Are you looking for a place where you can try a variety of scrumptious dishes at very affordable prices? A location where you can have a taste of the popular food of several countries and cultures without actually going to those countries? Then, I think Penang is the best place for you to visit. It is an island in the western region of Malaysia in the Strait of Malacca. It is known as the food capital of Malaysia and regarded as a paradise for food lovers.
Going to Penang Island is not a problem. The island has an international airport so you can easily get there by plane. From Singapore, it will just be a short plane ride – about one and a half hour. When you arrive at the airport, you will see some signs that say, “Selamat Datang,” one of Malay greetings, which means “Welcome”. Before you get out of the airport, there’s a taxi booth where you can buy ticket for a taxi to take you to your place of stay.
Taxi is the most convenient way to travel and explore the island. You don’t have to worry of any language barrier because almost all Malaysians there know how to speak English maybe because it was once a British colony. One thing to note about the taxis there is that they are not metered taxis, so it means that the drivers may charge you more than the usual fare. But if you have some idea of the prevailing rate, then you can negotiate before you get inside the taxi. There are also buses serving the riding public for some established routes.
Even though Malaysia is considered as a Muslim country, you can still see Christian churches where Christians can freely worship and have fellowship with each other. During my few travels to Penang, I was able to visit Penang Christian Center (PCC), Penang First Assembly of God, and Georgetown Baptist Church. It’s just amazing to see people of different cultures worshipping together – Chinese, Indians, and other Asians as well as some Western foreigners. But the majority of Christians in Penang are Chinese.
When it comes to food, Penang tops the list. Penang was recognized as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004 and that speaks a lot. A lot of food choices are available – Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Thai dishes as well as Japanese and western cuisines. If you want to satisfy the curiosity of your taste buds for a variety of food, then try the hawker food sold at road side stalls at prices as low as RM3. For an Asian like me who considers a meal incomplete without rice, the popular chicken rice would be a good choice. It has rice usually cooked in chicken stock giving it a mouth-watering flavor and of course with roasted or steamed chicken and sliced cucumber and onion together with some soy sauce. Then you could try all sorts of Chinese noodle dishes like Char Koay Teow – fried flat noodles with light and dark soy sauce, chili, prawns, cockles, egg, bean sprouts, and some slices of fish. You could also sample those popular Bak Kut Teh, Nasi Lemak, Tom Yam and the hot and spicy Indian curry dishes.
Besides the popular and great-tasting hawker or street food, there are fine dining restaurants like Nando’s Chicken that serves chicken dishes you would really like. I think you also don’t want to miss the steamboat and barbecue buffet like that of Seoul Garden in Gurney Plaza where you can choose all you can, cook them yourselves and eat. There are just a lot of things to say when we talk about Penang food. So just experience Penang yourselves and you will know why it is considered a paradise for food lovers.