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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Southeast Asia is home to a some great street food cities, but a few stand out above the rest, most notably Singapore and Penang. My 3 day eating stopover in the latter turned into a 3 month semi-residency that allowed me to taste quite a bit of what Penang has to offer. It was delicious! Like Singapore, Penang has substantial Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian populations and this cultural composition is reflected in the dining options.

Most days for me started with a breakfast of roti canai at New Krishna in Little India. Roti Canai is Malaysian Indian flatbreads served with an assortment of curries. Krishna also makes a mean chicken masala dosa. My late night staple was also Kapitan has a few locations in town that are open 24 hours a day serving up the best tandoori chicken naan set I’ve ever had. Another Indian favorite in Penang was Veloo Villas, which makes exceptional banana leaf sets.

While Indian food served as the bookends of my day, much of the rest was filled with Chinese. Penang hosts many hawker centers and my personal favorite was on 7th Avenue, which was also a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Local Hokkien Chinese specialties include char kway teow, laksa, hokkien mee, chee cheong fun, rojak, and many more.

Nasi Kandar is possibly the most iconic dish of Penang and there is no shortage of quality establishments churning out the ricey deliciousness all day and all night. Line Clear ranks among the best and despite the tourist influx resulting from Mr. Bourdain visiting, it’s still mostly locals eating there.

There are plenty of guesthouses in Penang, mostly concentrated in and around Love Lane (a 2 minute walk from Little India). You can find a decent, private room for about $10/night. Like the rest of Malaysia, alcohol is expensive compared to the cost of everything else. By far, my favorite drinking establishment is Antarabangsa. Located on the fringe of Little India, Antarabangsa is a small shop where you buy your beer as you would in a convenience store, then drink it outside on plastic chairs and tables; it’s grimy, cheap, and absolutely perfect.

Penang is the perfect size, offers incredible food, and is a must-visit for anyone in the region. Be warned: you may fall in love and stay for much longer than anticipated!

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