The Penang International Food Festival is back for its third year, and the organisers have adjusted the programme to incorporate the most successful elements from 2017, and experiment with a few new ideas. So what are the highlights this year? In both previous years without doubt the crowning glory of the festival has the well-organised, nostalgic and enjoyable Street Food Festival. This experience is so well-loved by visitors that the organisers now also arrange a second, separate Street Food Festival in September of each year. During the weekend of April 13th-14th, once again part of Beach Street and parts of adjacent Bishop and Church Streets will be closed to traffic and from 5pm until 11pm and the area will be filled with glorious smells, music and laughter.
Hawkers from all over the state will set up their stalls and hungry diners can sample their traditional recipes. This year over a hundred stalls are expected to participate. Copious seating is also provided in Bishop and Church Streets, and the queues, though long for some stalls, are generally good-humoured and fast moving. There will also be street entertainment provided, and fireworks to close the night.
Taste of Penang also returns for a third year, during the weekend of April 20th and 21st, also from 5pm until 11pm along Jalan Kelawai in the areas front of Gurney Paragon and Gurney Plaza. Stalls set up by Penang’s modern cafés, restaurants and hotels offer visitors a chance to taste the dishes that they are most proud of, both new versions of Asian favourites and modern Western cuisine. Cooking demonstrations and other live performances also take place.
For the third weekend, April 27th-28th, the festival organisers are trying something different this year. Penang Seafood Galore promises that the Design Village Outlet Mall in Batu Kawan, on the mainland at the end of the second bridge will be filled with the seafood dishes for which mainland Penang is justly famous. From 5pm until 11pm each day you’ll find vendors of seafood dishes crossing the spectrum from street food to gourmet cuisine.
There are also a number of smaller events on week days in between the big three weekend events. New this year are two Food Walks, one on the mainland and one on the island. The Penang Island Food Walk takes place on Tuesday April 23rd at 8am at the venerable Pulau Tikus market, and will introduce participants to Penang-style breakfast food such as Apom, Char Koay Teow and Hokkien Mee. The price is RM 15 per person and you can register and pay here. The Penang Mainland Food Walk takes place at Raja Uda Apollo Market at 8am on Monday 22nd April and the tour guide will introduce participants to the best of local street food. The prices is again RM 15 per person, and registration and payment can be made here.
There are also five events styled as mini-festivals. The first, on Monday 15th April from 11am until 4pm takes place at Hin Bus Depot, and is a celebration of coffee, especially Penang special Kopi O, and the nyonya kuih best eaten with it. The following day, Tuesday 16th 5pm until 10pm, also at Hin Bus Depot, the Mini Curry Festival returns for its second year 5pm until 11pm. Diners will once again be able to compare and contrast curries prepared in Malay, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and many other styles. On Wednesday 17th from 5pm until 10pm, the Butterworth Art Walk at Lorong Bagan Luar on the mainland will play host for the second year running to the RM2 mini-food festival. The concept is smaller portions of hawker food at lower prices, so that you can try more dishes while at the same time admiring the surrounding street art. On Thursday 18h April from 5pm until 10pm, the action moves to the charming venue of Gertak Sanggul, a fishing village in the south of Penang island, where there will be a rally of food trucks lined up on the beach. And on Friday 20th, head to the northern beach of Batu Feringghi, where the Golden Sands Resort will be serving surf and turf barbecue from 5pm until 10pm.
Last year, one of the most popular events during the Penang International Food Festival was Dining ..Amid Water, during which passengers on board one of Penang’s island-mainland ferries were fed a good meal. This event returns this year, renamed Ferry Feasting. It takes place on Thursday 25th April at 6pm and costs RM 100 per person. Two other “exclusive” food events are on offer: a wine tasting at Feringghi Grill and the rather intriguing-sounding and potentially indigestion-inducing Rythmic Dining, which promisesto bring a story to life through food and dance. This latter is also RM 100 per person and takes place at Rain Garden in Pulau Tikus on Wednesday 24th April. Tickets can be purchased here.
Further information and updates on all events will be posted on the Festival’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/penanginternationalfoodfestival/ and website www.piff.com.my