5 Penang foods that should have made the Michelin list
No mention for these unassuming food stalls but they make awesome food nonetheless
By John Hyeon
Never mess with Malaysians and their food. Case in point: the listing of 97 eateries in the inaugural Michelin Guide Kuala Lumpur and Penang 2023 has sparked much debate, especially in Penang, Malaysia's unofficial food capital.
Essentially, the “issue” is that, while the state’s two Michelin-star-rated restaurants and 17 joints that received the Bib Gourmand (for offering good food at moderate prices) are indeed great, the general feeling among Penangites is that there are plenty more places that should have been recognised.
With that in mind, here is a list of five down-to-earth eating establishments that should have made the Michelin cut, but didn't:
AH KOO’S HOKKIEN MEE
Address: Kedai Kopi Classic, 126, Jalan Perak, 10460 George Town, Penang
Operating Hours: 8:00am – 11:30am (Closed on Tuesday)
No, Ah Koo doesn’t sell prawn noodles, they serve up Hokkien mee! And if you want to be taken seriously as a foodie in Penang, you should never make the mistake of calling the dish the former. Ever!
In any case, the Hokkien mee here comes in a deep and intense broth that’s loaded with a generous portion of shredded prawns. The flavour profile is a little sweet, true. But you can always balance it with fried shallots and a cup of kopi o, mai liao (black coffee without sugar).
However, with a short operating time, your window to secure a bowl can be a challenge. Also, you may have to wait for up to 30 minutes during peak hours. Nevertheless, both those things merely underline just how sensational the star attraction here is.
KAMPUNG JAWA CHAR KOAY TEOW
Address: Wahong Café, Lorong Kampung Jawa, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang
Operating Hours: 7:00am – 12:00pm (Closed on Sunday)
The portions may be small for the price (RM7.50). But every bite casts its spell on you, so much so that you'll be willing to pay more by the time you're done.
The char koay teow isn't overly dry, and the egg is thoroughly immersed in the jamboree of flat noodles, bean sprouts, chopped garlic and lard. In a word, it's "magical"!
Yes, Penang isn't the only place in the world that does good char koay teow. But we do it best! And at Kampung Jawa, it's on another level. In fact, it’s even received the thumbs up of certain Members of Parliament.
HAINAN LOR MEE
Address: Hai Beng Coffee Shop, 32, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, 10200 George Town, Penang
Operating Hours: 8:30am – 4:00pm (Closed on Wednesday)
If you believe the tales, this is the oldest lor mee stall in Penang. Even if it isn't, what's important to know is that the owners have been making the same dish over and over again for years, to the point that it's near perfect.
Reinvention? Who needs it? And especially not when you have firm noodles in a broth as rich, savoury and flavourful as this.
Pro tip: Ask for more fried shallots and don't hesitate to pay for an additional egg. You're welcome!
LEBUH ACHEH WAN TAN MEE
Address: 34, Lebuh Acheh, 10300 George Town, Penang
Operating Hours: 7:00am – 1:00pm (Opens daily)
It's honestly hard to pick the best wan tan mee spot. But if you're focused on the texture of the noodles and how they interact with the dark soy sauce rather than the dumplings, this stall is second to none.
Your options here include conventional egg noodles and two unique deep-fried noodle varieties (choose between thick or thin). Yet know that whatever you go for, the experience will be unforgettable.
Incidentally, and not that it should matter, but food vlogger Mark Wiens thinks the place rocks too!
MOHAMED RAFFEE NASI KANDAR
Address: 295, Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Penang
Operating Hours: 7:30am – 11:59pm (Opens daily)
Is a trip to Penang even valid without one having had a plate of nasi kandar? We think not, which is why it's amazing that the Michelin list did not include a single nasi kandar joint.
Still, which is the best of them all, considering the long lines outside the most popular ones?
Well, to us, Mohamed Raffee wins every single time.
The fish curry alone is worth the price of admission But it's the full orchestra of kuah campur (mixed curries) that the folks here pile onto your plate of rice that will truly blow your socks off.
The roti canai (or prata) is also great.
Penang's food history is rich, and its people have strong opinions. As such, there is no doubt that the list above will be debated too. Still, that's part of the fun about food, isn’t it? No one is wrong and everyone is right.
See you at the table!
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