Road Trip: Penang

6 Sep

Last weekend we drove to Penang, an island off the western coast of Malaysia about four hours from KL. Penang is famous for two things: George Town, a city whose colonial district is an official UNESCO World Heritage site, and its food, so much so that KL is lousy with restaurants touting their Penang-style whatever and has not one but two Penang restaurant chains.

This was my first road trip in a foreign country, so I was curious as to the rest stops. Malaysian rest stops (at least the big ones on the major highways) are, I’m pleased to report, big and clean, probably cleaner than a lot of US rest stops.

And they have fruit stalls:

Like the fruit vendors on the street, you pick out some fruits you like, then the vendor slices it up and tosses it with some assam powder (a mix of spices, salt, and sugar) for you on request. It’s a lot like the Mexican fruit stands you see all over Chicago. Since we were near Ipoh, which is famous for their pomelos (and Michelle Yeoh), we got pomelo in addition to the usual green guava. Pomelos are like grapefruits, except the size of your head.

The food court at sunset, just before the rain.

After we checked into our hotel (which was on yet another island), we took the “ferry” back to the main island for some sightseeing and dinner. We ended up at a food court, which is a little different in Malaysia than in the US. A food court in Malaysia is usually a bunch of independent hawkers who have gathered in a designated spot, and is usually a good place to sample a variety of foods as long as you don’t mind dining al fresco (and making a mad dash for the awnings when it starts raining).

Our selections included a delicious-but-not-very-photogenic char kway teoh (a Penang specialty, apparently) and a “Malaccan oyster omelet,” made with oysters plucked fresh from the shores, that was less like an omelet and more like a scrambled crepe. (I learned later that the secret ingredient is tapioca flour, which gives the eggs a slippery texture.) We also had “chicken satay,” which was more like “large chunks of chicken roasted with satay sauce” and which I unfortunately tore to pieces before taking pictures of.

And then there was this new thing:

It’s like satay, but instead of grilling, the sticks are plunged into boiling water. The name is a bit misleading, as not all of the sticks are seafood-based.


Lok-lok, after cooking.

We got bok choy (for a balanced meal), brown squid, baby octopus (which aren’t actually babies, they’re just small), and a mystery mollusk that ended up being our favorite. (I thought they were cockles, but now…I have no idea. I was going to ask the hawker, but he was too busy convincing a British couple that they would be able to eat something at his stall.)

Next up: SOK goes in search of the famous Penang laksa.


4 Responses to “Road Trip: Penang”


  1. Road Trip: Malacca « Straight Out of Kampung - October 16, 2010

    […] shiny high-rises and inane traffic engineering, so we took a road trip to Melaka/Malacca. Much like Penang, Malacca is an old trading city that has retained its colonial architecture and charm (and is a […]

  2. Blood Cockles « Straight Out of Kampung - February 28, 2011

    […] elsewhere. You’ll find them in noodle dishes like char kway teow and curry mee, and in the previously sampled “Malaccan oyster omelet” (which, oddly, I didn’t see for sale in […]

  3. Penang’s Best Char Kway Teow « Straight Out of Kampung - February 28, 2011

    […] know I’ve already blogged about char kway teow, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post about the best char kway teow in Penang, […]

  4. Taiwan, Part One: Night Markets and Street Food « Straight Out of Kampung - August 1, 2012

    […] had something similar to this in Penang. It’s a little fluffier than an omelet, thanks to the addition of tapioca […]

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