How to eat like a local in Penang

Hawkers Market
Pulau Tikus Hawkers Market – our local!

I’m going to share a guilty secret. Until this trip to Penang we had never eaten at a hawkers market before, nor in fact any sort of street food. We had never been game! Until that is, fellow Aussies showed us how it was done at their local hawkers market, Pulau Tikus. And without doubt this has been the best thing we have learnt in Penang.

First step is casing the joint. Wandering through the market having a look at all the stalls and seeing what appeals. Stand and watch them dishing up other meals to get an idea. Some helpfully have menus with pictures. And of course because this is Penang, most speak some English.

Hawkers Market

Second Step is one of you (usually me) sits at a table whilst the other (usually James) orders. This way they can point out where to deliver the food to the stallholders. Mind you, we are usually the only Westerners at our market so it is pretty easy! No Money changes hands until the food turns up at your table with all the cutlery you will need. Meanwhile, sitting at the table I have an important job, catching the eye of the drinks lady. No bottles of wine on offer here mind, but a choice of the local beer Tiger or Carlsberg and numerous soft drinks and water. Unsurprisingly we always order a large bottle of icy beer and two glasses!

Hawkers Market
This is our friend the satay man who waves to us every night and calls James “Sir”.

Then for the exciting bit. The food arrives! And you have to pay up, so I always keep a stash of 1RM or 5RM notes in my purse so the change is easy for them. The average cost of a plate is about AUS$2.50. We usually push the boat out and have one Laksa (my favourite), a dish of stir-fried greens, 10 chicken satay sticks (with the best peanut sauce EVER) and a rice or noodle dish. Total spend about AUS $8 and then just over $5 for the beer. I kid you not! But most importantly it is utterly delicious.  When you have finished you just get up and leave, the drinks lady doubles as the table clearer.

Hawkers Market
Okay it is not fine dining, no Wedgewood or Waterford here but it is top tucker! Left to Right, my favourite Laksa, stir fried greens, fried rice and at the back the satay chicken sticks.

Afterwards, if you have any room left and fancy something sweet there is a baker’s stall. Last night I bought a couple of his little wholemeal cinnamon buns for 2RM each (less than $1). We had them for breakfast this morning with a touch of butter, exquisite!

So folks, guess who has only managed to eat two home cooked meals in our two weeks of housesitting? But why would we bother when we have this just downstairs!

Hawkers Market

  • Prices correct at time of writing April 2018
Posted in : Malaysia, The big trip

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