, Penang – A landmark that you can’t miss especially if it’s your first time on the island. I have always made a point to drop by for prayers whenever I am in Penang for travel purposes. GPS:5.399901,100.273503
10. Penang Road Famous Cendol – Asam laksa and cendol. Goes hand in hand, easily top on the list of Penang street foods that represent the island. Off Penang Road, at the junction of Lebuh Keng Kwee, is this stall with the richest legacy among all the cendol stalls on the island. And after acquiring the shop behind Joo Hooi cafe, now you can also sit in the comfort of an air-conditioned premise while relishing on an icy bowl of cendol with red beans. Without the RM0.50 penalty fee. *GPS:5.41714,100.330646.
11. Lebuh Presgrave Hokkien Mee – My second time here; and one of the best spots for Penang hokkien mee (what we call Prawn Mee elsewhere), this stall named 888 on Lebuh Presgrave near to Komtar serves Hokkien mee with a choice of Maggi noodles (my favourite), and optional addition of pork slices, roasted pork or ribs. The broth is outstanding and excellent in my books, though I haven’t tried the one named Super Hokkien Mee behind Penang Plaza. Oh, go for a bowl of ABC/Ais Kacang here as well, as the peanut ice-cream topping is tasty. *Lebuh Presgrave Hokkien Mee (Stall 888) opens from evening until late into the night. GPS:5.411127,100.330546
12. Jalan Transfer Roti Canai - On our last day in Penang, we started off early with breakfast of roti canai, roti telur and half-boiled eggs on charcoal-toasted breads on Transfer Road. We came here during our last visit in 2012, and the crowd was thinner this time on a Monday morning. GPS:5.420758,100.330624
And that concluded the Penang Street Food & Street Arts Hunt. Sorry I could not load all the pictures I took of the wall paintings, iron caricatures, heritage buildings and mouthwatering food shots in one post, but then again …. there should always be times in life when YOU reap the rewards of discovering hidden gems by yourself.