|Having a reputation as
a food paradise, be it haute cuisine, or cuisine bourgeoise (hawker
fare), Penang offers a heady and exotic mix of delicious cuisine to choose
In a word, Penang food
is both famous and fabulous. When people mention Penang food, they are more
often than not referring to hawker food and coffee shop dining. It's true
that some of the hype is overblown but it cannot be denied that Penang is
home to many uniquely delicious chow. Ironically, hawkers in other states
or towns have been known to pull the crowd by simply advertising their food
as hailing from Penang, regardless of its authenticity or quality. Then there
are the Penang hawkers who advertise their cusine as specialties from another
state, like Johor bak kut teh, Ipoh chicken and bean sprouts or
laksa Kedah. In short, an infinite variety of dishes are yours to
savour all you need do is pick and choose.
Penang hawker food can be
broken down roughly into several varieties, with each being attributable
to Penang's multi-cultural character: Nyonya, Chinese, vegetarian, Indian,
Malay, Hakka-styled Western, seafood and desserts. Hybrids are also known
to exist, and some famous examples are Malay style chicken rice and char
koay teow, and Chinese satay and nasi lemak. Prices are
cheap and reasonable.
With fishing being a major
economic activity on the island, Penang is naturally a haven for sea food,
and a handful of restaurants have already achieved legendary status among
locals and foreigners.
Tucked away in remote corners,
these eateries are not easy to find without local guidance but are definitely
worth the extra effort seeking out.
Desserts play a major role
in Penang gastronomy. There are as many varieties as there are races in Penang!
To mention a few would do injustice to the rest, so you'll just have to let
your eyes and your nose be your guide. A word of warning though most
local desserts tend to be sweet and rich, as coconut milk, flour and sugar
are main ingredients.
Thanks to early Chinese
migrants, Chinese cuisine ranges from Cantonese to Teochew to Hokkien to
Hainanese to Szechuan cooking. There's also Penang Nyonya food, which is
a combination of Chinese, Malay and some Thai. The Penang variety of Nyonya
food, apparently, is different from the Malaccan or even Singaporean versions.
For a touch of luxury, try a five or ten-course Chinese meal at one of the
restaurants or hotels in town.
Indian cuisine goes by
two names generally banana leaf rice and nasi kandar. Both
are hot and savoury with rice being the main staple, and a menu from north
Indian tandoori and nan bread, to South Indian rice and capati
Nasi kandar is famously
popular with Penangites, and many restaurants selling it are well known not
only to those on the island but those in other states as well. It is quite
common to find people from other states detouring to Penang just to stop
for a meal of nasi kandar before proceeding on their journey elsewhere...
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