The BEST street food destination in Asia – Penang!
In the beginning of the 16th century, Portuguese merchants sailed towards the Orient, searching for richness and spices. They bumped into a desert island, where they could get new supplies of fresh water. They called the island “Pulo Pinaom”.
The island belonged to the Sultan of Kedah, it’s strategic location near the north of Mellacca, turned it into a strategic spot for Arabs, Chinese, Europeans and Indians.
Inevitable, it became a strategic area for pirates and other sea criminals who were attracted by the different people passing by, carrying merchandise.
|Carina and I exploring the colonial Penang after a rainy day|
During the 18th century, the trade of Opium and spices between the orient and the Occident became extremely profitable.
By this time, the Dutch dominated the spice trade in the orient, so the British obviously wanted to impose their presence in this region as well.
In 1771, the Sultan of Kedah, offered this island to the British captain Francis Light in exchange of protection against the Siamese and Burmese who attacked the region in a regular basis.
In 1786, Francis Light officially took over the Island which was later called “the prince of Wales Island”, the settlements in the eastern part of the island were called “Georgetown” in the name of the King of England; George the III.
After second world war, Penang became part of Malaysia, becoming one of the 13 Malay states.
Today, it’s one of the most visited cities in Malaysia, both for it’s world famous Hybrid cuisine and the incredibly well preserved colonial architecture.
|Th amazing hybrid street food is everywhere|
Nowadays, you will find totally distinct neighborhoods in Georgetown, each one, representing a totally different culture. You have Chinatown with it’s Penang Chinese food, temples and art; and Little India, a mix of curry fragrances, loud Bollywood music and the most delicious Indian food in Penang!
In historical terms, the British colonizers changed the face of the island radically. Indian and Chinese immigrants were brought as working force, since these two groups didn’t have a patriot fervor like the Malays who constantly tried to get their land and culture back. It was safer for the British as the imposing force, to have people who were not a threat to the established power.
Most of the Malay people were forced to leave the city and work in the fields in rural areas.
After a few centuries of a successful coexistence, the Indian and Chinese and Malay community gave birth to what is now knows as the best food in Asia, with very specific ethnic foods as well as a unique fusion, only found in here.
|Fresh veggies at Penang’s market|
I was out and about, trying to experiment and explore the foods of Penang.
Although accommodation is more expensive in Malaysia than in Thailand, the food here is much cheaper. Oh well! I can take perfect advantage of that, specially after starving and losing so much weight in Koh Lanta. No more fried rice!
Penang has one of the most interesting mix of cultures I’ve seen so far and I was delighted to be there.
During the morning, try to take a walk through the local markets, check out the foods, some are very exotic looking! The fruits here are very fresh and you should take full advantage of all the diversity. In most fruit stalls you’ll find fruit salads, the vendor will make it for you as well.
|Indian street food – most of it it’s 100% vegan and fried in different oils|
It took me a couple of days to explore half of Penangs street foods. The famous “Hawker food” is unique in the world, no wonder CNN elected Penang as Asia’s best destination for food lovers.
One of the things I felt during my 11 days here, was that I could explore the very best of Asia, within the limits of this Island. The combination of food, architecture and art turned Georgetown in one of my favorite cities in Asia.
|Penangs exotic fruits, in most stalls they’re prepare a fruit salad for you|
|In Chinatown you’ll find really nice vegan soups (ministryofveg.com)|
|Chinese vegan food is extremely popular in Penang’s Chinatown|
In Malaysia it’s very common that families ask for multiple dishes from different stands, which are shared by everyone either at home or at a communal area.
Most of the stalls are open till very late at night, so whenever you feel hungry just pop by a local stall outside Love Lane.
|Red garden at Jalan Penang (photo by Davidhlohr Bueso)|
Hawker food sites:
NEW WORLD PARK: Burma rd and Swatow Lane junction
RED GARDEN: Jalam Penang
SRI WELD FOOD COURT: Between Lebuh Pengkalan Weld
CEBIL MARKET FOOD COURT: Lebuh Cecil from 8am to 5pm
On the next blog post: The best Chinese ALL VEGAN restaurants I’ve ever experienced!