Singapore and Penang Where to eat in George Town
The most epic pork I've ever tasted (aside from my dad's lechon in Puerto Rico)

This post was created in partnership with Visit ASEAN. As always, opinions are my own. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turns 50 years old this year! They are celebrating by sharing ASEAN stories and hosting a contest (details at the bottom of the post). They asked me to share my favorite experience in the region. I couldn’t help but to share my amazing trip to Penang and Singapore. 

Asia is for food lovers! Last year, I was in Japan for work and decided to go to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia for a foodie trip. My friend Olivia, a Indonesian who grew up in Singapore was the perfect guide. At five months pregnant, competitive eating had become my favorite activity. Singapore and Malaysia are the perfect destination for that! She suggested we take a trip to Penang, Malaysia exclusively to eat. That suggestion was music to my ears.

Singapore and Penang Trip: Gardens by the Bay Singapore
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

 

Stop 1: Singapore


Singapore is unique from the rest of its neighbors. I believe it’s the perfect destination for those who want an introduction to Asia. Everything is orderly, clean, and everybody speaks English. It can feel less overwhelming than let’s say, Bangkok. It’s hot and humid all year long and the city is filled with ultra luxe malls to cool off. There’s plenty to do: rooftop parties at Marina Bay Sands Hotels, wander along the Gardens by the Bay, and discover the delicious food markets.

Where to Eat in Singapore

While preparing for my trip, I started asking my friends about food in Singapore. You have so many cultures converging in this city-state and it reflects in its cuisine. If you have to have three dishes in Singapore, you must try: chicken rice, laksa, and chilli crab. Pretty much everybody told me the same thing-”there’s no such thing as a bad meal in Singapore”. They were not lying.

Singapore and Penang Jumbo Chili Crab in Singapore
Jumbo Chili Crab at Jumbo

Some of my favorites during my trip:

Indian Food at Muthu’s Curry:

Olivia and her family have been going to Muthu’s Curry since she was a little girl. She says that she has seen the place grow from a tiny restaurant to a Singapore staple. Loved how they served the dishes in traditional Indian style. The food is presented in banana leaves. You have the option eating it traditional style with your hands (which you see a lot of diners do) or the standard fork and knife.  Muthu’s Curry, 138 Race Course Rd, #01-01, Singapore

Jumbo’s Seafood Restaurant

There are several locations Jumbo in Singapore. Olivia took me to the one on Riverside Point. Located among other fine dining establishments, Jumbo stands out. The thing to order is chilli crab: a huge crab smothered in chili sauce. It’s messy but delicious. Don’t worry, the staff provides you with bibs and gloves! Jumbo’s, 20 Upper Circular Road, #B1-48 The Riverwalk, Singapore

Kuan Food Hall

No trip to Singapore is complete without a trip to a Food Hall. There are so many stalls! Thankfully I was with a local that guided me through the process. There, I indulged in laksa, a spicy coconut noodle soup. Kuan Food Hall,122 Neil Rd, Singapore 088855

Discovering Singapore and Penang: The Adler Hostel in Singapore
Discovering Singapore and Penang: The Adler Hostel in Singapore

Where to Stay in Singapore

There are plenty of places to stay in Singapore. Although I stayed with a friend, I had the opportunity to visit two unique properties. The Adler Hostel is a modern luxury hostel located in Neil Road. I am not big into hostels, but I would totally make the exception for that one! On the luxury side, The Ritz Carlton Singapore. Bonus: they have one of the best buffet meals I have ever experienced. Book a dinner or brunch there even if you are not staying at The Ritz. You’ll thank me later!

Singapore and Penang Temples in Penang
Temples in Penang

Stop 2: Georgetown, Penang

Olivia and I hopped on a one hour plane ride from Singapore to the Malaysian island of Penang. Our agenda: eat, eat, eat! Olivia’s father arranged for us to have a private driver during our 2 night, three day trip to Georgetown. Given our short period of time, this was a great decision as he knew all the good places to eat!

About Penang

Penang is an island off the west coast of Malaysia. We heard good things about the beach but we decided to focus on the food for this getaway. We stayed in George Town, the main city in Penang. You can immediately tell the difference between Singapore and Penang. Penang was more chaotic, people everywhere, and a more humble vibe. It was the perfect contrast for our trip. Bonus: Penang is much more affordable than Singapore.

Exploring Singapore and Penang:  Street Art in George Town
Exploring Singapore and Penang: Street Art in George Town

What We Did

There’s plenty to see and do in Penang. What makes Malaysia unique is the many religions and cultures that coexist in the country. That makes everything from the landscape to its culinary treasures so rich.  In Penang, it’s very common to see a buddhist temple, a mosque and a church closely located from one another. There are plenty of temples you can enter and tour. The ornate buddhist temples are stunning with their golden touches, colorful details, and history.

Wander

What we loved about Penang was the street art that surrounds the city. Keep your eyes open for the amazing streetart throughout the George Town. We did a lot of walking, taking in the street art and architecture. I also went to my first cat cafe! I know, it’s cheesy but I got my kitty fix at Purrfect Cat Cafe. We ended our day with a foot massage at a small spa near our hotel. The purrfect day!

Singapore and Penang Cat Cafe George Town Penang
Exploring Singapore and Penang: Cat Cafe George Town Penang

Where We Ate

I wish I would’ve taken more copious notes of the exact places I ate but I failed! Too busy being a pregnant woman with an appetite. We did a lot of roadside stands and small restaurants with our driver, which was amazing. We had plenty of Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Laksa at tiny, anonymous places.

However, one of my top meals of the trip and of the year for that matter was at Wai Kee Char Siew. I think we paid the equivalent of $3 but it was epic. Caramelized pieces of pork with white rice and bok choi. It was so simple yet the flavors were so beautifully complex. True story: I will fly back to Penang just to relive that meal. If you can only have one meal in Penang, let this be it! Wai Kee Char Siew, Lebuh Chulia, George Town, 10200 George Town

Singapore and Penang  Where to eat in George Town
The most epic pork I’ve ever tasted (aside from my dad’s lechon in Puerto Rico)

Where We Stayed

We stay at Seven Terraces Hotel. This gorgeous small boutique hotel has a traditional chinese decor with modern touches. Our two-story hotel room is what I envision my Asian summer home to be! Their breakfast was fantastic. Included in our rate ($150 a night) we had the option of traditional Malaysian breakfast or a western breakfast. We tried them both. We approve.

Exploring Singapore and Penang: Street Food in George Town
Exploring Singapore and Penang: Street Food in George Town

Singapore & Penang: The Verdict

If you’ve been reading the Dining Traveler for a while, you know my love affair with Asia is real. I loved this itinerary because it was the perfect balance of luxury tied with great food and off the beaten path adventures. If you have any questions about my itinerary, don’t hesitate to comment or email me!

The Contest

Submit photos of your best travel experience via Twitter or Instagram that shows why you deserve to travel to ASEAN.

For example: Share…

– A photo of you riding a bike in your hometown

– An image of yourself sitting by the beach in Thailand

– You enjoying a morning coffee at your favorite local cafe

Include the hashtag #ASEAN50Ambassador and tag @AseanTourismOnline via Twitter or Instagram. ASEAN is looking for photos to show off your passion for traveling!

Winners will be selected based on their creativity. Winner will be required to document their travels, so the content can also later be featured on the website and social. Winner must confirm their preferred travel dates no earlier than 8 weeks in advance. Prize includes a roundtrip airfare ticket to two of the countries along with hotel covered by ASEAN. All other expenses will be on the winner. All entries must include #ASEAN50Ambassador and our respective username can be tagged as well.

The contest runs from September 15 through October 15.

Winner will be chosen on October 20th.

 

  • Claire

    OMG I need to go to Singapore and eat ALL the crab!! That sounds delicious! I’ve heard really good things about Penang too, I think Asia needs to be my next destination!

  • You had me at Jumbo Chili Crab! Wow! Great photos, clearly some places I missed in my travels. Is it possible to enter the contest even though it already started? Thanks!

  • Suze

    The cat cafe in Singapore looks like fun. We have friends there and I’d love to visit. The food in Penang sounds amazing too

  • Patricia Steffy

    I’m horribly allergic to cats, so the Cat Cafe is probably a miss for me. But so many places look so good! I would love to try the Indian food at Muthu’s Curry and explore the Kuan Food Hall. The pork and rice meal at Wai Kee Char Siew looks so good I can see why you would want to go again!

  • Kimanis Ome

    Completely agree “I will fly back to Penang in heartbeat just for the food.” I’ve been writing about all the authentic foods I discovered in Penang and I miss the food every time I think about. Char kway teow was one of our absolute favorites. The Chili crab in Singapore is to die for as well. Great article!!

  • I don’t even know where to start. All this food looks delicious. Starting with that Muthu’s Curry or Wai Kee Char Siew. $3 really? Great food at great prices. I think I need to follow your footsteps when I visit that area!!!

  • Cynthia/What A Girl Eats

    What a great contest! I included Singapore and Malaysia on my honeymoon waaaay back in 1988, so I’d love a chance to visit again!

  • Wow that price is unbeatable. I haven’t been to Penang but have been to SG many times and I agree, there’s no bad meal in Singapore! I only went to the Food Court at Ion Mall for the Hainan Chicken Rice and it already tastes gazillion times better than any I’ve eaten in Hong Kong (where I’m living atm). And in the US, Hainan chicken rice is just hard to come by. I also love an Indonesian restaurant in SG (believe it’s a chain) – it changed my opinion on Indonesian food!

  • You know, I’ve been to Singapore but it was SO long ago in my travels (a decade!) and en route to the Maldives that I think I need a do-over. Totally entering this contest! =)

  • I have been to both Singapore and Malaysia and all I did was eat! I had a serious issue with not having enough meals to eat all the food I wanted to try. The mixture of cultures there makes eating one of the best ways to experience these countries!

  • I have friends in Singapore and all they do is talk about how good the food is there. I am dying to get there and eat my way through the area. I’ll probably skip the cat cafe since I’m allergic but I definitely wouldn’t pass up a good foot massage. Singapore sounds lovely and yummy. Looking forward to going one day.