MOST of my visits to my hometown in Penang involve a food crawl of some sort – from the time I arrive to the time I leave the island.
Whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner or supper, there is an abundance of choice.
While many pre-war houses were bought over by entrepreneurs to be turned into modern eateries, there are still traders carrying on the food legacy of their parents and grandparents.
These family businesses have stood the test of time.
Here are 10 of my favourite Penang teatime snacks:
1 Apam Balik
Referred to as ban jian kuih (in Hokkien), these griddled pancakes are filled with chopped peanuts, creamed corn, and sometimes grated coconut can be found in various locations.
One notable stall, called Apam Balik MBS, operates opposite the Methodist Boys’ School along Jalan Air Itam.
Owner Nasir Yaakob mostly caters to students. Business is quite slow during the school holidays, but Nasir still churns out plenty of apam balik for customers who ply Jalan Air Itam.
His apam balik is tasty – not too sweet and with generous filling. The stall opens every day from noon to late evening.
2 Sweet Potato Balls
I have fond memories of accompanying my mother to the Batu Lanchang Market and tucking into snacks from the adjacent food complex. My favourite? The fried sweet potato and tapioca balls from Yeoh Bakery (stall No. 35).
Their deliciously addictive offerings include the yam rolls, mini curry puffs, doughnuts and cream puffs.
Owner Richard Yeoh gets everything ready at about 7am from his home and sells the treats at the stall (noon-5pm).
3 Pisang Goreng
It cannot be said often enough that the pisang goreng (banana fritters) at the Tanjung Bungah Pisang Goreng stall is one of the best. Cousins Teh Choon Pin and Lim Thuan Hin operate from a white van near the Maybank branch along Jalan Tanjung Bungah.
Perfectly ripe Pisang Raja is double dipped in a secret batter and fried to perfection alongside sweet potato, tapioca, kuih bakul (nian gao), cekodok and green bean.
Open from 1pm to 6pm, they have been around for over 40 years. Visit their Facebook page: Penang Pisang Goreng.
Little India in Penang is a destination for food. Be sure to check out the Penang Famous Samosa stall along Lebuh Pasar (Market Street) just across from Queen Street.
Sardine, chicken and vegetarian samosa are fried fresh daily alongside vadai and sweet purees.
The samosa are crispy and do not have that undesirable soggy texture. Get a few and head to one of the coffeeshops or restaurants to have your hot cup of tea with them (2pm-6pm).
This delicious and spicy snack made from gram and rice flour mixed with spices and peanuts is available in a few shops in Little India, but the ones at Penang Famous Samosa stall are pretty tasty.
Their version has delectable flavours of garlic and just the right amount of heat from the chilli powder. You can also find omapodi in Thulasiraman along Lebuh Pasar.
6 Ginger Tea
If you find yourself around Penang Road, try the ginger tea at T.S. Bismi stall along Lebuh Tamil.
You cannot miss the fresh aroma of ginger coming from the huge cauldron of boiled ginger. The stall is manned by Abdul Majeed Seeni Mohamad, who took over the business from his grandfather, whom he was named after.
The tea leaves are imported from Sri Lanka and Majeed uses cow’s milk, resulting in a strong, creamy tea. T.S. Bismi is open 24 hours.
Penang is synonymous with cendol, and the place to go to is Lebuh Keng Kwee for the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul.
You will notice two stalls – the famous one has a long queue, but the cendol at the not-so-famous one is not bad either.
The Tan family has been at it for the past 80 years, and people keep returning to the stall because of the consistent quality.
What makes a good bowl of cendol? A balanced ratio of coconut milk, gula melaka, red beans and green grass jelly.
Operating hours: 10.30am to 7pm (Monday to Friday) and 10am to 7.30pm (Saturday and Sunday).
8 Tau Sar Pneah
These ground mung bean biscuits are another institution, and you can find them in many places.
There are versions made with vegetable oil and those with lard. Within Chow Rasta Market, there are a number of stalls selling biscuits from the famous brand Ghee Hiang, whose factory is on Jalan Macalister.
These stalls usually open late in morning and close around 7pm.
9 Jeruk (Pickled Fruits)
Nutmeg, mango, buah salak, guava and papaya – all pickled in a sweet and sour brine.
Hoards of people frequent these stalls at the Chowrasta Market.
Take your time to try the pickles from the different stalls as they are all a bit different.
What you want is for the fruit to have a pleasant, balanced flavour and not to be too acidic.
The stalls open as early 7.30am and close at 7pm.
10 Chee Cheong Fun
Honestly, this can be consumed for breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner. It’s just versatile, and because it’s not too filling, it can also be a side dish.
The steamed flat rice noodle rolls are kept nestled and warm in the steamer. Once ordered, they are brought out, chopped and drizzled with a sweet sauce, chilli sauce and prawn paste (hea ko), then topped with splashing of oil and toasted sesame seeds.
The Genting Cafe kopitiam in Lorong Delima 3, Island Glades, has a stall that opens until 2.30pm, depending on business.