Anthony Bourdain visits ‘food capital’ Penang


Anthony Bourdain, host of Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programmes, recently visited Penang to try out the local street food. This is his verdict.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The hot and spicy spots he visited can be found on this Travel Channel map. Notice he felt most at home on the streets and in off-the-beaten-track spots rather than in fancy restaurants, swanky cafes or ‘iconic buildings’.

READ MORE:  Why Penang is no. 2 in CNN's best places to visit in 2017
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  1. Penang food at Singapore’s Changi Airport:


    What started as a Penang food court dedicated to dishes from Penang’s famous hawker centre of the same name has since expanded to become an empire of Penang food in Singapore – it also runs two Gurney Drive Signature branches, four Penang Culture restaurants, and a Penang St Buffet restaurant at Causeway Point. The dish to try: The Claypot Assam Curry Fish Head.

    • Sarawak laksa has made it into the Top 10 wish list of world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain for his food market in New York.

      The 53-year-old chef and TV personality named the Malaysian dish together with nine others via The List App.

      Bourdain appears to be a fan of Sarawak laksa, specifically the one from Choon Hui Kopitiam in Kuching.

      He first visited the shop in 2005 to film for Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and again in May last year to shoot for CNN’s “Parts Unknown”.

      Following his last visit, he posted a picture of the laksa via Instagram, captioning it “breakfast of gods”. The post received over 46,000 likes.

  2. Tapping the cooks
    We should take advantage of the expertise of old-time hawkers to make Penang even more famous as a food hub.

    HOKKIEN mee seller Loo Chin Wah, 72, has been much featured in local and national press recently. After over 50 years, Ah Wah, as he is affectionately known, dished up the last bowl of his famous prawn-stock noodles on Aug 24, thus bringing to a close yet another iconic stall selling popular Penang favourites.

    Counting one (Hokkien Mee Ori-maestro), counting two (who’s next to retire?)… with no successor. While SingLand is still recruiting more Ori-Maestros from Penang.

  3. Guarding our reputation as food haven – NST
    PENANG is an undisputed food haven with a myriad of local delicacies in every nook and corner, especially in George Town. However, the influx of immigrants working as cooks have created doubts over our gastronomic reputation.

    Read more: Guarding our reputation as food haven – Northern – New Straits Times

    In my 2-cents opinion, The Ori-Maestros of Penang don’t give a damn as long as they maximize profits with cheapo foreign labors. Since they are given no state recognition, who cares if they engage a Myanmar or Indon as chief cook! Also, more time for share markets mah! Complaint of lower standard will fall on deaf ears as they bid their time to early retirement with no successors (which is no big problem to them but to the state reputation).

    • Foreigners are now being hired to cook Penang heritage hawker food as the masters now plying their trade in Singapore? Just go to Sentosa’s Malaysia Food Street and you can see that many Penang master hawker chefs have migrated there, leaving their stalls in the hands of Indonesia kakaks and Bangladeshi workers.

      Strangely many people do not support the Penang government’so plan to ban foreign cooks at hawker stalls. Damage is already done at KL’s Petaling Street and Jalan Alor hawker stalls with many foreigner cooks!

    • If you see the Taiwanese program on street & restaurant food on Astro, you will salivate onto your couch!
      Not only you see food being prepared in the kitchens, the presentation brings you to the source of ingredients & their ori-maestros with bits of history & even the ambience of kitchen or countryside.
      The photography is natural & spontaneous, not contrived as if welded on tripod. And good editing to bring out the style of documentary shooting without the glamor of bling-bling.

      • Can watch such programs on Youtube. No need to be held at ransom by Astro by the high subcription fees.

        The Taiwanese iWalker food hosts are more interesting than Bourdain, who cannot appreciate the intricacies of Asian cooking.

        With high speed broadband, we can enjoy good content on the web. I choose to pay only for internet connection to get video on demand, not the Astro subscription that gives you repeated and recycled programs.

      • Everyone got choices. Bear in mind those computer illiterates who are happy to pay for a bigger view & better AV quality than online disruption/misses @ Starry-Eyed Bucks.

    • Laksa featured at Air Itam market near Kek Lok Si Temple.

      The final scene at Red Garden, Bourdain on actual nite (i was there) ordered Char Hor Fun as well besides Curry Fish Head and many many more side dishes (cheap cheap to ang moh).

      Can some kind soul tell me where Bourdain has his special seafood stall for his prawn/fish meals ? Teluk Kumbar ? Batu Maung ?

      • Ian Wright descibed Penang laksa gravy as ‘water from River Thames’ in his Globe Trekker program on penang.

      • Yeah like some visitors simply love our durians while others just can’t stand the smell. Ian Wright is quite a difficult guy to please when it comes to tasting other people’s food.

  4. Anthony stuffing his face and intoxicating himself as usual… hehe, I want his life. Maybe in the next life.

    I thought someone took him to Lorong Selamat for our famous in Singapore char koay teow, fried by our poster girl of Penang Street food ( have you seen how many Singies take their picture with her?)

    I’m quite sure I remember reading this somewhere because of Miss Grumpy’s response to his asking her whether she spoke English.

    “If I could speak English, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

    I just love this woman, don’t you?

  5. I was at Monkey Beach when they were shooting there. Brought some guests on jetskis and they were nicely suprised to see Anthony Bourdain there.

    Pretty cool experience to see him in person

  6. This little island to the east of East India called Pulo Panang or fondly called Phaenang by the Thais was a gem till this day. Full of diversity of cultures, colorful festivities & varied & spicy cuisine, old world charm Penang still owns a living heritage that baffles the minds & creates a rush of appetite in the uninitiated (tourists & Tham Chiak Kuis).
    The real exploration of living heritage begins in the streets.
    Not makeup plastic-fibreglass recreation mockup decked with lifeless mannequins that can’t cook up a dish of Baba Nyonya heavenly cuisine.

    • Guan Eng and Teng stand united in defence of Penang hawker food:
      But then why deferred the Street Food Museum proposal?
      We have the space for it, the proximity to food haven, but we are just ‘relaxed’ until one fine day, SingLand finally managed to lure all the Penang Ori-Maestros to their green green grass of SingKahPoh!
      A food museum is a strong strategy as well as tactical (experiential & viral) marketing with networking possibilities to further Penang’s No.1 branding as the best street food in Asia.
      Now is the Hungry Ghost Month. Anil, can you get a poll on street food from them Tham Chiak Kuis?

      • Xia Boay (Prangin Canal area) to have Penang Heritag Centre. However, I was at Penang Forum but nobody speaks of setting up a street food museum no wonder no an issue of concern to penang gomen.

        may be tunglang can approach the 2 Tengs who has the 1$ to do so ?

        that Hokkien Mee Maestro at Church Street who just retired – has anybody approached him for his hawker memorabilia for future museum ?

        no urgency afterall

      • may be tunglang can approach the 2 Tengs who has the 1$ to do so?
        I am mulling about this. (I personally know one of them).
        At least I will not be told off:
        “No Money, No Talk!”

      • (A certain person) has acquired considerable amount of $ with “$mart business” transaction. to approach him gotta have the savy “u help me i help u” thinking and the consequences (public perception) is left to your imagination while sipping kopi kow kow.

      • Dear sts,
        Try knocking some sense in me?
        Well, then recommend me some ‘angel’ investors who share my passion.
        Rich people know when to take risks, politically or otherwise.
        The competitive world doesn’t wait for the weak hearted. Time is money! Perception is all in the erratic mind.

    • So you have seen where are the real bargains – heavenly food, can say affordable, & heritage ambience of innercity George Town. It all in the streets, not in plastic, overtly slipper-cleanliness obsessed (to the point of expensive charges) outlets of wannabes trying to be authentic Penang cuisine.
      Anthony Bourdain now knows better (after a few trips here).

  7. Astor TLC channel not yet showing this episode taken during CNY2012. Probably next year while we get to watch it free at youtube !

    Sites frequented by Bourdain Penang which tunglang might want to have a write-ups ?

    CF Food Court
    Kopitiam along Weld Quay where Bourdain has his Won Ton Mee upon touchdown from Bayan Lepas airport.

    Tony Bourdain and food writer/journalist Helen Ong explore the culinary delights of New Lane. Tony tries char kway teow (stir-fried ricecake strips) for the first time.
    33 New Lane (off Macalister Road), 10400 Penang, Malaysia
    Also sample Helen Ong’s mother homecook nyonya food at her home which address Bourdain would not disclose.

    Monkey Beach
    Barbecue fish caught live at nearby fish sanctuary.

    Tony and Leonard enjoy some of Penang’s best banana leaf curry: chicken, mutton, crab and fish. Mutha’s is a local’s only establishment that is fiercely loved.
    143 Acheen St., 10300 Penang, Malaysia

    Nasi Kandar “Line Clear”
    “Line Clear” sits in an alleyway off Penang Road. In Malaysian street lingo, “line clear” means business as usual for whatever moves through busy back lanes.
    Behind 117 Penang Rd, Penang, Malaysia

    Drinking Tiger/Anchor beer on trishaw as he navigated the inner Penang.

    Finally at Red Garden for again Fish Head Curry.
    One of Penang’s culinary gems is the Red Garden. The bright red-neon and fluorescent food court sits in the middle of Leith Street.
    No. 20, Leith Street, 10000 Penang, Malaysia

    • Thanks you tuakee for your ‘value-add’ contribution, minus the irrelevant ‘kopi commentary’ like a certain reader..

      • A distasteful one-liner irrelevant in this street food topic. More suited for manic-rocket launching ceramah in Polo Ground with polis & ambulance standby (just in case it fails miserably)!


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