Posted on September 4, 2016
Have you ever heard about Penang in Malaysia? It’s a state of Malaysia located on the northwest coast, by the Strait of Malacca. It comprises two parts – Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula.
I had a chance to travel to George Town on Penang Island in June 2016. It was one of my short escapes from Bali (a visa run) and I choose George Town because of it´s famous street food and pretty cool street art.
Are you traveling soon to Malaysia? Check out my article about How to spend your holidays in Sabah Borneo?
I’m going to keep it simple guys. I think that the best way how you can spend some days in Gorge town in Penang is to dedicate your time to food discovery, check the local street art, visit one of the art markets and enjoy a cold beer in one of the night bars.
During my 4 days in Penang in Malaysia I focused on street food and street art because I’m part of the organizing team of a regular street food event in Bratislava called Street Food Park, so I wanted to look for new inspiration. Regarding street art, I love quality and creative street art, so I couldn´t skip this activity.
N. 1 thing to do: Taste Asia’s best street food.
Gorge town was ranked n.1 Best Food Destination by Lonely Planet. If you have never tried Malaysian food this is a place to do so.
Penang offers many famous delicacies, among them:
– “Char koay teow” (stir-fried flat rice noodle strips),
– “Chee cheong fun” (steamed noodle rolls),
– “Wan tan mee” (noodle dish),
– “Cendol (particular dessert that consists of green jelly noodles with kidney beans immersed in shaved ice and finished off with a copious drizzle of coconut milk and palm sugar),
– “Penang assam laksa” (a bowl of thick rice vermicelli garnished with different veggies, fish, prawn paste, and a new version is with the addition of coconut milk),
– “Ais kacang” (ice beans).
Restaurants can get pretty busy in the evenings. There is such a great variety of different Asian food, e.g. Chinese food…
.. or you can try a delicious indian vegetarian dish that is served on a Banana leaf and it will cost you around 1.5 USD…
… you can also visit one of the night markets or hawker centers and have a great portion of live music too 🙂
This was my second trip to Malaysia, because I visited Borneo before. When I was in Borneo I discovered laksa and I ate it everyday, so I had to eat it during this trip too. Yummy!
My absolutely favorite dish in Penang in Malaysia was a dessert known as egg tart. I discovered it at the Ming Xiang Tai Cake and Pastry Shop. This shop has a long tradition in Gorge Town and I would suggest you to try their pastry and their traditional Chinese tea.
If you want to try something different try ais kacang – ice with beans. You can also go for the more simple version that is called the ice ball – ice with sweet syrup.
So this is jackfruit 🙂
N. 2 thing to do: Attend a cooking class.
Penang is so famous for their food so I thought that the best activity I could possibly do here would be a cooking class. Friends who lived in Penang in Malaysia before recommended Penang Homecooking School so I contacted them and I got a spot for the next day. I was pretty lucky because their classes are usually booked long time in advance.
The slogan of the Penang Homecooking School is “Cook with Love, Eat with Gratitude” and I have to say that the whole experience that was created by the chef Pearly was like that. She explained us with love and gratitude as much as she could about the Nyonya cuisine. We started the cooking class at a local fresh market where I had the first “cooking” experience. It was so fun!
I love to discover something new and unique and that’s why I called this blog the Unboxing Traveller. What I discovered on the fresh market in Penang was a ginger flower. Isn’t it beautiful?
Every fresh market that I´ve seen in Asia so far had some fresh fish or seafood section. It was the same in Penang and we bought some shrimp for the cooking class.
After the shopping at the local fresh market we headed to Pearly’s house where we washed and chopped all ingredients and we got all ready for the cooking class.
Pearly is an amazing cook, teacher and an ambassador of Nyonya cuisine. Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine comes from the Peranakans, descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore and Indonesia inter-marrying with local Malays and combines Chinese, Malay and other influences.
Nonya cooking is the result of blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. This gives rise to Peranakan interpretations of Malay/Indonesian food that is similarly tangy, aromatic, spicy and herbal. In my own words: It’s simply delicious.
Together with Emma and Josh from Canada we prepared the traditional Nyonya dishes: Stir fry mix vegetable with dried cuttlefish, beef rendang and prawns in cashew nut sauce. I can share with you that the cooking class was one of the best “travel/local” experiences I had during my travels. It was the best way how to learn about the culture, traditions, history and taste a delicious food too. Do it if you have a chance.
N. 3 thing to do: Discover Street Art.
Who loves street art? I do! I hope that you too because the last recommendation for a cool thing to do in Penang in Malaysia is to go for a discovery tour of the local street art. I recommend you to stay in Gorge Town and walk around because you can observe many beautiful pieces of art here.
There is one more thing that I loved about Penang and that was a peaceful co-living of different religion groups. We saw that there is a Chinese community, Hindu community, Muslim community or Christian community. They all have their shrines or mosques built close to each other and they live in a peaceful atmosphere. I find it inspiring and I think that the rest of the world should learn from Penang.
That’s it guys! This was the last post from my series of “visa run” travels while I lived in Bali 🙂 It’s actually fun to live in Bali for this reason too. Once in while you have to do a visa run and it can lead you to places like Penang in Malaysia. A place where you would possibly never travel to and suddenly you are like: It’s pretty cool here in Gorge Town, I’m happy that I visited this place.
As always, stay cool, stay safe and have a great time wherever you are.
About the Author
Thanks for reading this article! My name is Silvia and I’m from Slovakia. I’m passionate about entrepreneurship, marketing, traveling, surfing, photography and I’m in the search of the best ways how to combine it all. Over the past 3 years I changed my lifestyle completely. From an employee in a larger company I started freelancing and working online to be location independent. What drives me is the idea that if I want to, I can book a ticket and go surfing anywhere in the world and stay as long as I want. Also, I gathered lot of content and ideas inspired by beautiful people, places and products. I blog and organize presentations about these topics. Safe travels!