Monday, September 7, 2009

Food Trip : Penang

Due to limited time, I decided that I should plan my Penang food trip with military precision.

Rule No. 1 : Do not go to the places we've been before.
Rule No. 2 : No shopping, hence no malls.
Rule No. 3 : If walking is possible, then walk.
Rule No. 4 : No Starbucks.

Outcome : I think B+, at least didn't fail-lah.

Places visited:

Penang Hill for the funicular railway experience. The tram service (RM4 return) was not as I expected (hot, crowded, slow), thankfully the views from atop the hill (about 720m elevation) were nice enough and made up for the shortcomings. Skipped Kek Lok Si and saw the giant Kwan Yin statue from afar behind the scaffoldings as it is still a work-in-progress.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Missed the 11 am guided tour and again missed the one at 3 pm. Duh. So this doesn't count really, we were just outside this beautifully restored blue mansion.

Fort Cornwallis for old stones. Too bad we were a bit late as they close earlier during Ramadhan so we had to be content with just the external features of the fort.

Eastern and Oriental Hotel (E&O) - I love this place for its colonial, old world charm. And a stellar list of past guests too! Charlie Chaplin, Herman Hesse, Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles (!), Rudyard Kipling, amongst many other dignitaries and celebs; all of them have stayed here. We wanted to try the English Afternoon Tea (mainly for the roast beef sandwiches) but alas, I didn't think I'd pass the dresscode for 1885, the restaurant that serves the afternoon tea. Rather than push my luck and embarrass myself, I vow : next time.

Foodwise, savoured these:

Char Kuey Teow from the (in)famous Lady with Goggles, Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat. Verdict : Quite good, though not as great as I expected. It wasn't spicy enough for me. Overhyped, if you ask me.

Orchien at Kafe Heng Huat.

Penang Famous Teochew Cendol at Joo Hooi Cafe, Lebuh Keng Kwee (endorsed by Phua Chu Kang, no less). I also tried the ABC from another stall just across from this cendol stall. Although not as busy as its rival, its ABC was refreshing, light, with just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of pandan in the syrup. I liked it very much.

Rojak Sotong and Buah (originally from Swatow Lane) at New World Park, just next to Tune Hotel. I also tried the Tee Nya Kueh, not bad.

Lor Bak at one of the food Courts on Jalan Macallister.

Fresh homemade baked piang/peahs at Lebuh Kimberley - highlight of this trip. Best discovery.

Duck porridge at Lebuh Kimberley. An acquired taste. Surprisingly very tasty.

Laicikang at Lebuh Kimberley. Refreshingly light without cloying sweetness.

Kuey Teow Thng at Kedai Kopi Kim Lee, Lorong Macallister. A hearty, flavourful bowl was only RM2.50. I was speechless, in disbelief for moments.

Mummy Otak ("Very Top in Penang", "Super Best" - so her business card says). She is a very good salesperson too, I ended up buying 5 packets.

My ultimate favourite drink, fresh ambola juice. Here we call it kedondong - where can I find this in KK?

Didn't manage these:
Ah Leng CKT at Jalan Dato Keramat
Father & Son CKT at Siam Road
Apong Guan, somewhere along Jalan Burma
Pineapple tarts, Guangzhou Bakery and Seng Thor at Lebuh Carnavon
Chicken Chop at Kedai Kopi Hai Onn
Curry Mee at Lorong Seratus Tahun
Nasi Kandar, shops only opened in the evening during Ramadhan

Wanted to try nasi kandar here but they were not open yet.
Others :
For the first time, I saw a Chinese opera live on a street off Jalan Penang where a small stage had been put up. From afar, one could hear the familiar clangings of the cymbals and bells and some high pitched singing from the performers. I think they have these shows during the Ghost Month.

Second hand bookstalls at Chowrasta Market, 1st Floor. Not easy to browse since the books are arranged in such a way that only the seller knows. Tell him what book you want and he will know where it's kept. LP India was selling at RM70. Pricey. Didn't buy anything here.

Transportation :
When I read earlier that the taxi fare costs a whopping RM38 from the airport to Georgetown I was determined to take the bus no matter what. So asking around at the airport we found the bus (Rapid Penang U401) that plies the route at only RM2.70 per way. We also boarded the same bus to go to the airport, from Komtar terminal.

The only time we cabbed it was from town to Penang Hill, as we worried if we would not have enough time in the afternoon; that cost RM25. Going back we took the bus (U204 Ayer Itam) for RM2 to Fort Cornwallis.

Only once I saw the free Hop On Hop Off bus that plies the cultural heritage route, next time must maximise on that. We asked around but no one seems to have reliable information. Maybe we should have tried a Tourist Info Centre.

Stayed at Tune Hotel at 100, Jalan Burmah (they spell it with an 'h') for RM20. Great location, clean room; I had no complaints this time.

I just had to take a picture of the psychedelic purple-green carpet at the airport. Still as scary as I remembered.

As we speak, Air Asia is still having its promo fares; only RM118 return for a direct BKI-PEN flight.

I already know when I'm going there next :)


  1. Awww, you missed the Cheong Fatt Tze interior walk. I loveee that place. Unfortunately, no photography allowed inside (if i remember correctly now)...still, the exterior is still colorful. Is the 'beca' still lying outside? I miss penang, it used to be my second home while i was living in KL before, home where i go home to almost every weekend because my parents were living there. Well, my dad still lives there. I never miss going to batu feringghi, did you go there? And yes, the food is just lovely. Indian food, my fav.

  2. LP India for RM70 is daylight robbery! I bought Footprints India for RM10 at a flea market in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya. Luckily you didn't buy anything from that Chowrasta Market shop - teach the fella a lesson!

  3. Hi Debs

    Ya next time I'll make sure I'm on time. Yes the becas are still outside. We skipped Feringghi this time. You should balik kampung again soon! :)

  4. Hi Julie

    Yepp, v. pricey indeed, I think also because he knows I'm not a local. Must try to find them cheap books when I'm in KL next :)

  5. wah... i don know so many more food... to taste

  6. What a timely discovery of your blog! I'm headed back to Penang next month. This will surely come in handy.

    P.s. I've already asked my Seair contact about the flights from KK to Palawan, but he's been avoiding my questions. I guess not anytime soon? :-/ As soon as they make an announcement, I'll message you :)

  7. Hi Strawberry Gal,

    Thanks for dropping by :)
    There's a lot to eat in Penang - am sure you will discover them all eventually and have your favourites!

  8. Hi Nina,

    Ooh I wish I can return to Penang soon; enjoy checking out the food stalls!

    Thanks for the SEAir update - one day I hope they'll schedule a BKI-Palawan flight, even if it's just for a promo period. I think that'll work best, to have it for limited time so travellers know they have to grab this chance.

    happy days,