Penang is undoubtedly Malaysia’s (if not South-east Asia) street food capital , with a wide choice of good eats at every corner. One of Penang’s best-known street food dish has to be the “Char Koay Teow” - a fried flat rice noodle dish of Teochew/Chaozhou (潮州) origins.
The Teochew-Chinese are the second largest dialect group in Penang (as in Singapore) after the dominant Hokkiens, but Teochew influences on Penang’s street food is everywhere: from the “char koay teow” to “koay teow th’ng”, “koay chiap”, “char koay kak”, etc.
“Char koay teow” in Penang is pretty different from its counterpart back in its homeland in Southern China, where the rice noodles are fried with meats like pork, and flavoured with fish sauce. Teochew cuisine flavours tend to be lighter than Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and other Southern Chinese cuisines. The Teochews also love shellfish and cockles. When the early Teochew settler emigrated en masse to Penang during the 19th-century, they conceptualised the Penang “char koay teow” dish which puts together all the things they missed from home: flat rice noodles, shrimps, cockles, Chinese waxed sausages, chives, duck eggs, beansprouts - and came up with a dish which would become much, much better than its predecessor back in Chaozhou and Shantou where the Teochews came from.
Penang-style “char koay teow” is distinct from those found anywhere else where the Teochew immigrants settled: Bangkok, Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City. It tends to be lighter, with an emphasis on using the freshest ingredients.
My fave “Char Koay Teow” spots in Penang are:
 Ah Leng Char Koay Teow (evenings only)
Lorong Zoo 6,
11500 Air Itam,
Often voted top in the island for its rendition of Penang CKT. The version here is “wetter”, with water added in towards the end of the frying process. Large juicy prawns, cockles and egg - it’s fragrant and well-seasoned.
 Sin Wah Char Koay Teow (evenings only)
Pulau Tikus Market
Pulau Tikus, Penang
Some folks endured up to a 2-hour wait for the CKT here. The stall’s been around since post-WW II, and very popular among Singaporeans visiting Penang. Smaller prawns compared to Ah Leng, and even smaller cockles, but it produces a drier rendition with the all-important “wok hei” (which Ah Leng seems to be missing).
 Sisters Char Koay Teow
Lam Heng Cafe
183 MacAlister Road
Georgetown, 11400 Penang
The oldest & most well-known of all CKT vendors in Penang - now run by the second-generation son of one of the famous two sisters. Less greasy rendition here, with large plump prawns, fresh crabmeat on top, cockles and waxed Chinese sausages.
 Siam Road Char Koay Teow
Corner of Siam Road and Anson Road
(Seating in Hock Ban Hin Café).
Georgetown, 10400 Penang
The old man who runs the Siam Road stall is of Teochew descent, though both he & his son (who took food orders from the customers) spoke Hokkien, Penang’s lingua franca. Siam Road’s version differed markedly from others in that the flat rice noodles used had a thinner texture. Priced at RM4 (US1.20) a plate, it’s also very much cheaper than its other famous rivals, though Lorong Selamat’s version had extra-large, plump shrimps, whilst the MacAlister Road Sisters also topped their dish with fresh steamed crab meat. Be prepared for a 40-minute wait here as there’s a crowd all day long (the stall’s closed in Sunday
 “Woman in Red Beret”
Kafe Heng Huat
108 Lorong Selamat
10400 George Town, Penang
Tel: 016-269 2222
Open: 11.30am - 6.00pm (Closed on Tues)
Mdm Soon Suan Choo, the temperamental “Penang fried koay teow Nazi” (aka The Woman in Red Beret) had been selling her famous dish at Lorong Selamat since the mid-70s. Her fried koay teow certainly did not disappoint - perfectly-timed, it’s fried till fragrant (wok-hei) and with a perfect balance of flavours & textures: flat rice noodles, cockles, eggs, beansprouts, Chinese waxed sausages, chives, soysauce, garlic, a dollop of fiery red chilli paste and 4 gargantuan fresh, crunchy prawns. All for just RM9 (USD1.90) a plate! Be prepared to wait - 30 minutes or much more during peak lunch hour period. Try and arrive before noon otherwise.
 “Man in Black Goggles”
Low Eng Hoo Coffeeshop,
84, Lorong Selamat
10400 Georgetown, Penang
Opening hours: 12noon - 8pm daily, except Tuesday.
Almost as famous as the CKT Nazi woman, but with a (thankfully) shorter wait.