Penang is THE undebatable place to head to in Malaysia for char kway teow. However, the ranking of individual char kway teow stalls will remain a topic of fierce debate among locals for as long as time goes on — that’s just because there are so many stalls around here that are just that good! Also, people have their preferences.

A simple flat rice noodle dish made with soy sauce, eggs, cockles, bean sprouts, lap cheong (Chinese sausages), and a helping of prawns, char kway teow is one of Malaysia’s most famous street foods and is commonly devoured throughout the country.

A great serving of char kway teow is made by cooking with the freshest ingredients and the equally important elusive charred aroma (locally referred to as wok hei) that comes from stir-frying the noodles over very high heat in a well-seasoned wok. If you come to Penang, you don’t want to miss out on trying these stellar char kway teow (CKT) stall offerings.

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow

A personal favourite on the list, Ah Leng Char Koay Teow, has been serving delicious plates of sinful goodness since 1979. Their special CKT comes with crispy lard, fried eggs, fresh cockles, and HUGE, juicy mantis prawns. You can even add duck egg for extra creamy goodness too.

Customer testimonials all come along the lines of, “very delicious,” “you can’t find it elsewhere,” and “worth the wait.” And it is normal for Ah Leng’s queues to span over an hour during lunch. Locals who know the insider trick to call in advance to place their orders, while others take it in stride and brave the line. After all, waiting in the queue is part of the experience.

The kway teow here tends to be a bit wetter, with water added towards the frying process’s end, but don’t worry too much about it diluting the flavour, because it doesn’t – it is one of the best plates of noodles in town.

Address: 343 Jalan Dato Keramat, 10150 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: Thursday to Tuesday, 10:30am to 4pm; Closed on Wednesdays.

Siam Road Char Koay Teow

Without a doubt, Siam Road Char Koay Teow is the most internationally well-known CKT in Penang. The BBC has described the owner as “The Humble King of Noodles”, and “one of the oldest char away teow legends in Malaysia.”

An 80-year-old man still excelling at his craft, do expect Uncle Tan to take some time to perfect your order. Often swarmed by locals and tourists alike, Uncle Tan has gained many loyal patrons ever since he took over the family business.

Cooking over a wood-fired wok for smoky, smooth appeal, these flat noodles are widely revered as the most delicious, flavourful plates of CKT in Malaysia. The prawns and cockles are fresh and juicy, with the sliced Chinese wax sausages giving the dish a pleasant sweetness.

Uncle Tan whips up hundreds of plates a day with many waiting in line for hours at any given time, and often working the lunch crowd from 12pm to 2pm. He later passes on the baton to his son to finish up until 6:30pm.

Address: 82 Jalan Siam, 10400 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 6:30pm

Lorong Selamat Char Koay Teow

Madam Soon has been running her CKT stall for over 30 years, and one can easily spot her wearing her signature red beret. She is also notorious for her fiery attitude, just as she is known for her fiery kway teow noodles.

Madam Soon uses charcoal to fry her signature kway teow, which imparts the sought-after wok hei into the greasy and lard-laden noodles (ultra-delicious for the not-so-health-conscious). The smooth noodles are topped with crunchy beansprouts, eggs, chives, Chinese waxed sausages, and large fresh prawns.

Address: Kafe Heng Huat, 82, Lorong Selamat, 10400 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: Wednesday to Monday, 11am to 5pm; Closed on Tuesdays

Sany Char Koay Teow (halal)

Departing from tradition by serving char kway teow basah (wet/saucy CKT), Sany Char Koay Teow is a popular halal destination regardless of ethnicity, as attested by the large crowds. The char kway teow here can be ordered as ‘biasa’ (regular) or ‘special’, which comes with more noodles and prawns.

The flat rice noodles are topped with the restaurant’s famed sauce and prawn stock, and they use their big, tasty prawns in abundance. Open until midnight, Sany is an excellent place for a late-night dinner or supper.

Address: 4 Lorong Mahsuri 2, Bayan Baru, 11950 Bayan Lepas, Penang
Operating hours: Daily, 6:30pm to 12am

Ah Shen Presgrave Street

The best Chinese style CKT you can find at night for those late cravings! Ah Shen’s stall doles out a top-notch combination of ingredients, such as succulent prawns, duck eggs, cockles, hot sambal, and even char siew (pork belly).

As the name goes, the Duck Egg Char Koay Teow is obviously their hallmark dish; so get your portion with the runny yolk goodness when you visit this stall.

Address: 67B Lebuh Presgrave, 10300 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: Daily, 3pm to 11pm

Left-Handed Char Koay Teow (pork-free)

Fried by a friendly leftie uncle, this flavourful CKT is pork-free and stir-fried with cockles, egg, bean sprouts, chives, and prawns! Savour succulent prawns with bits of charred meat and noodles – all rich ingredients that work perfectly well in the dish.

Address: Penang Times Square Food Street 79-G-11, Ivory Tower, Kampung Jawa Baru, Off Jalan Dato Keramat Road, 10150 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: Thursday to Tuesday, 11am to 9pm; Closed on Wednesdays

Duck Egg Char Koay Teow

A mainland Bukit Mertajam recommendation, this CKT with fried duck egg serves some seriously good stuff. The runny yolk of the fried duck egg gives a touch of creaminess to the already rich dish. A generous helping of small prawns, the right balance of heat and sufficient wok hei are imparted upon this plate of charcoal-fried noodles, which gives it heaps of mouth-watering fragrance!

This stall is reputed to be the best in Bukit Mertajam, so be prepared to queue for a plate (or two). If you’re looking for options in the area, there is another duck egg CKT stall on Jalan Kulim, operated by the brother of this stall’s owner.

Address: Jalan Pasar, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Operating hours: Friday to Wednesday, 7pm to 12am; Closed on Thursdays