Penang is a favorite food paradise with exciting and fabulous sites for visitors to explore. Next to these it also offers a wide range of souvenir items and popular local foodstuff for visitors to buy back to share with their family and friends. Here are 12-must buy products from Penang.
This is a traditional Malay cake made from simple ingredients of sugar, eggs and flour and bake in an oven. When baked, they are slightly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just like sponge cake and have a strong egg aroma. The cake is bake in moulds made from cast iron with a lid. They come with a variety of shape; the common ones are the goldfish and daisy flower. The Kuih Bahulu makes a delicious tea time snack.
TAU SAR PNEAH
This is one of Penang’s delightful and favorite biscuits for the Chinese community. The biscuit has a flaky crust with a filling of fragrant and crumbly green bean (mung beans) which is fried with shallots bits and oil. It comes in two different sizes, one mouth bite size and another larger one measuring 5cm in diameter. There are two versions, one sweet and the other salty. This biscuits is synonymous with Penang and is highly sort after by visitors from other states and Singapore. They are available everywhere but the famous ones are from Ghee Hiang Biscuit and Him Hiang. During peak season it is best to pre-order.
Batik is fabric with elegant design of local flora and fauna, leaves or geometrical patterns imprinted on it. The word ‘batik’ derives its origin from the Javanese ‘tik’ for dot. Malaysian Batik is well received in the international fashion world for its highly skilled handicraft work. Traditionally, the pattern is produce using wooden blocks crafted with design at the bottom and stamped repeatedly dipped with melted wax until the pattern covers the whole fabric. It is then repeatedly dyed and stamped with wax and finally boiled to remove the wax. The other method is whereby the craftsman hand scratches freely using a copper tool containing molten wax (called “canting”) and then colour using a brush. Malaysian Batik is very colorful with attractive designs which make it a worthwhile souvenir.
These potteries hand-made by skilful craftsman have a rich living heritage and cultural behind them. The two famous and most popular sought after by tourist is the black colored jar called the “labu”” which is shaped like a gourd. Each pottery is tediously engraved all around by crafted potters. It is naturally blackens by covering immediately with paddy husks after removing from the furnace. The other is the Sarawak vase that are adored all round with ethnic traditional native painted designed.
Penang has been cultivating nutmegs in plantations since the colonial days. The nutmeg is a favorite with the locals for its multipurpose uses. It is commonly use in enhancing and seasoning of savory and sweet dishes. The fresh nutmeg is used in making nutmeg juice which has a tangy taste while the pickled ones are eaten as tidbits. The older generations extract its oil for its medical purposes. With the long history in growing these fruit, Penang’s nutmegs are of top grade and richer in fragrance then those grown elsewhere.
SPICES & HERBS
Penang was an important port dealing in spices and herbs which were greatly demanded by the Europeans in the 18th and 19th century. Till today some spices are indigenous to Penang like the clove, nutmeg, betel leaves areca and gambier. Because of the large Indian community, one is able to source rich aromatic spices used in Indian curries like cinnamon, star anise and cardamom in Little India. In the wet market, you can still buy freshly grounded spices. For convenience, all sorts of spices manufactured in ready powder form are also available.
TRADITIONAL NYONYA BEADED SHOE
This traditional beaded shoe also known as ‘kasut manek’ is worn with the Nyonya kebaya in the earlier years. This hand-sewn beaded shoe with exquisite colorful beads remains a favorite until today and is highly sought after by tourist visiting Penang for its quality and workmanship. Favorite designs are the flowers and birds. The cost of a pair of beaded shoe depends on the design and the size of beads used. As it is tedious sewing on the small beads which require a great deal of patience and skill, a pair may cost up to a thousand ringgit.
BEAD EMBROIDERED KEBAYA
The Kebaya worn mostly by the Malay women is a tight fitting semi-transparent blouse. Worn together with the sarong, the kebaya is usually fastened at the front with chained brooches known as kerongsang. Most of the kebaya has embroidery motifs especially floral motif either printed or woven into the textile. The kebaya comes in many splendid colors. Customers can have it hand-made with many different embroidered detailing and beading. More exquisite variations on the kebaya come with heavily beaded while some with embroidery of glitter golden ornaments. The beautiful and elegant kebaya is best worn with the colorful beaded ‘kasut manek’.
These are seasoned fruits preserved in concentrated sugar syrup, brine or in some cases vinegar. In Penang the popular fruits used are the nutmeg, unripe papaya, mango and guava. The smell of these sour pickles will make your mouth salivate. Other types of pickles are shallots and young ginger slices preserved in vinegar. These mouth watering tidbits are sold in ready packed, bottled and by weight at the markets and bus terminals.
ROJAK (FRUIT WITH SHRIMP SAUCE)
In Penang when we say “Penang rojak” it usually refer to the fruit salad mixed in a bowl with prawn paste dressing. This dish has a strong fishy taste that comes from the dressing (called hae ko) and shrimp powder (called belacan), the two main ingredients made from shrimp. It is best eaten by topping the rojak with finely chopped peanuts. Visitors can buy the ready packed small container of sauce which is sold widely in most shops and market.
CAPAL (TRADITIONAL MALAY SANDAL)
‘Capal’ is the Malaysia’s traditional handmade sandal worn by the Malay men as part of their traditional dress especially during wedding ceremony. This footwear is very comfortable. Certain part of the sandal is made of leather and some of other materials. The soles are usually made of wood and the sandal has a very low heel. They come in a variety of designs with very delicate hand artwork on it. Some comes decorated with attractive brass nails and some with color threading sew on the strap. Different part of the shoe is joined together and hand stitched by the capal maker. There are a handful of them left in Penang.
Songkok is an important headdress usually worn by the Malay men with their traditional outfit of a long sleeved shirt, a pair of trousers and a waist wrap. This brimless headdress in the shape of a truncated cone is worn especially during Hari Raya, religious functions, weddings and important ceremonial occasions. There are different types of songkok with different heights to suit individual style. Made to measure songkoks are available and would cost more compared to the ready-made songkoks sold in the shops. Customers can choose to have it made from cotton and velvet. The prices will depend very much on the style and the quality of the material used.