Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers – The Ultimate Melting Pot 

Penang Food Courts, street food, and hawker stalls serve the best food that celebrates the cuisine of Malaysian culture.

If you are visiting Asia and love to eat, you must visit George Town in Penang.

Penang hawker food alone is an attraction that draws local visitors and international travelers to this destination.

The secret is this – the best food hawker in Penang is also the cheapest.

Even as a Penangite, I was preoccupied with eating a good meal.

How good the hawker food is and where to find the best is something locals

When I think of Penang, the one thing that’s constantly on my mind.

The locals sometimes disagree about how good the Hawker food is and where to find the best.

When you arrive on the island, you will find the lively Penang’s street food and hawker markets invigorating.

One of the best things to do is wander around the exciting food markets.

Street Food forms most people’s diets in Penang, as it is cheaper for office workers to eat hawker food than to bring a packed lunch to work.

Don’t be afraid to try something that takes your fancy; be adventurous when it comes to food, and you will never be bored traveling.

What Makes Penang Hawker Food Great?

The cultural diversity and many varieties of noodles, rice, and local cakes make Penang hawker stalls a great source of delicious meals.

Penang food influences the Malay, Indian, Chinese, and other ex-pat communities that live together in George Town.

The melting pot of diverse cultures makes all these food traditions unique and almost impossible to replicate.

Penang is where you get to experience fusion food, and the hawker market is a great place to start enjoying these flavors and experience a slice of local life.

Hawker centers or hawker markets are what Penangites call food courts.

Many local food traders can serve up some high-quality food for affordable prices.

The vibrant tradition says a lot about Malaysia’s locals’ attitude to food and community culture.

While Penang may not boast any Michelin-starred hawkers, our food is named the best by local and international tourists.

Some visitors make a beeline for weekend eating tours in and around George Town.

For the best stalls in the tourist belt, expect a long line for a bowl or plate of noodles or desserts.

On either side of Keng Kwee Street are the two most famous pushcart roadside cendol stalls in Penang.

The long queues spilled out to Penang Road from Thursday to Sunday.

There are two famous Tambun Biscuits manufacturers on Burmah Road.

You can buy these small orbs and one mouthful of biscuits from the famous Him Heang and Ghee Hiang brands.

Incredibly popular with tourists, these are two of the most sought-after items not sold in a hawker center in Penang.

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Eating Out in Penang

Malaysia is well known for its Penang Street Stalls, Hawker Centre, and a Food Court that serves fast street food.

Penang has the highest concentration of hawker stalls in and around George Town.

When you eat out in Penang, these are the best places to get authentic local food.

Most of the diners are 95% locals and not international tourists.

So, what’s the difference between Penang Street Food, Hawker Centre, and a Food Court?

The appeal lies in comfort, the variety of food available, and the price.

Some Hawker Centres have a Halal and Non Halal section.

Street Food sold by Chinese Hawkers typically contains either pork or lard.

Penang Food Courts are Halal and do not sell pork on the premises.

Penang Food Court

In the tropical heat, most tourists prefer to dine in the comfort of air conditioning in a food court.

Most of the famous Food Courts are inside shopping malls.

Food Courts are modern and upmarket in comparison.

Penang Hawker Center or Market Stalls

A hawker center is a large dining area surrounded by independent food vendors.

Sometimes, very friendly vendors may encourage you to order from their stalls. The best advice is to check out what else is available before deciding.

You choose a non-reserved table and remember the table number.

Pro Tip: Have a look at what other diners order and watch out for unfinished plates or bowls of food, which may indicate that it’s not so tasty (or perhaps they overordered)

Dining Areas in Hawker Centres

Hawker Centres often have two dining areas.

One area is under a sheltered roof with ceiling fans to cool visitors.

There is an alfresco area.

Some of the older Hawker Stalls by the road have foldable tables and plastic stools outside the shops in the evening.

Penang hawker food is a source of cheap and delicious eats in the city and a part of the vibrant Penang eating culture.

Many traditional cooking methods like charcoal stoves have been replaced by gas.

Dining Areas in Food Court

A shopping mall has several restaurants and a general eating area for A Food Court (or Food Hall) with counters of multiple food vendors.

The common area is a self-serve diner where customers place an order before collecting the food using a tray.

Some food vendors hand you a Buzzer Pager to take to your table and wait for the food.

It buzzes when ready, and you return the Buzzer Pager as you collect your food.

How To Order Food From Penang Food Courts Stall?

The stalls have menus, and the portion size indicates the food prices: Small, Medium, or large.

If you don’t want spicy, please remember to indicate that when ordering.

Some food contains Pork, Pork Oil (Lard), Peanuts, and Shellfish (Prawns, Squid, Clams, and Cockles)—it’s best to ask for this to be omitted if you have an allergy.

If you are a vegan, you need to check with the stalls. Some foods, such as Nasi Lemak, Nasi Ulam, and Penang Assam Laksa, contain ikan bilis (Anchovies), Salted Fish, Belacan (Shrimp Paste), or Heko (Shrimp Sauce).

How do you pay for food at Penang Food Courts Stall?

It depends on the vendor’s system.

At Food Courts, you pay first (self-service) before waiting to collect your food.

For Hawker Centre, order from any food vendor, tell them your table number, return to your table, and wait for the vendor to bring your food.

You only pay when your food arrives at the table.

Pro Tip:  Penang Hawker Centre is a cash-only place, and you must pay with cash.

For food courts, some have a payment gateway set up so that you can make a cashless transfer. Generally, credit cards are rarely accepted. So remember to visit the ATM.

Before you arrive, bring lots of cash! You must pay for your food once you’ve ordered.

Pro Tip: Some prominent Hawker Centres have live music and other entertainment for diners. It’s the best way to try authentic local foods without the fanfare.

Penang Street Food And Hawker Center Food Safety & Cleanliness

Malaysians generally eat at hawker food stalls their whole lives and seldom have issues with food hygiene.

Penang Hawker Street Food is cooked in mobile kitchens.

Some stalls prepare the soup stock ahead of time and blanch the noodles on the spot to prepare food for customers.

Most hawkers keep the stove hot and water in a rolling bowl.

For stir-fries, the food is cooked in smoking hot woks.

Generally, these foods are safe to eat for foreigners.

For precooked dishes and other food, try to go during mealtimes when these are freshly cooked and hot.

It’s always good to ensure you’re eating at a popular eatery.

Popular places mean that outlets are less likely to have food safety issues.

Hawker centers start getting busy around breakfast, lunch, and dinner times.

Street Food Vendors

Penang has pushcarts, vans, and food trucks that set up tables around dinner time on the side of the streets.

If this is your first time in Aisa as an international tourist, you may want to avoid eating at roadside eateries.

In some places, the hawker food is still good, but hygiene is deplorable (full of flies)

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Food Hygiene at Food Court and Hawker Centre

The food at Food Courts is more hygienic as the grading system makes it easy for consumers to see an A, B, or C Grade on the walls of F&B stores.

Points for the Grading System

Grade A – must score 86 to 100 points

Grade B – score 71 to 85 points

Grade C – scores of 51 to 70 points.

F&B outlets and restaurants that score under 50 points are immediately shut down.

The Health authorities inspect the F&B establishments, and points are based on

  1. Food handling methods
  2. Food handlers (must undergo compulsory training)
  3. Equipment and utensils sanitation
  4. Amount of water supply
  5. Drainage (grease traps)
  6. Toilet facilities
  7. Waste Disposal
  8. Floors, walls, ceilings, and ventilation.

Roadside food stalls usually serve the poorer population, so quality and food safety are not top priorities.

Pro Tip: All food court hawker stalls have individual hygiene ratings (Standard A, B, C). Learn to recognize the rating system to avoid ordering from stalls flagged with a low rating.

Pro Tip: Exercise caution when eating out in Malaysia. If this is your first time in Asia, please ensure you are fully vaccinated.

What Vaccines Do I Need for Southeast Asia?

The CDC and WHO recommended vaccinations for travelers to Southeast Asia are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, and polio.

Some routine recommended vaccinations also include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap), influenza, chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and meningitis.

Where to Find The Best Hawker Food In Penang?

Travel Stylus’s list of Best Hawker Food In Penang comprises Food Courts, Hawker Centres, and Street Food, offering some of the best cheap eats on the island.

Some food stalls are in Chinese Kopitiam (coffee shops)

Many roadside open-air eateries with several hawker stalls sell snacks, noodles, and Satay (grilled meat) with makeshift seating.

Penang Hawker Centres operates at all hours of the day and night.

The food is often affordable and flavourful Malaysian dishes.

Some vendors are third-generation hawkers with age-old family recipes and old-fashioned cooking methods. Few still use a charcoal stove.

Food presentation is never a priority, but the stall with the longest queues is always top-notch because it offers the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.

Regular patrons and travelers help keep meal costs down.

If you must eat only food prepared in a proper kitchen, head to the Penang hotels. Their casual dining menu usually features several ala carte hawker dishes.

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Popular Hawker Centres in Penang

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (Hawker Centre)

Persiaran Gurney’s iconic Gurney Drive Hawker Centre is where tourists head by the busloads.

The area beside Gurney Plaza Mall is a great place to sample some of Penang’s best local dishes.

Most locals prefer to eat at other Hawker Centres on the island.

The hawkers operate from vans or food trucks, and the hawker center has many stalls selling similar dishes like Penang Asam Laksa, Sotong Bakar, Rojak, and Jiu Hu Eng Chai.

The cafeteria-style seating on plastic tables and stools is a little cramped.

Pro Tip: As there is no central drinks area, before you order, find out if the drinks operator” controls” the tables to avoid misunderstandings.

Survey the site first before you order.

Most of the food sold is snacks, so expect to order more than a dish for your dinner.

Some stalls sell more substantial meals like Chicken Rice, so look out for it.

Most people will copy the locals by standing behind diners who seem to be near finishing and then be ready to grab their soon-to-be-vacant seats.

Location: 172, Solok Gurney 1, Pulau Tikus, 10250 Penang, Malaysia.
Open: Daily from 6 PM to midnight

Malaysian Street Food – Delicious Must Try Hawker Dishes

Northam Beach Café (Hawker Centre)

Northam Beach Café is another hawker center to try other than Gurney Drive if you want a beachfront.

Most diners love the atmosphere of eating by the seaside.

Go early for a seaside table.

There is a good variety of great-tasting food, local and international cuisines to try.

You can join the locals to try various seafood dishes, Penang hawker favorites, and international cuisines, such as German, Italian, and even Syrian food.

The hawker center has an outside and a covered seating area.

Location: Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 George Town, Penang, MALAYSIA
Open: Daily from 5.00 PM to 1.00 AM

Long Beach Food Court (Hawker Centre)

Walking along Batu Ferringhi brings you the closest thing to a Hawker Centre: the Long Beach Food Court.

Several businesses in the lively square near the hotel sell souvenirs and food.

You can also walk straight to the beach.

At the Hawker Centre, there are large round tables for groups, and you can order a table full of dishes to share.

Most tourists love the grilled Satay skewers, Grilled chicken wings, and seafood dishes like Fried Squid and Grilled Shrimp.

You can go to various stalls to choose what you like – Cendol, Char Kway Teow, roasted chicken wings, Fried Oyster Omelette, Pancakes, and different noodles.

The wontons and Wantan Noodles are springy and flavourful.

The Nasi Goreng Kampong (Malay fried rice) has plenty of salty, crispy anchovies.

You may want to try the spicy Curry Chee Cheong Fun, a twist of the traditional dish coats rice noodle rolls in a creamy coconut and chili gravy with potatoes and chicken chunks.

Location: Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Malaysia
Open: Daily from 6.00 PM to 11.00 PM

New World Park (Hawker Centre)

New World Food Centre is a famous food court in George Town.

There are many flavors of food stalls, and you can eat a lot of local delicacies.

You can taste Penang snacks and noodles like Penang Hokkien Mee, Assam Laksa, Char Kway Teow, Wanton Mee, Curry Mee, Cendol, Ais Kacang, Chee Cheong Fun, crepes, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Braised Pork, Kway Teow Thng, and many other delicacies.

You may be tempted to order everything you see.

Location: Jalan Burma, Penang, Malaysia
Open: Daily 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Popular Hawker Roadside Stalls in Penang

Street Food Stalls in Penang are areas where pushcarts or vans are temporarily set up as hawker centers for a few hours at night.

Some famous stalls have a long line of people queuing to order their food – these are safe bets if you don’t know what to order.

Generally, Penangites are friendly, and if you want to know about the dish, you can start a conversation and ask in English.

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Pulau Tikus Night Market (Roadside Stalls)

In the evening, the area in front of the Pulau Tikus wet market building is transformed into a hawker paradise, with various good food options.

The Koay Teow Thng has a duck soup rendition with a garnish of fishballs, sliced fishcakes, duck meat topped with golden-fried lard, and chopped scallions.

A notable item is the Hainanese Satay, which has a sweet potato-based dipping sauce similar to that for “Cheh hu” (Chinese “Pasembor”). Other worthy items include the Penang Assam Laksa, Char Hor Fun, and Char Koay Teow.

Lok Lok is the top must-have item visiting Pulau Tikus’ night food stalls.

Location: Jalan Pasar, Pulau Tikus, Penang, Malaysia
Open: Daily 4.00 PM to 9.30 PM

New Lane Hawker Centre (Roadside Stalls)

New Lane Hawker Centre opens at 4 PM every day.

New Lane (Lorong Baru) is closed to vehicular traffic, and pushcart hawkers set up stalls on the roadside.

Cars must find alternate routes to their destination because the street morphs into a thriving outdoor hawker food center.

Here, you will find a variety of porky hawker specialties not found in Penang Food Courts.

Notable items include Char Kway Teow (flat rice noodles with cockles, prawns, chili, and bean sprouts) Chee Cheong Fun (rice noodle rolls), and Penang Curry Mee.

The seating is outside under the stars on the roadside’s colourful plastic tables and chairs.

Location: Lorong Baru, 10450 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Open: Daily from 4.00 PM to 2.00 AM

Presgrave Street Hawker Centre (Roadside Stalls)

Presgrave Street Hawker Centre is a local eatery that is very popular with the people in the vicinity for its cheap, delicious food.

The place is excellent for a quick, hearty meal in Penang.

If you want a long, drawn-out meal, there is a fine dining restaurant that you can try.

A must-order is the Penang Hokkien Mee noodles from a stall called 888 Hokkien Mee. The prawn noodle soup is famous for its light yet savory broth, and diners can add extras to flavor their soup.

On the menu, expect to see ingredients like Roasted Pork (recommended), Pork Ribs, Fish Balls, Chicken Feet, Pig’s Skin, and Braised Eggs.

The food court’s Wan Tan Mee, BBQ Chicken Wings, Fried Oysters, Satay, and Lor Bak deserve a special mention.

Pro Tip: Order the 888 Hokkien Mee and Chendol for a light meal and order everything else if you want to indulge.

Location: 67D, Lebuh Presgrave, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Open: 4.00 PM to 8.00 PM (closed on Mondays)

Kimberley Street Food Night Market (Roadside Stalls & Kopitiam)

In the middle of George Town, the areas have a combination of pushcart stalls serving kopitiam where you dine.

Notable items include the Char Koay Teow, Duck Kway Chap, and the traditional Chinese signature dessert Almond Soup Tong Sui.

You can get breakfast-type Economy and Char Bee Hoon here for your supper treats.

Location: Jalan Sungai Ujong, 10100 George Town, Penang, MALAYSIA

Hours: 5.00 PM to 11.00 PM (Closed Wednesdays)

Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls (Roadside Stalls)

If you haven’t tried sitting along darkened five-footways and by the roadside with the Rapid busses rumbling by – you haven’t experienced eating out in George Town.

The Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls are the pop-up stalls once evening falls.

Notable stalls (not necessarily in the pecking order) are

Wantan Mee, Curry Mee, Char Hor Fun, Lor Bak, Muah Chee, Mixed Fruit Juice, Lok Lok!

Location: Jalan Chulia, 10100 George Town, Penang, MALAYSIA
Hours: 4.00 PM to 12.00 AM

Popular Penang Food Courts

Penang Food Court is an air-conditioned public eatery in a shopping mall for easy reference.

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

Gurney Food Hall (Gurney Plaza Food Court)

Gurney Food Hall is the newest Food Court in a shopping mall.

The Gurney Food Hall is the largest upscale food court on a Gurney Drive stretch. Its interior is fresh, modern, and cozy.

There are 25 stalls, each serving an average of 5 dishes, and each with a reasonable starting average of RM7 or RM8 for a decent portion size.

The environment is hygienic, clean, and pleasant without being too noisy or smelling food.

Location: Level 4, Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney, Penang

Open: Daily from 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM

Just Food (Gurney Paragon Food Court)

Just Food is Gurney Paragon Mall is fully air-conditioned, making it an excellent place for tourists and locals who want to dine comfortably.

The most popular stall is Mr. Shawerma, which serves Syrian cuisine. Its Doner kebab (rotating kebab) is great for wraps, salads, hummus, and Chili Pan mee.

Location: Level 5, Gurney Paragon, Persiaran Gurney, Penang
Open: Daily from 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM

Hawker Centre Rules

Insider Tips for the best eating experience at a Hawker Centre.

Here are some unwritten rules that the locals follow.

Observing and doing as the locals do when in doubt is always good.

It is okay if you can’t order in Penang Hokkien dialect or Malay; most hawkers can converse in English.

It’s always good to behave like the locals, but sometimes, as travelers, we also have to take extra hygiene precautions to protect ourselves.

The Malaysian LAH Glues Malaysians Together

In Summary, What To Do At Penang Food Courts

  • Remember to bring a packet of tissues and hand sanitizer.
  • All food court hawkers have hygiene ratings (Standard A, B, C), so learn to recognize the rating system and avoid places flagged with a low rating.
  • Some Food Courts require you to return your food tray.

What To Do At Penang Hawker Centre and Roadside Stalls

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

  • Hawker centers only accept cash, so make sure you visit the ATM before arriving. You pay for your food once you’ve ordered it.
  • Remember your table number, as some dishes might take some time to cook.
  • Penangites call all vendors “Auntie” or “Uncle.”
  • You can leave your plate on the table once you’ve finished.
  • It’s OK to order multiple dishes from different vendors at the Hawker Centre.
  • If you see a line, join it. Usually, it’s a good dish worth waiting for.
  • Some places without a central drinks station have groups of tables “belonging to” a drink stall.

Penang Food Court Prices

Most hawker food costs between RM6 to RM7 if you order noodles or snacks without various ingredients.

Food items recommended for tourists are

  1. Char Kway Teow
  2. Koay Teow Thing
  3. Wantan Mee
  4. Penang Asam Laksa
  5. Chendol
  6. Roti Canai
  7. Mee Mamak
  8. Honey BBQ Pork and Rice
  9. Nasi Lemak
  10. Satay

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

 What Drinks Should You Order at Penang Food Court?

For refreshing drinks, try a variety of tasty fresh fruit juices or Soya Milk.

Every Hawker Centre has a drink stand; if you are worried about hygiene, you can order bottled water or canned drinks.

Try the sugar cane juice, lime juice, and Coconut Water.

These drinks are natural thirst quenchers and go down well after a hot day.

Try the classic Penang Kopi with condensed milk for hot drinks to add a sweet taste.

Teh Tarik (pulled tea) is a frothy tea with milk that is tasty and addictive.

Penang Food Courts, Street Food, Hawkers - The Ultimate Melting Pot

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