Is Bangkok, Singapore street food really better than Penang’s?


Bangkok and Singapore are ahead of Penang in terms of street food, if the folks at are to be believed. What do you think?

Check out the rankings here, as reported by Reuters.

If you are a Penangite (or from elsewhere in Malaysia), this might seem outrageous, even scandalous! After all, we know our street food.

But parochial sentiments aside, what do you think? Are we losing it?

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Singapore claiming many foods originate from there is a joke. When Penang was well colonised and even Melaka Singapore was just a rock. Come to Malaysia and taste out the food and you will never think anything comes from Singapore again.


latest Taiwan’s Makan program (June 2012 edition) with focus on street food the locals like tunglang don’t want tourists to know to prevent price increase.
see the video below yourself. Waiting time for Siam Road Char Kway Teow will now be more than 1 hour now that Taiwanese are flocking over to taste it. The Ori-Maestro can be tempted to move to Taiwan or increase the price ?


To promote Penang’s Ori-Maestros & heavenly Street Hawker Food is a double-edged sword!!! On the one hand, we get influx of foreign tourists near & far who bring in the tourist dollars but on the other ‘burnt’ hand, we low salaried Penangites will suffer from inflated food prices due to ‘ho seng li’ of Ori-Maestros. And we have to contend with SingLand dangling the Sing Dollar carrot at our Ori-Maestros 24/7/365. In the 60’s & 70’s, being a hawker is a none-career prospect. Now, it is heaven sent if you happened to be the children of a famed Ori-Maestro. Should… Read more »


As someone who formerly resided in Singapore for more than a decade until two years’ back, my verdict is: Singapore hawker foods has lost much of its authenticity with the infuse of many foreigners. When you find a food court with 80% of the food sellers are foreigners who sells Shanghainese / Szechuen / Taiwanese / Thai / Indonesian / Hong Kong / French foods etc… Yeap, in terms of diversity, Singapore wins hands down, but these are not original Singapore foods. Singapore just serves as a platform to bring foods from the whole world to under one roof. However,… Read more »


PPG, what you have mentioned give credence & meaning to the word Ori-Meastros. In the context of Penang street food serving, the Ori-Maestros matter more than the food itself. They are the originators & creators of such heavenly cuisine mastered thro’ the passage of time in old dingy kitchens with the barest (minimum) of tools & ingredients brought from far away lands of their ancestors. Thro’ memory, million of tasting & improvising the mix of ingredients & style of preparation. Even the timing was a matter of producing heavenly tastes or screwed up ‘Beh How Chiak’ (unsavory). With care &… Read more »


fyi these “Ori-Maestros” are generally thrifty (~kiamsiap) folks with big $avings; and their 2nd & 3rd generation can afford those expensive condos while keeping low profiles at the stalls to avoild HASIL suspicion and follow-up action.
Profit margins for each bowl/plate served easily >50% !
Go and count those bowls/plates lying on the floor each day and super-condos are within their reach


You are right. No incentive for them to upgrade their stalls in terms of cleaniness and new utensils in order not to attract the attention of Hasil flers. Meanswhile their 2nd/3rd generation are driving BMWs and live in high-end condos along Gurney Drive…


FYI, nowadays, young fellas like to flaunt their gaya-raya lifestyle supported by thrifty parents, some of whom have save thro’ decades of sweat & tears. I have one relative (not in hawker business) whose son is still in college can afford to drive a brand new MyVi with white headlights & door side panel running lights! Plus iPhone to top up. So, not all who are manja on their kids are hawkers. Some are in debts to Ah Longs for their gambling habits, which is commonplace among hawkers everywhere. For those not in the know, Hokkien Mee sold @ Rm3.50… Read more »


at kopitiam, a can of coke (~RM0.75 if buy in bulk wholesale price) is selling for RM1.70 + ice cubes (a few cents cost only) while the bangla/indon workers are paid peanuts…..


Foreigners only bought 15% of Gurney Paragon.
I believe 2nd/3rd generation Ori-Maestro of Penang Street Food are buying up the expensive condos (they may not stay but rent the units out) thanks to the continuous patronage of their stalls……
Go check that out.


I have heard of many Singaporeans coming to Penang specifically to enjoy our hawker food but I have never heard of a Penangite going to Singapore because of their culinary delights in food courts.
Enough said!

KL Sam

Ay! Please lah! What cleanliness are you guys talking about? Your parents took you out to the kopitiams and the backlanes when you were kids. Are you dead or alive now? Or would you rather be like the Sings who complain loudly, even when in Sydney or Brisbane about hygiene etc and bring their very own bottled water to drink in malls etc. I have travelled across all ASEAN countries and sometimes with Sings. Usually by the second or third day, the Sings would suffer food poisoning, never mind if the only food they ate were in “proper restaurants” or… Read more »


KL Sam, I cannot disagree with you. The facts of Penang Street Food marketing are making our Penang Street Food less desirable (to some). The price is one factor which also has hit hard on us Penangites looking for a decent but affordable street food. How to tell the Ori-Maestros to reduce his (gladly) inflated price when they have SingLand food tourists crawling in droves to savor their heavenly cuisine day & night? With life getting more expensive in Penang Island, if you don’t ‘Tai Kay’ (make excessive profit) you are ‘Gon Tai’ (foolish). For those looking for overt slippery… Read more »

syiok syiok

Some probable reasons why Bangkok n Spore are ahead in food rankings to Virtual Tourists (they are mostly budget travellers fyi) : Bangkok a) The name itself is aromatic (years of successful word of mouth) b) Besides food, unique sexy nite life and authentic local handicrafts are plus factors. c) People are genuinely friendly. Singapore a) Modern day systematic/organised melting pot of global food cultures. b) Effective Tourism Board & SIA. c) Good English environment appealing to Mat Sallehs. Penang unfortunately (in fact Msia in general) are over complacent. Another wake up call may be can create more urgency ?… Read more »

syiok syiok

tunglang : high class & expensive restaurants like KimmyGarish, PaPaMaMa Rich or Soulful Garden

you must be joking ! These are standard places (franchises) for youngsters to frequent these days. RM15-20 for a good meal is normal these days.

RM5 meal (street food) is just snack to many young people in penang when the latest tea-drink costs RM6 a cup.

Expensive food is at E&O Hotel or Rasa Sayang Buffet lunch/dinner.


“Expensive food is at E&O Hotel or Rasa Sayang Buffet lunch/dinner.”

These are for the 1% richie whom I am not mentioning.
The ones who prefer the overt slippery cleanliness outlets of ‘Bing Chui’ that’s what I am talking about in comparison to the street food dining of cheaper fares, heavenly food & heritage ambience.
We Penang Ah Pek used to say ‘high class mah’ for such higher standards of living & habits.
So it is colloquial in context, don’t get me wrong.

semuanya OK kot

Singapore is at the forefront of tourism, selling itself. It even has a cat named after itself. Look at the number of TV programmes they have on food alone.

Some of the counterparts in tourism here are more interested in contracts – and trying to fix up the honest civil servants.


Singapore hawker food are now much better than Penang. No bias as i am from Pg, been out of the country for 10 yrs or so, resided in Spore from 2008 -2010 and been back to pg couple of times a yr during that period. My husband & I were very dissapointed with the dropped in the standard even though we were taken to the local spots by my siblings. Most of the hawkers are now of the younger generation, not focused on quality anymore and it is more expensive compared $ to $. Never thought i would say that… Read more »


Agreed. I’m from KL and visit Penang, Singapore and Bangkok now and then over the past three decades.

In my honest opinion and this is over three decades mind you, not three years, is that Singapore food court food has been going up, Penang down and Bangkok same same.


Penang food is losing its charm because:
– Ori-maestros now utilises Indon Kakak to prepare food;
– hawker food turned halal in food courts (you cannot substitute pork char siew with chicken char-siew. char kway teow without its key ingredient lard).
– unhygienic food preparation.

penang ah beng

i am not surprised penang losing out to spore. i stay near kimberley st and not many tourists (foreign ones who are the contributors to virtual tourist poll) dare to sample penang st food because of cleanliness issue. if you observe hard, majority backpckers from chulia/love lane area would rather walk over to prangin mall for food. is it aircon ? don’t think so. if you go to that coffee shop next to keng kwee lane that serves popular local chendol. the coffee shopowner(s) only care to make money not to make the place presentable. it’s more like a wet… Read more »

syiok syiok

RE ” that coffee shop next to keng kwee lane that serves popular local chendol. ”

this coffee shop is more like a mini store-room with dim lights ! MPPP needs to educate them on housekeeping ! The kopitiam boss wanna charge me 40 sen for sitting inside not ordering drinks !
this people give bad name to penang heritage tourism – so i also say SHAME ON YOU !!!!

ong eu soon

Agree with you, no more chi yao cha (pork oil residue), no more taste, all halal! Penang old hawkers long gone, new hawkers can’t pakai any more.

syiok syiok

ah soon
this time i agree with your views.
your comments on sustainable housing development i still have some reservations though.
go n enjoy the food b4 inflation causes the street food to escalate with less “liao” (supplements & ingredients etc).


Ah Soon will certainly need more ‘bak eu’ (lard in hookien) to lubricate his brain?

rina teh

I grew up in Penang and now in mid forties. Many Penangites have become PR and residence in Singapore. Among them they do food and refreshments in food court. And as for taste, it’s much more like the delicacies I was more familiar with in Penang in my teens. Singapore may have better street food taste only because they or their parents are from Penang!

syiok syiok

Many rina tehs equivalents in singapore now.
They left Penang in the 80’s & 90’s seeking better opportunitie$ in SingLand; and now can sit back, relax should they want to return to Penang to savour the relatively Cheap food and condos !

Don’t envy or blame them because the fact is Gelakan from late 80s (respect to Lim Chong Eu for FTZ creation anyway) had spoilt Penang – simple as that.

Present Penang Gomen if adopt same complacent attitude, more young n brilliant Penangites (new batches of creative ori-maestros beyond Food category) MAY be drained off elsewhere again ?????


Many such migrated ori-maestros selling Penang food in Singapore still speak fluent Penang Hokkien, true to their heritage.

Meanwhile we have to speak BM when ordering our Penang food here in Penang as the all-in-one vendors (cook, cashier, cleaner) are now Indon Kakaks or our Sarawak brothers.

rina teh

So you envy those who work and settle down in Singapore? I live in KL and don’t go to Penang much since the 90’s even though my folks and relatives are still living there until now. I can’t seem to find the authentic mouth watering char koay teow, or the hokkien mee (among the list of food of must have’s) like in the 70’s or 80’s. That is what I meant. And in Singapore when I made a comment like it taste very much like Penang food, the reply would come as ‘my parents or grand parents are from Penang’.And… Read more »

KL Sam

Its okay with me if the joes at thinks that Bangkok and Singapore hawker fare are better than Penang’s hawkers’ food. Better still if the arrogant and loud Singas stay within their island. All these loud and “all money but no class” characters have driven up the hawker food prices in Penang. And if the truth be told, we Malaysians know whats good food, and seriously, folks, the good food is here in Penang and Melaka. And if any Malaysian reader thinks otherwise, then ask yourself why do the Singas come here in droves during the weekends, especially Melaka,… Read more »


Hey, Penang street food rules. Bangkok does not have the variety that Penang has, Chinese hokkien, hainanese, teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, nonya, etc. As for Singapore? The good ones have been upgraded to restaurants, like chicken rice and bah kut Teh and nasi Padang. But Penang must not rest on its laurels, we need to improve our standards . Any one in government listening?


Any one in government listening? Are they? No Money No Talk Syndrome & Lackadaisical is my 1.5 cent discovery. Strategic Street Cuisine Marketing? Nope! One off Indian street food fair is no strength of integrated marketing either. With more than 30 cuisines, more hard work is required. Accolades are never eternal if you are constantly fighting with competitors of Asian Street Food market & Food Tourism. There may be more Ori-Maestros leaving for better exchange rate cari-makan for their brighter future. The older folks may hand over their business to their children like Teochew Chendol Ori-Maestro (Lebuh Keng Kwee) &… Read more »

Malaysian in Singapore

Hahahaha I fly to Penang for street food…if someone can tell me where one can find street food in Singapore, I’ll gladly try and re-evaluate.

Fabulous street food in Bangkok, more plentiful, but different….

Andrew I

A big no no are newly opened food courts. I’m sorry, but at my age, I don’t like surprises, especially when it comes to “new” interpretations of classic street food.

As my late parents would say, bay how kaw. What to do? The older generation of hawkers are dead and gone. There used to be a strict regime of preparation which was time consuming as well as seasoned guesswork when it came to frying char kwei teow, for example.

With economic progress, we will have to make do with factory regime foods which only a clown would endorse.


Bangkok maybe but Singapore?
Biggest joke I have ever heard.
Nothing about sentiment, just hard cold fact!


We should not compare Bangkok to Penang. Bangkok is such a big city. Singapore is a country. So be proud that Penang has been compared with these two. As for food, Bangkok or Thai food is marvelous. Not much expensive ingredients like shark fins, albalone etc but just chillis, some herbs here and thre and walla they come up with a beautiful dish. Hawker food ? I suppose Penang has the most hawkers and hawkers are a history and tradition in Penang. Thus I suppose Penang still reign supreme in hawker food but food as in general like restaurant etc,… Read more »


Aiyoo what sharkskin or aboloney are you talking about? We are talking Street Food aka Hawker food not restaurant food.


Soon Penang will not be producing good food. The food will be prepared by Burmese as the hawkers are making use of cheap labour to work like 7 -11. Also many Penang lang are going to Sinkapore to make more money. In the past, my Sing hokkien and teow chew friends do not have bak kut teh and now there are thousands due to influence from Klang and malaysia.


They say “Imitation is sincerest form of flattery”, how true. In Singapore you name it, they have all the Penang food you can think of, very much improvised though. But I will still settle for Penang’s despite the fact many have lost their sparkle.

As for Bangkok street food, they have a good variety but can’t compare because it’s totally different food altogether and to each his own.


I think Ipoh foods are better than Penang foods.. Its juz Penang has a variety but that doesn’t mean all the foods in Penang are delicious. I have met many of stall owners from Perak came to Penang for business. And remember ‘taste’ sometimes depends on how much Ajinamoto you use for the dish..Mmm.. 🙂