Penang may be my birthplace, but I feel like I have not earned the right to call myself a Penangite.  In many ways, because we moved away from Penang when I was just nine, I have more of an affinity to my current hometown than to Penang.  Despite that, some memories remain.


Like catching tadpoles in puddles of water at the nearby construction site behind Penang Free School until my mum would yell for me to come back home for dinner.   Picking up pretty mosaic tiles when the workers were not looking, and gazing at the colourful reflective pieces for hours after.   Walking with my mum to the wet market, and afterwards treating ourselves to a bowl of kuay teow th’ng, perching ourselves on battered steel stools and ravishing the noodles with wide smiles on our faces.


My life at nine through rose-tinted glasses, perhaps.   As a child, it never occurred to me that we were different from others.  My brother used to say, “Appa is black, Amma is white, and I am brown”.   We weren’t blind to colour, but we were colour blind.

(all photos above taken on location in various parts of Penang)


1. Pulau Tikus at night


We arrived at Penang at about 10.00pm and before even checking into our hotel, we drove straight to the Pulau Tikus market for Round One of Penang street food.


Five of us shared one plate of Penang chee cheong fun – flat rice noodles with a dark sauce containing the primary ingredient – prawn paste.

2. Pulau Tikus in the morning

Chee Cheong Fun

Kway Teow Th’ng

Kway Chap

Chai Tow Kway

One can never go hungry at the Pulau Tikus market in the morning.   There is an amazing selection of freshly cooked food – from currypuffs to pancakes, chai tow kway (fried carrot cake) to mamak mee.   The market bustles with activity and loud voices compete as customers haggle for the best prices.

3. Swee Kong Coffee Shop


One of the bestsellers at this coffee shop is the apom stall manned by an Indian man.   The apom (crispy “pancake”) is sweet, eggy and coconutty – I can’t believe it costs only 50 sen a piece.


The hokkien mee (or prawn mee in this part of the world) is another fast selling item.  Thanks to Boo’s persistence, the owner scraped the remnants to make up this last bowl of noodles for the day.


Wantan mee with fried wantans is another popular dish here.   It is served with a little bit of thick gravy, quite unlike anything I’ve ever tried before.

Swee Kong Coffee Shop
Burmah Road

4. Seng Lee Coffee Shop


At the corner of Burmah Road and Bangkok Lane (across from Swee Kong and a short walk up) is Seng Lee, another institution, famous for hokkien mee, pasembor and mamak mee.


The pasembor (mamak rojak) containing fritters, hard boiled eggs, bean curd and boiled potatoes in a spicy peanut sauce is highly addictive.

5. Pork satay


Take a short work down Bangkok Lane in search of the elusive pork satay man with his pushcart.

Pork satay

Instead of ketupat (rice cakes), this satay is served with toasted bread.



~ Those who have much are often greedy, those who have little always share. ~
Oscar Wilde

I guess we must be paupers.


Also check out:

The Nirvana Bus Tour

The Nirvana Bus Tour, Prologue and A Nirvana Tribute

The Nirvana Bus Tour – The Tanjung Tualang Chapter