The best place to eat in Penang is at Gurney Drive, which features a fantastic hawker centre along the seafront so you can be sure of some tantalisingly fresh food!
The “New Gurney Drive Hawker Centre” is probably the best known hawker in Penang, and one of the most frequented by tourists in all of Malaysia. The correct term for a night market in this part of the world is “Pasar Malam”, and here at Gurney Drive you could say that the hawker centre is more like a night market. I didn’t spend too long in Penang on my travels in the country, although one thing I was curious to check out (aside from the beaches and the temples) was its local food scene. I love Malaysian food! It is one of my favourite cuisines from Asia, although I am by no means an expert on this cuisine, so I am always willing to look for new things to try!
As well as hawker fare, there are also some amazing restaurants around the Gurney Drive area, though I didn’t eat in any of them myself as I was more interested in the street food. There were flashing neon lights outside these restaurants to catch your attention, such as at Bali Hai (“if it swims, we have it!”, they boast) and Coffee Island. Most of these restaurants stay open until 3am or later, and although I was never going to stay that late, I was still there late enough into the evening to enjoy the illuminated atmosphere as the sky got darker.
One of the best things about Gurney Drive is watching the street vendors at work, and people-watching. One such occasion came when I saw the Sugar Cane Man! My first experience of sugar cane juice actually came at Pub Street in Siem Reap, although I must say that even if the locals seem to love it, I haven’t actually ever enjoyed the taste too much myself. I would always prefer an ice-cold can of Coke! However, there is something enjoyable about watching the street vendors making this juice, as they feed the sugar canes through a shredder and wait for the juice to come out the other end, all ready to drink!
I actually had a few light meals while at Gurney Drive in Penang. Despite avoiding the classic laksa that you get in these parts, I still enjoyed some sticky rice in a makeshift version of Nasi Lemak Bungkus, which is the national dish of Malaysia but served in street food form (in a banana leaf). Later on, before leaving to get back to my hostel, I chose to get some freshly-grilled fish balls that were being sold on skewers. Both of these light meals were delicious and I really got a feeling for why Penang is known as the culinary capital of Malaysia!