The unbearable heat of daytime Penang means you’ll be exploring George Town in the full glare of the sun. Good thing the best of the Penang food scene kicks off soon as evening sets in.
The nighttime street hawkers of Lebuh Chulia are the most famous example, with Lebuh Kimberley coming in a close second.
Lebuh Kimberley, about ten minutes’ walk south of Lebuh Chulia, attracts plenty of foodie fans due to their authentic Malaysian street food selections. Blame this on Kimberley’s long association with Teochew immigrants from China (Penangites still call it “Swatow Street”, due to the immigrant community’s origins in China’s Swatow province, present-day Shantou).
The Hawkers of Lebuh Kimberley
As night falls on Penang, the corner of Lebuh Cintra and Lebuh Kimberley – particularly the sidewalks surrounding the kopitiam Kedai Kopi Sin Guat Keong – comes to life, with an assortment of stalls taking their accustomed positions on the street.
There’s a community-like feel to the hubbub here, and it’s no coincidence. These hawkers tend to be the offspring of previous generations of hawkers who sold the same familiar recipe on the same spot for years.
The hawkers possess a lifetime connection with their regular patrons that can be hard to break. As food tour entrepreneur and Penangite Mark Ng explains, “You’re connected to them – There’s a bonding right there that you just don’t want to disrespect by going to other vendors!”
Lebuh Kimberley is far less congested than Lebuh Chulia, and more importantly, suffers from less motor traffic. Eating at Lebuh Chulia sometimes feels like playing tag with moving vehicles, as RapidPenang buses, automobiles and scooters zoom past.
What to Eat at Lebuh Kimberley
Everything here is good to eat – and cheap, too. You can buy a complete meal for just under MYR 6 (about $1.80) – choose from a number of traditional Malay-influenced Chinese foods, from koay chiap to lok-lok to the classic char kway teow.
Char kway teow: some pundits have named Lean Joo Sean’s char kway teow the best in all of Penang, and from this writer’s personal experience, it’s hard to dispute.
Mr. Lean uses seafood-infused oil to cook his fried noodles – the oil was previously used to fry prawns. Stir-fried on a wok with duck egg, beansprouts, chives, cockles, Chinese sausages, and optional mantis prawns, the resulting char kway teow is an amazing blend of rich seafood flavors and greasy but substantial mouthfeel.
Koay teow th’ng: this noodle soup combines clear pork stock, rice noodles, and an array of garnishes – pork slices, fish cake, liver, mincemeat and fish balls. The koay teow th’ng stall on Lebuh Kimberley serves chicken feet braised in soy sauce, star anise and garlic – a strange but delicious side dish.
Duck koay chiap: Por Beng Kuan has been ladling out this stuff for the past thirty years from this very spot, and he shows no sign of slowing down. His specialty consists of rice noodles submerged in a dark soy-sauce infused soup, and mixed with all the extras – duck meat, liver, hard-boiled egg, chopped pigskin, clotted pig blood, and pork intestines.
Economy bee hoon: this dish is nothing fancy, just fried yellow noodles served with bean sprouts, crisp beancurd sheets, and chili sauce.
Ch’ng teng: This one’s for dessert: traditional Chinese sweet treats made of dried longan, jelly cubes, beans, and gingko nuts drowned in sweet syrup and almond milk.
Lebuh Kimberley Street Food at a Glance
Address: Intersection of Lebuh Cintra and Lebuh Kimberley, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia (location on Google Maps).
Business hours: 6pm – 12.30pm every evening
Mark’s company Simply Enak hosts food tours in Kuala Lumpur and Penang; read about a day-to-night food tour of George Town with Mark Ng. For more details, visit their website, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call +60 17 287 8929.