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Food in Malaysia
Breakfast l Chinese l Hawkers l Indian l Malay l Nyonya


Kuala Lumpur is the hub of the local entertainment scene, yet there are those who would tell you that there is no place like Penang for hawker food. Others will, however, argue that Ipoh city in Perak offers even greater specialty dishes. But since the general consensus for great hawker food seems to be Penang, we shall concentrate there.

With an abundance of hawker stalls prominently positioned along busy streets in the city and suburbs of Penang, it is not difficult at all to understand why this island is often referred to as a hawkers' paradise. Penang hawker food is reputedly the best in the nation, and some visitors from neighboring states and even neighboring nations have been known to make regular trips to the island with the sole purpose of patronizing their favorite hawker food venues!

Hawker food is usually available in large, medium, or small portions at different prices. However, the price may also differ according to optional extras placed on your dish, for example, additional prawns. Prices should be displayed for the various dishes. If not, ask before placing your order.

Hawkers selling food, fruits, or drinks in push-carts or mobile stalls are a common sight around the country, especially on Penang Island. However, the mushrooming of hawker centers and government-sponsored hawker complexes in the suburbs have somewhat reduced this. Hawker centers or complexes feature permanent stalls, each offering their own special dishes. These venues usually stay open until late, catering for those working on early shifts and those seeking supper after a late night out.

Most hawkers in Penang and other major towns are licensed, and these are renewed periodically. Enforcement officers from the Health Department and Municipal Councils also conduct regular checks on hygiene and cleanliness.

Hawker food is normally freshly-prepared. Although the basic recipe of hawker dishes remain the same, variations abound. Often, watching a hawker prepare the food is an interesting experience in itself. For example, roti canai makers will punch a ball of dough flat, grab the edge then swing it around in circles to make a pancake. This is flattened, shaped, then fried. Some roti canai makers might even throw the cooked bread into the air with a flourish before chopping it with the edge of their hands. Another one such example is "Teh Tarik" (literally, pull tea), a smoothened creamy tea that is resulted from the act of pouring the tea between two big mugs and increasing the height by pulling the pouring mug higher and higher. This act smoothens the tea and cools it.

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