Georgetown on Penang island is a city full of AMAZING food! The name of the island on its own already sounds like a delicious curry 😛 The food culture is diverse and blends a pallet of Indian, Malay, Chinese and some middle eastern too- you can imagine how wonderful the street food is with all these cuisines combined! In this Georgetown Food Guide you’ll find places to eat, a summary of our favorite cafes and the most authentic place in Georgetown to grab a drink at night.
Dishes to try
There are many dishes available in Penang! We only got to try a fraction of them as many contain meat which we don’t eat. Below is a list of pescatarian, vegetarian (🙐) or vegan (𝓥) dishes we tried:
ABC dessert – shaved ice decorated with fruit syrups and colored jellies; traditionally topped with corn kernels and beans 🙐 (honestly, not our favorite 😅)
Aloo Gobi – Punjabi curry made with potato and cauliflower 🙐
Asam Laksa – A signature dish of Penang. A seafood based soup (often with a hard boiled egg) which can be described as sweet, sour and spicy
Banana Leaf Thali – Rice and appalam served with six vegetable curries and gravy side dishes; and served on a Banana leaf 🙐
Char Koay Teow – Stir fried flat rice noodles made with garlic soy served with shrimp
Cheena (Chana) Masala – Curry made with chickpeas and spicy onion tomato masala gravy 🙐
Clay pot noodle with seafood – Served in heated clay pot, this noodle dish of seafood, mushrooms and egg is still cooking as it arrives onto your table
Falafel Platter Mix – Falafels served with Hummus, Mohammara (red capsicum sauce), salad, and pita bread 𝓥
Malaysian Vegetarian Coconut Curry – A sweet and spicy curry full of flavour and veggies, served with flatbread 🙐 (available 𝓥)
Masala/Plain Tosai – Indian crepe served with potato masala, sambar and chutney 🙐
Popiah – Spring roll made with vegetables, egg and typically seafood. This dish has a sweet taste to it
Roti Canai/Pratha – Indian flatbread served with Dhal and other curries 🙐
Zaatar Manakish – Syrian Pie made over a hot plate with Zaatar spice (Thyme, Sesame and Sumac) 𝓥
Mid-Range to ‘Expensive’ Eats in Georgetown
Holy Guacamole on Love Lane ( 🙐 and 𝓥 friendly)
Love Lane is the most famous food spot in Penang, and comparably more expensive. It hosts over 10 westernized restaurants by day, turning into bustling bars by night. On our first day in Penang we had Mexican food from Holy Guacamole. After spending a month eating mostly Nasi Goreng in Indonesia, we wanted to treat ourselves to something different. We ordered two vegan burritos which tasted incredible! Along with a cocktail and beer the total price came to about RM83*.
Mr Sharwerma, on Chulia Street ( 🙐 and 𝓥 friendly)
This restaurant offers a range of Middle Eastern and Arabic foods. There is no rush at the restaurant, as you can sit back, order a shisha and enjoy the evening. We found their zaatar manakish RM8* drizzled with fresh olive oil really tasty, and the falafel-platter mix RM26* purely upstanding.
Offering food, coffee, retail, books, music and art ChinaHouse is one of the most happening places in Georgetown. The complex is made from 3 buildings, and includes 14 spaces. We had never experienced a place quite like it, walking 121 metres through an entire block to the other side.
They have fine dining and casual cafe options, with an amazing dessert variety. Manu just about started jumping with excitement when she saw a long row of different cakes available. The place offer free live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (mostly Jazz and Blues). Overall, it’s a cool place but again, on the more expensive side. You can see their menu here: https://www.chinahouse.com.my/
Cheap Vegetarian Eats in Georgetown
This Georgetown Food Guide is perfect for you, if you are sticking to a tight budget. We had a daily food and spending budget of only RM40* each which limited our freedom to eat at mid-ranged or ‘expensive’ restaurants. To be honest, this didn’t bother us as we absolutely fell in love with the street food and cheap eats in Penang – especially the Indian food found in ‘Little India’.
Our typical breakfast was Roti Canai and Masala/Plain Tosai which comes with 2-3 different chutneys. These meals are typically dirt cheap, costing us about RM5* each. For lunch-time we would typically go back for some Indian food choosing the Banana Leaf Thali for about RM8* each. Dinner time called for us to mix it up. We would commonly eat something different, heading to the Chulia night market for some Char Kuey Teow, or Malay buffet style food.
Thali-NR Sweets Cafe
Our favourite breakfast place in Little India offers the cheapest and best quality Roti Canai, Tosai and Thali. Typically, you would find us here everyday for breakfast and lunch. This eatery also offers a nice selection of sweets for dessert. They are open from 7am to about 10pm, most days except for Tuesdays.
If you are looking for little more of a finer Indian dining experience with AIR-CONDITIONING, then this is your place. We found this place has the softest and fluffiest Naan bread, which goes amazingly well with Aloo Gobi and Cheena Masala. Overall, we really enjoyed this restaurant.
Ee Beng Vegetarian Food
With a large variety (between 20-30) of vegetarian and vegan buffet style dishes, this place always satisfied our hunger. We would load up our plate with rice and add 3-4 buffet dishes on top making a leaning tower of vegetables. The most we spent here was RM8 per plate.
Chulia Night Market
No Georgetown Food Guide would be complete without mentioning this Night Market. You can find heaps of cheap Malay dishes here like the very tasty Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Curry Me and Wonton Noodles. It’s a very popular food spot, as it’s located in the heart of the old town- just right off Love Lane. Usually, the food market opens around 5.30pm. Here we enjoyed Char Koay Tiew.
Jetty Food Court
With over 30 food stalls to choose from, you will definitely satisfy your hunger here. We found Malay, Chinese, Indian, Western and Middle Eastern food to choose from. This is a great spot to taste many of Penang’s delicious dishes in one place. Here we enjoyed seafood Popiah and Claypot Noodles.
Falafel Cart on Stewart Lane
This food cart only makes Falafel wraps – the tastiest falafel wraps we came across in Georgetown with the best value for RM8. These wraps are a good size, filled with loads of salad and the owner has such a kind heart! This food cart is located on Stewart Lane (next to the cheap beer spot mentioned near the end of this Food Guide), and opens around sunset time.
Georgetown Food Guide: 3 additional eateries we recommend on Penang Island
Near Kek Lok Si Temple: Purple Stone Vegetarian Food Center
We wished this place was in the center of Georgetown and not a bus ride away as it has an outstanding vegetarian/ vegan food variety for a very low price (for about 8RM each we got a meal with tea). Their vegetarian steamed buns was a highlight for Dan! You should definitely have lunch here when visiting the Kek Lok Si temple.
In Batu Ferringhi: Café Vsassy
We went to Café Vsassy for breakfast. This place has no menu but the friendly owners are happy to help you with your choice. Manu had an amazing Banana Tosai and Dan his standard two Masala Tosai’s. We don’t remember the exact amount we spent here, but together with a drink each it was LESS than 10RM!
In Batu Ferringhi: Rubin Mardini Café and Restaurant
This small restaurant serving Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes has honestly the best hummus we’ve ever tasted! It is served with quality olive oil and delicious flatbread. We also had the falafel wraps which tasted wonderful. On top the atmosphere is very welcoming and the service is great.
Georgetown Food Guide: Our favorite Cafes
Upon arriving in Malaysia, we were surprised to find a large coffee culture, with beautifully furnished cafes and delicious Barista made coffee. In addition to street food, Georgetown continues to deliver the goods with its cafes. There are many to choose from, but we quickly found our favorites.
Penang Yin’s Sourdough Bakery and Cafe
An excellent spot for the early birds: opening at 7am, when the rest of Georgetown is still sleeping, you can get a coffee and Egg-Focaccia bread set for only RM10. They make their own bread onsite, and compared to the other cafes it is not expensive at all.
The Mugshot Cafe & Bakery
This cafe is best known for its location just off Love Lane, its wonderful coffee and European style baked goods. As Bagels, croissants etc. are not commonly found in Malaysia, it was so refreshing to find them available here. In addition to the charm and taste, bagels are toasted in a wood-fired oven before served to you.
The Mugshot open from 8am and open till late. For its close proximity to our hostel, and its tasty coffee, The Mugshot Cafe was Dan’s favorite.
Ome by Spacebar Coffee
A short 10 minute walk away from Love Lane, Ome was Manu’s favorite pick. Upon arrival the decor grabs your attention: exposed brick walls, simple wooden furniture and the feature tree trunk table in the middle. They have a limited food menu, but their coffee is phenomenal.
Their amazingly friendly staff offer different coffee beans regularly, and have a very precise approach when making coffee. It is a small cafe with limited seating, so we recommend getting there early. They are open from 8am to 6pm, and closed on Thursdays.
The Nook Books And Coffee
This is the perfect place for book lovers! We have to admit it was hard for us to find cheap second hand books in Georgetown; Dan searched from store to store, until he found this place. With a library of books surrounding you in this little cafe, it’s a wonderful place to find a new book to read whilst enjoying a barista made coffee. They have limited food options and are open from 11am to 8pm; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Best place to grab a drink
Stewart Lane Beer Spot
This place offers no food but as it is the best local spot to have a drink at night while engaging with fellow travellers and locals, we don’t want you to miss out on it and have added it to this Georgetown Food Guide! It’s the cheap bottle store in Georgetown that comes alive at night, making it one of the most happening places.
The store sets up chairs and tables outside on the side of the street, so locals and tourists come together to enjoy a cheap can of beer, some wine or other beverages.
Georgetown Food Guide: Private Cooking Class
Want to learn how to cook a traditional Malay curry? The curry can be easily prepared with meat, vegetarian and vegan! The Brick Café offers cooking classes for as low as RM80* per person.
We had such a wonderful time in the kitchen, learned amazing new kitchen hacks we haven’t thought of before but are so helpful and the curry tastes absolutely delicious. Head to ‘Your easy guide to exploring Georgetown’ for more information on this class and other things you can do in Georgetown.