Eating out in Penang, Malaysia


penang asam laksa

Asam Laksa food stall in Penang, Malaysia

One of the best reasons to visit Penang, Malaysia is the food. It’s simply divine! The local specialty is asam laksa. Make sure you try asam laksa at a food stall in a hawker center. The one I went to (see photo above) was on the street at the end of the path down the Kok Lek Si Buddhist temple.

Asam laksa is nothing like the Singapore laksa. Asam laksa broth is deep rich brown and has a sour-sweet-salty taste; Singapore laksa by contrast contains a lot of coconut milk and is too heavy for my taste.

penang asam laksa

Bowls of delicious asam laksa in Penang

What’s in asam laksa? Noodles, sambal belacan (shrimp paste with red chillis), shallots, coriander leaves, tamarind, polygonum leaf (also called daun laksa or Vietnamese mint leaf), galangal, lemongrass, among others. There’s nothing like it in the world. Other local dishes to try at the hawker centers include popiah, sambal petai, sambal kangkung, char koay teow, bubur cha cha, and chendol.

penang malaysia hawker center

dried squid food stall penang

The only place in Singapore where I had an asam laksa that came as close to this one is at the Old Malaya Cafe in the basement of the 313 Orchard shopping center.

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.