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Kamat Y

Travelled to 8 countries / regions

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I'm Malay living in KL. Many friends from Penang

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Asia > Malaysia > Penang > Useful Info
Submitted on Feb 11, 2019 Useful Info

Penang street food and hawker center food safety & cleanliness

  • Malaysia is known for its hawker centers that serve all manners of fast/street food and Penang is not an exception. There are many hawker centers in and around George Town and they're the best places to get authentic local food (you'll see that 95% of the diners are locals, not tourists)
  • What are hawker centers in Penang (and Malaysia): a hawker center is basically a giant standalone food court with many many tables in thd middle surrounded by lots of different independent food vendors (see picture below). There are no hosts or hostesses to sit you. You simply sit down at a non-reserved table yourself (reserved tables will have a plaque on it indicating that it's reserved), remember the table number, then order at any food vendor, tell them your table number, go back to your table, wait for the vendor to bring your food, and finally pay when the vendor brings your food over. Note that credit cards are almost never accepted so bring lots of cash! Bigger hawker centers also have music and other entertainment for diners. It's the best way to try authentic local foods in Malaysia
  • Food from hawker centers are safe to eat. Food is prepared in enclosed spaces and are most often made fresh to order. We Malaysians usually eat at these places multiple times a week. I've never had any issues with the food from these places
  • It's always a good idea to make sure you're eating at a popular hawker center. Popular places mean that they've likely never had safety issues. Hawker centers usually start getting busy around sunset (19:00) so go around this time to assess popularity. In Penang there are a number of really popular ones, including Red Garden, Gurney Drive Hawker Center (right next to Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon), New Lane, and CF Food Court
  • Besides hawker centers, there are also some street food vendors in Penang that set up tables literally on the side of streets around dinner time. I would advise against eating at these types of road-side eateries since they're not very supervised and they usually serve the poorer population so quality and food safety is not a top priority for them


What a typical hawker center looks like in Penang:

User submitted photo of Penang