Penang Food – The Must Treats!

Penang Food –  Penang is famous for many things, but the reason we wanted to go there was simple: the Penang Food was supposedly amazing.

When we heard this we were sold, and left Thailand to indulge in Indian curries for one fifth of the price in Penang.

What makes Penang a food heaven are the many varieties of cuisine; Arabic food stalls, thai restaurants, Indian, Malay, Nyonya, Chinese, Lebanese… the list goes on.

After spending a whole week staying in one of the many great Penang hotels, we have also managed to eat so many of the famous Malay sweets and desserts, here are a few of our favorites:

Nyonya Kuih in Palm Sugar Sauce

Made of glutinous rice this steamed sweet is actually pretty tasty. The palm sugar coconut sauce tasted a bit like licorice, and the nyonya kuih was also pretty nice, if you’re used to jelly sweets.

It’s made out of pea flour and Pandan juice. There are many different varieties of the Kuih, but ours was pretty simple with one layer only. The Nyonya kuihs are very popular in Penang.

Nyonya is a traditional Penang food, and refer to the Chinese migrants who came to Penang and other parts of Malaysia in the 18th century. The food is a mixture between Malay and Chinese cuisine, and is called Nyonya food.


Green noodles in coconut milk, brown sugar and shaved ice. Yes, you read it correctly, those are the actual ingredients… It sounds crazy, but it’s one of the most common desserts in Malaysia and has been part of the Penang food tradition for decades (some have been selling Cendol since the 1920’s), and although it’s weird, it’s worth a try just to know what this combination would taste like!

Fried Ais Krim Goreng

The ultimate recipe for weight gain (although they’re small in size), but oh so delicious!

Some people might not like the warm oily deep fried crust covering cold and creamy cookies and cream ice cream inside – but I LOVED it.

The Fried Ais Krim Goreng is a Malaysian favorite treat, and you’ll see it everywhere on the Penang food menus.

Ais Kachang

If the Penang food isn’t surprising enough for your taste buds, I can guarantee you that this dessert will be. This is even weirder than Cendol – this is the weirdest dessert I’ve ever had. Red beans, ice cream, lychee fruit, corn, shaven ice and grass jelly? All mixed up, and it tastes….interesting…

Parts of the dish are sweet and blend together really well, like the fresh fruit, ice cream and jelly. But then you get these bites of bean, corn and water (the ice melts really quickly), which doesn’t blend very well with he flavors.

The Ais Kachang used to only consist of shaved ice and red beans, so the additional flavors – if a little strange, definitely make this type of Penang food taste better.

Indian Sweets

When in Georgetown, you have to try the Indian sweets! The Indian servings are pretty big (some gigantic, so look out!), so you probably won’t feel like dessert when walking out of the restaurant – but buy it for later, because you will want to try and see what those bright colored things really taste like.

Don’t expect anything sweet like the western candy, this is totally different. Karanji is a common sweet, but there are often whole stalls selling Indian sweets only, in all kinds of colors and shapes.

Steamed and Fried Kuih

The Kuih is a rather strange part of the traditional Penang food, as it almost looks inedible. It actually tastes pretty good, and is not as sweet as it looks. Many Malays have a plate of Kuih only for lunch, and since they’re pretty filling, that is enough food to last you a few hours.

So take a trip to Georgetown in Penang, forget about the waist line for a little while and let yourself indulge in the Penang food!

21 Responses to Penang Food – The Must Treats!

  1. Stephen May 3, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Just stopped by Penang for exactly the same reason! And I was not disappointed… definitely going back someday.

    • Sofia - As We Travel May 3, 2011 at 10:38 am #

      Great to hear! I agrree, the food in Penang is everything but disappointing.

  2. kwmak May 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    hi there… i think you have missed a lot of penang foods.. as those are only considered desserts .. you should try out assam laksa, char kuey tiao, curry mee, heh go chee cheong fun, nasi briyani, nasi lemak in your next visit :)

    • Sofia - As We Travel May 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      Yes these are all desserts and snacks – I have a sweet tooth 😉

      Thanks for adding your tips, since we’re vegetarians we didn’t try most of those on that list – but we really enjoyed the vegetarian versions!

  3. Manisha Chopra May 4, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    I agree the food in Penang is really great. I just loved it.

  4. Fara May 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    it may be because i’m a malaysian, that i don’t get it when you say the Ais Kacang (or in someplace we call it ABC – don’t ask me why, i really don’t know) tastes weird. for me, it tastes just fine. ha ha. well, maybe because i’m used to it. :)

    the Cendol, at least from where i come from, we don’t mix it with shaved ice. we mix it with cold water, so it becomes a drink.

    these two are not everyday drinks/desserts, at least not in kota kinabalu. here cendol and ais kacang will become widely available during ramadan. although you still can get it if you know where to look for during normal days.

    • Sofia - As We Travel May 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

      Hey Fara, thanks for sharing that, really interesting! How come it`s widely available during ramadan?

  5. Thomas May 5, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    I’m willing to try almost anything once when it comes to food but some combinations just scare me. I admit I have been surprised a few times but for dessert I simply don’t want beans with ice cream. Maybe if it was mushed and combined…then again i would just have to taste it for myself.

    • Sofia - As We Travel May 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      Hey Thomas, yeah that combination is really strange, especially since the kidney beans are covered in some sugary syrup..!

  6. Joshua Johnson May 6, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Dude that looks super yummy

    • Sofia - As We Travel May 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Yeah most of the food was amazing, my favorite was the ais krim goreng 😉

  7. Endangered species in India May 7, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    My vote also go for Penang food, I love these snacks

  8. Bobby Schaeffer May 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    That Ais Kachang dessert made my mouth drool as soon as I saw its picture! Reading through this post was a tough for someone like me, who can’t eat too much dessert because of my sensitive teeth. :(

  9. Guest May 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm #


  10. Gerard ~ GQtrippin February 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    OMG. Q & I are headed to Penang in 2 weeks. We’re getting ready to put our fat pants on for Malaysia! =) Are the all hawker food stalls pretty far apart from each other? We’re staying in Georgetown.


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