When I think of Penang I think of sticky childhood holidays, hanging with the grandma and extended family however the most distinct ones are the food memories - all the rich and delectable flavours that were just so exciting to eat in each bite. We recently visited Penang for a bit of a whirlwind trip and every meal (a dozen meals a day still counts as a balanced diet right?) was highly appreciated by the both of us and kept us wanting more.
We checked into Muntri Grove, a "Georgetown Heritage Hotel", once a row of modest homes that have now been restored into the loveliest boutique hotel rooms. The rooms definitely have a lovely contemporary feel while retaining a lot of their traditional qualities.
Our first meal in Penang was none other than my all time favourite Assam Laksa from Joo Hooi Cafe just off Lebuh Kimberley. You can also find the super famous cendol store (tip: if you order from inside the cafe you don't have to wait out in the steaming hot for it and you'll have a seat to enjoy the cendol too!). Matt also ordered a CKT (Char Kuey Teow) and although I think there's a huge battle for where to find the best CKT within Penang this one definitely had enough wokky-char flavour!
A quick stroll (quick is all you can do as it can get very hot - so I would definitely time it for an early morning walk or a late evening walk) through the murals of Georgetown have fast become a must do while in Penang. The idea behind the murals commissioned to streets of Georgetown were to put the stories of the past where they call came from back into the streets of Penang. I originally thought the murals were all done by the one artist, and a lot of the famous ones you'll see are (they were painted on by Ernest Zacharevic), however a lot more murals have sprung up recently and include art works by Louis Gan (e.g. brother & sister hanging on a swing mural).
Be prepared to line up and move very quickly with the most popular murals (e.g. the kids on the bicycle). My mum often tells fond stories of her childhood and sharing bicycles just as in the mural and laughs at how tourists now marvel at what life was once upon a time in Malaysia.
While not all of the murals are instantly obvious you'll find the shop/stall keepers are very quick to point out where some of the murals are, as we were eagerly pointed to a Bruce Lee mural by a very excitable man selling magazines around the corner.
While you're out that way and if you have the energy to keep walking, head along to the clan jetties that form the heritage trail of Penang. These jetties were once homes to clans of Chinese families and not only can you get an insight of life once upon a time in the jetties, you'll also see some families still living here.
I would say hands down, we had the best prawn mee hands down in Penang (walking distance from the heritage centre of Georgetown) and here we were able to add an option of roast pork in our harmees - best addition ever! This harmee was so good we went back for seconds the next day! You'll find this at 888 Hokkien Mee on Lebuh Presgrave.
Breakfast the next day was at the famous Toh Soon Cafe where you'll find traditional kaya toast, soft boiled eggs and coffees, however be prepared to wait! I was secretly glad we actually had a kuey teow theng beforehand otherwise I would have been extremely hangry watching the men manually toast the bread of which none were mine!
We stumbled into Tai Buan Porridge on Lebuh Muntri just around the corner from our hotel. They serve congee with a small selection of side dishes, namely duck, braised tofu, fried egg, pork belly. Be sure to remember to order he pickled vegies to go with your congee - this is the typical chiu chow way to eat your congee (a large portion of the chinese population in Penang)!
Another must eat while in Malaysia are some tasty durians! My aunty took us out for some delicious durians (& by that it involves stopping at durian carts on the side of the road!) and the types of durian we had were the Musang king and Black Thorn. Black Thorn or "orchee" are quite sought after and has a more orange flesh compared to also famous musang king which has a more yellow flesh and generally sweeter than the Black Thorn. All you need to do is choose which durian you feel like and the durian man cuts open the durians for you to enjoy! Yummy!
Matt didn't quite enjoy the durians as much as I did and he definitely wasn't licking his fingers and lips as he was tasting the durians so we also stopped off for a quick roti canai. I don't think we generally have a "favourite" - just anywhere you can see the roti man throwing roti fresh and served with a side of curry off the side of the road is good enough for me!
If you need to duck away from the heat in Penang, be sure to pop into the Pinang Peranakan Museum and here you can find what homes looked like a century ago and understand and see their way of life.
Our last breakfast in Penang was another Kuey Teow Theng at a stall on Lebuh Clarke. Growing up, I loved having this noodle soup for breakfast, however they do come with liver etc so if you're not a fan of innards be sure to ask for it without! The freshness of the noodles, the bouncy fish balls and light soup make for a great breakfast without feeling too bloated! I'm licking my lips as I'm thinking of it now! Remember to order a "kopi o" to go with your breakfast!
If you have time, which we unfortunately didn't, be sure to visit Gek Lok Si, one of the most famous temples in Penang. It's located in Air Itam and there's also a very famous Assam Laksa place close by here so definitely worth a try although if you ask some locals they'll say it's slightly too sweet for their tastes!