Penang assam laksa a global Top 10 hit: CNN


Penang assam laksa has been ranked seventh – ahead of Thailand’s ‘tom yum goong’ – in a list of the “world’s 50 most delicious foods”, published by CNN.


Another reason why Penang is on the world map for its street food. And another reason why we should carefully protect and promote our street food heritage.

We certainly can’t rest on our laurels as our neighbours north and south are putting up some stiff friendly competition. Thailand has ‘massaman curry’ in top spot, ‘tom yum goong’ (8th), nam tok moo (19th) and ‘som tam’ (46th) while Singapore has ‘chili crab’ (35th) and ‘chicken rice’ (45th). (Chicken rice from Singapore?)

What happened to the rest of the Penang favourites?

See the full ranking on CNN.

Now, do share with us in the comments below where you think is the best place to get the yummiest assam laksa in Penang.

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  1. Seems like the spice of Assam Laksa is losing its flavour after the revelation of the RM50 million on the other Spice project?

  2. AXN’s Ebuzz featured Assam Laksa of Gurney Drive hawker centre, alongside the Penang Road Cendol.

    I have tried both over the weekend as they should be halal.

  3. Samantha Brown in Malaysia just shown over Astro. While in Penang, she enjoyed the street food at New Lane; especially the Wan Ton Mee there. No mention of Asam Laksa.

    Have anyone tried and care to comment about that Won Ton Mee at New Lane ?

  4. To all TCKs of Penang :
    Watch out for next fast eating local street food events.

    Culinary Arts Centre of Penang recently organised Laksa eating contest.
    The winner was a lady named Ying Ying who walloped 1kg of Assam Laksa in 2 min 58 seconds. Got E&) Hotel buffet dinner as prize besides a certificate, a hamper & a medal.

    The laksa was sponsored by a stall at Joo Hooi Cafe in Penang Road.

    tunglang, may be Ying Ying is your daughter ?

    • I wish she were, fat or slim! So that I can ride on her success, a short cut to fame in Penang and some ‘fortune’ on the way.
      You know what? Viral is the key word in marketing nowadays, whether online or audio word of mouth.
      One have to self-promote / self-brand in order to move ahead of the pack. Perception is reality.
      Where is my “Good Morning” mini China towel handy for my salivating now? Time for my favorite Kopi-O kau kau (self-service to save money) to further freshen my mind and spirit for the wonderful day ahead.

  5. a fact tunglang should be aware b4 he sets up his museum : ori-maestos are typically selfish to safeguard their secret recipes and not easy because of EGO to get them under one roof. imagine having bruce lee, jackie chan, donnie yuen and jet li under one roof and you get rojak kung-fu ! so be careful otherwise you get ‘rojak’ kind of street food under one museum !!!!!!!!

    • Diversity of Asian cuisine, that’s the color and magnetic pull of a street food museum that will attract those interested in Penang’s unique recipes of global culinary fame. When presented in a ‘tasteful’ manner and exhibited as unity in diversity, it will shine thro’ the roof in the dead of night!
      If I were an Ori-Maestro, why would I keep myself and my secret recipes to the back wall of heritage ambience inconspicuous to the TCK food lovers of famed Penang street cuisine?
      Should this street food museum materialize, there will be many hawkers lining up to have a piece of eternal fame in the Hall or Walk of Ori-Maestros cast in portraiture bronze.
      I am now trying my favorite Kopi-O kau kau mixed with orange juice to sweeten my food for thoughts for the Street Food Museum Proposal materializing in the pipeline of tunglang’s creative endeavors.

  6. Ambience Space Music ? R U refering to Star Wars type of music ?

    I recommend you listening to music of The Chemical Brothers – surely with techno feel can give you the “lifting” 60’s spirits to create a n illusion for traditional street food museum such that when you are truly “syiok” u can have the inspiration for the concept turned reality ………

    3-in1 coffee x2 packets (kow kow) may help !

    btw, pasar malam near Komtar may be offering underwears with tiger stripes which may be good wearing during Haloween thks to ideas from Komtar Mr. Antics.

    • It is a calming and meditative instrumental music for expanding minds in the genre of space dream music of contemplative electronic space. Star Wars? More of meditative-in-space or dimensional mind travel.
      You can get it online:
      or get it free from iTunes Radio > Ambient > DI – Ambient Space Music
      If you are at advanced stage of meditation, you may mind travel beyond earth with this meditative music. Best practice at night in quiet ambience.

      Fear of Hungry Ghost Month? Simply recharge your aural energy. And practice Bruce Lee’s 1-inch Punch for a more dynamic soul energy to repel negative ethereal forces.
      In Penang, everyday is Tham Chiak Kui fever at every gastronomical ‘hot spots’.

      • I think last year Astro showed a documentary on how Bruce Lee Changed the World, featuring your favorite Bruce Lee’s 1-inch Punch. If you miss it, watch it again when astro repeats. Also Bruce lee’s one finger push-up video is featured there.
        My friend has a big collection of Bruce Lee’s memorabilia but I wonder how you can incorporate that in Penang Street Food museum ? May be a Bruce Lee doll can be on display next to Penang Hong Kong noodles ? If interested, let me know thru this forum.

      • Bruce Lee can be iconic for 70’s kopitiams as cinema posters in Street food Museum. And Ori-Maestros being recognized as Food Sifus are metaphorical of 70’s craze for kungfu. Also, Sifus are the originators of Penang’s unique multi-cultural cuisines that hold secret recipes not easily duplicated in contents and styles of cooking anywhere else. And Sifus practice their arts (of cooking) long and with great patience for gastronomical results.

        See the link of Ori-Maetros, Heritage Cuisine and Sifus (from the kungfu practice)?

  7. Penang has this something special in the ‘living’ street hawker food of
    1) originality (authentic heavenly recipes),
    2) value for money (affordability) and
    3) heritage ambience of innercity George Town.

    Not all hawkers can claim to this golden 3-in-1 unique formula of success for Penang Heritage Street Food. One good example is the Mee Suah Th’ng @ Lorong Kampung Malabar / Penang Road junction (Ho Ping Kopitiam). Another is the Teochew Cendol @ Lebuh Keng Kwee. And no forgetting the world famous Asam Laksa next to it.
    Can we still remember why celebrity chef Chen Hong had to unashamedly crawl the streets in frenzied hunger for authentic heavenly food and not saunter in trendy-kleen, air-coned and nitty proper Gurney Plaza or stylish Queensbay?

    These 3 street hawker stalls are rare finds among the many Ori-Maestros (Sifus) of Penang Street Hawker Food that stood the test of time and myriad diners of diverse, discerning tastes, both locals and foreigners. Given their valued contributions to Penang’s famed heavenly cuisine, isn’t it fair enough to acknowledge them as our Ori-Maestros cast in bronze, their heavenly recipes and cooking styles archived in eternity in a Street Food Museum?
    Unless we are so contented to let our ‘living’ street food industry slip/morph into commonplace 2nd or 3rd grade hawker food of no heavenly originality or worst into something of the unpalatable ‘plastics’ cooked by foreigners in overt-slippery cleanliness obsessed food courts and restaurants, unashamedly over-charging beyond its so-so gastronomical value.

    If we don’t do something proactively, my worst fear (or dooms-food prediction) is the slow but sure emigration or losing out of our Ori-Maestros to other similar Little Red Dots.

    BTW, modern museums are now cutting-edged mutimedia for muti-sensory in their presentations, not just archaic display of age-old utensils or fish bones!

    Excuse me, Syiok Syiok. Tonight I am going back to my favorite life-long (since age 3) Kopi-O kau kau prepared in my now dingy studio filled with Ambience Space Music to calm my nerves and sooth my mind. I still save money 70 cents per cuppa!

    • Just came back visiting Singapore. I suggest tunglang to visit current special exhibition of China’s Terra Cotta Warriors from Xian at the Asian Civilization Museum. The ancient display has been enhanced by state-of-the-art visual presentation aided by subtle background music. One can learn to incorporate such settings for let’s say Penang Street Food Museum. Of course we need the utensils (no fish bones but fossils relics of Penang is good) to balance the presentation of old n new combination.

  8. Samantha Brown in Asia will have an episode on Penang in August 2011 (Astro TLC).

    She loves Wan Tan Mee and does anybody know which stall she went to ? No prize for guessing.

    Assam laksa will only appeal to her if only she stays longer in Penang to appreciate more dishes.

    • Want one of the best Wantan Mee in Penang?
      Crawl on all four with exceeding hunger to the stall in the humble corner kopitiam (facing Burmah Road) next to Old Town, New World Park.
      This is one of the few original and home made Wantan and noodle recipe you will surely come back for more. In fact, every Chinese New Year Eve, many will pre-order this home made Wantan for their reunion dinners.
      The name is ‘Maria Wantan Mee’, I guess. Your friendly fat mama Ori-Maestro.

      • Assam laksa is one dish that Ang Moh will take time to appreciate, just like Durian. The dish is unique in Penang, many Johor stalls have tried to replicate the taste but failed, maybe they used the wrong belacan!

        About time for Penang tourism board to invite the likes of Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern to do a food show featuring Penang Laksa for foreign audience while the CNN Go report is still hot!

      • aiyoh, please do not elevate the status of ‘Maria Wantan Mee” otherwise she shall behave arrogantly (“actionly ignorant to your order” like that Lorong Selamat goggle-wearing fried koey teow lady !

      • What happened to her as she gets older?
        Lau Huan Heng Ah! (the older, the mutation of character!)
        BTW, she used to smile a lot, notwithstanding her gaily loud voice!

    • In her interview on Tamu Awani program on Astro, Samantha mentioned that savouring Penang food, notably Wanton Mee, is the highlight of her Malaysia visit. Point to note is Nasi Kandar is not given a mention at all as Westerners are unlikely to eat such cholesterol-laden fatty food.

      Penang should chance upon this good publicity to further advertise its hawker food to the world.

      As for the much proposed Food Museum (at least on this blog), if money is the constraint, why not start small by having it as a section on the existing state museum? Something for tunglang to consider.

  9. As a Tham Chiak Kui teenager in Madras Lane, I used to wait for my favorite afternoon hawkers passing by with all sort of imaginable hawkers’ calls.
    This particular Indian or Mamak sold Nyonya Kueh and Assam Laksa on 2 baskets hanged from a long bamboo pole. I particularly liked the Laksa which was served hot and spicy with lots of vege top-ups and prawn paste. I loved the Mamak Fried Popiah which I dipped and stirred it in whirlpool Laksa soup for a slow 3-bites @ 1 go!
    Before nearing finishing my heavenly late afternoon hawker food binge, I would ask for an extra bowl of Laksa soup which I kept secretly for dinner time. Add some rice to the Laksa soup and that truly made my day.

    • Mamak Fried Popiah ? I think it’s kind of “endangered” if not “extinct” dish in Little India of Penang.

      Nasi Kandar appears to be pride of Little India to the extent that there was a free UNESCO buffet laid out at Penang Street. Insiders informed me that innocent (those not associated with Blackberry Cake antics) were working extra mile to redeem the tainted image. Anybody can update how was the response to that ?

      Anyway, I prefer Nasi Lemak Ali at Beach Street food court better. Still affordable at fixed RM1.50. Assam Laksa however is still one of the best dish.

      • Mamak Fried Popiah? I think it’s kind of “endangered” if not “extinct” dish in Little India of Penang.

        Not really endangered yet. In fact, far from it. You can still get it at many Chinese restaurants, Loh Bak stalls and even at Nyonya specialty restaurants.
        I can’t help but salivate onto my keyboard now!

    • CapturingPenang quite creative in phototaking & video.

      Time to sit back and think how you can do Penang a service (put commercialism aside) by showcasing the best of penang food beyond youtube.

      passionate food lovers will appreciate your contributions.

      • Thank you for appreciating the photos/videos on Capturing Penang.

        Can you clarify what you mean by showcasing Penang’s food beyond YouTube? We write many articles on highlighting Penang’s food, and the people and stories behind it. In addition, we share many family Chinese/Nyonya recipes.


      • probably he/she meant you should collaborate with the likes of tunglang/anil netto/thresa pht to set up a Penang Street Food museum. What say you ?

      • Museums are important to remember our history. Peranakan Mansion and Sun Yat Sen are well done. The State Museum needs some work, but it will eventually improve. But why allow our living culture – like Street Food – to be turned into exhibits? Isn’t it more appealing to tourists, and Penangites alike, to keep it a part of our daily lives? Melaka has chosen this path of turning their heritage city into a “City of Museums”. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen to our city too.

      • CapturingPenang
        You got a point for Penang to be differentiated from Melaka being uniquely a living atmosphere.
        I think tunglang has the fear that the curent mushrooming of air-con franchise is creating havoc to the traditional business.
        Also, as more wealthy folks (judging by extremely expensive condo/houses sold past few years) may choose to stay away from traditional set-up and also youngsters going for more hip joints, the street food may likely evolve into (transformation) something like Spore or Hong Kong ?

  10. The Thais are setting up thai eatries all over the world. All the orang putihs are going for thai food. malaysians are still in kampong and the well except for roti prata. I was told that practically every night, it is only one of the two shops that have people queing up the five foot way to go in for a meal in Sydney Chinatown. The other is a thai resturant.

    • The Thais have craeted a trend – even serve meals at river.

      May be passionate food lovers can learn. think out of box. convert Prangin Canal into something like that. Imagine locals and tourists savouring penang dishes on boats at Prangin Canal ?

      No need to engage consultant ….. just do “lawatan sambil belajar” (not at expense of taxpayer money) to Spore’s Boat Quay or Clarke Quay to copy and adapt to Penang environment.

      Boleh ???

  11. Penangites should welcome the news while doing some self-asking why Nasi Kandar did not make the CNN list. Perhaps the foreigners can appreciate something that we ahve taken for granted?

    We should make Assam Laksa the food to be associated with Penang, not the unhealthy (to your heart) nasi kandar which incidentally has recently been politically-laced with stupid antics of some of its masters.

  12. Frankly speaking, I know more western foreign tourists more aware of Tom Yam or Chili Crabs. They can order such food when they are in Penang and seem oblivious to wonder taste of Asam Laksa even when they are at Feringghi belt hotels. May be the look of Laksa is deceiving for those yet to accustom to taste it. Definitely our Penang marketing folks have failed to promote Asam Laksa beyond the shores of Penang !

    May be a long overdue Penang Food Museum will highlight and get these tourists to know Asam Laksa suh that this “cuisine” become more famous. It’s high time to leverage on CNN’s recomendation before this food being hijacked as popular dish elsewhere.

    Some local passionate food lovers will continue to indulge but fail to put Asam Laksa on world’s map. Any motivation needed ???

    • So much talk about Penang Street Food Museum yet no smell of it all all until now.
      Wong CW of The Star can do Penang a service by kickstart this program but will he ?

      • Don’t ask that wrong guy.

        Even the state tourism development will ask you (me already): How much? $$$$$$$…
        It seems money talks first, not vision, not mission. Not food tourism strategy. Not collaborative work.

        Without a willing, brave (dare to take the risk) and sincere private sponsorship plus State involvement, this Penang Street Food Museum initiative will stay on the back burner until all the charcoal has burnt out.

        An initiative like this is not a One-man show of tunglang who has only one brain, many street food marketing ideas but limited money.

        BTW, my Aussie friend (still a Malaysian Penangite) who was interested to promote Penang tourism via his songs has more interesting projects for his ongoing Langkawi and Melaka tourism initiatives after I failed to help him a get ‘foot’ into Penang tourism to contribute meaningfully as a Penangite.

      • tunglang,
        hearing your plight, i urge you to start the street food museum by yourself. with your vision and some start-up money (for a start, go for 3-in-1 coffee at home and save the money to be spent at alleys) to venture out. Get your 3 children to help you to save cost. since you live in Madras Lane, seek one shophouse and start small by creating museum from your vision. Once this venture takes off, sell your creation to Penang government who may seek Ivory or IJM to finance the deal. i’m serious here. a bit of hard work & can pay off eventually. so now go searching for 50’s-70’s food memorabilia (eg ancient tools to make laksa for example).
        i’m not rich to finance you but can give you moral support here.

      • I have working plans in action for my own fine art and craft design to promote the unique old world charm essence of Pulo Panang. My own E-Gallery as a cheaper option may be/most likely the affordable way to go and going global.
        BTW, I left Madras Lane 31 years ago. I would love to stay, breed and haunt there again if any rich man would want to sponsor tunglang TCK spirit back to Madras Lane. Who knows, I could do more haunting wonders of the gastronomical passions of Tham Chiak Kuis for street food hot spots in Macalister Road / Madras Lane / New Lane. How about Tunglang Kopitiam with 60’s and 70’s hawker paraphernalia display as a sort of informal built-in mini street food museum? (Brave, enterprising investors of the same TCK spirit are welcomed to chip in).

        Time for 3-in-1 Coffee (Syiok Syiok’s thrifty advice) in my favorite ideas-machine studio just for this hazy-hot-crazy afternoon.

      • Left Madras Lane so long ago ? Otherwise you can sell your shophouse at high premium now and live like Penang celebrities inposh places like Gurney Paragon !

        3-in-1 coffee not bad. Do u know that AirAsia offers 3-in-1 Nescafe for RM5 ?

      • nowadays you must do powerpoint presentation of your vision + risk assesment like SWOT analysis as those in Penang Development Corp (PDC) may look into that.
        so do a brief (not to give everything away for a start) and who knows you can get them to believe in your vision.
        Otherwise, do a collaboration with people like CapturePenang ?

  13. It’s been more than 15 years since I walloped 2 bowls on each must-visit to the Best of the Best Assam Laksa (in Asia) at Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road.
    Before, I was just an innocent Tham Chiak Kui going around / crawling for the best STREET hawker food (not the overt slippery cleanliness obsessed of plastic food courts) but without my (now) TCK signature “Good Morning” mini China towel.
    This Assam Laksa is soooo-goood and spicy-hot with the cabai-burung swimming on top, inside and hiding among the noodles, one wrong TCK bite (when you thought it’s the heavenly fish meat) and you had it – steam after steam of locomotive shooting from 2 ears of red-face, sweating uncontrollably in gastronomical delights! Even Iced Lemon Tea will fail to cool down the heavenly ooomph of this Asam Laksa served by mom and daughter.
    By the time, I finished it and reached my office, the sweats and steam had not abated yet. And my million tastes buds were still crying in frenzy for more! If only I had the mini China towel in time!
    And not forget the nearby #1 Ori-maestro’s Cendol, a must-have if you happened to crawl on all four in TCK hunger to Lebuh Keng Kwee.

      • Just ask Anil to confirm from my IP address, just that simple.
        BTW, the famed Ayer Itam Assam Laksa is getting more expensive and more salty.
        That’s the price of fame, I guess!

      • that’s the trouble to consumers. once any food stall becomes popular, the boss try to earn more by increasing prices.
        A classic example is that Lorong Selamat Fried Kuey Teow now costing RM7 minimum a plate, catering mostly for Penangites working overseas and back for snacks.

      • Only suckers will continue to patronize those over-priced hawker stalls who are also a cause of barang naik phenomenon, with or without subsidy.

  14. No sliced gherkin, but got sliced cucumber. Very nice. Also glad the shrimp paste isn’t putting people off.

  15. ROFL. Most delicious foods? CNN just send good laugh to all food fans all around the world. More appropriate to call those staple food.

  16. Ah, a sight for sore eyes. This article is akin to a refreshing flower amidst the politics news.

    My vote will definitely go to Air Itam’s roadside Laksa store.

    • in Bali Kuta beach, the foreign surfers when hungry walk back to beach and savour Mee Basok.

      At Surfer Paradise, if you serve Aasam laksa may be the surfers will get to know where Penang is.


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