Wet Markets in Penang
Being Malaysia’s food lovers’ paradise, can you imagine what would Penang be without the freshest produce from its wet markets like Chowrasta, Pulau Tikus and Jelutong? Can you imagine not having hearty breakfasts cooked fresh and served hot in the hawker stalls within the vicinity of markets?
Penang may have seen urban developments in the likes of supermarkets, but these stores cannot replace the wet markets. The warmth, the mingling, and the interaction you can get in a wet market cannot be replaced by the fixed prices, the air conditioning and other conveniences inside the shopping complexes.
Shopping in a wet market is really a social experience. It entails face to face contact. When you often you come to a specific market, you become a regular customer that sometimes you would stop for a chat or at least say hi to the “auntie” selling toys or the “uncle” selling fruits.
Also referred to as a traditional market, a wet market is where you are spoilt for choice of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, spices and other cooking ingredients, provided you come early enough. It is where serious budget shoppers go for fantastic finds like kitchen utensils, homemade crafts and other homewares.
Most of the wet markets in Penang open in the morning, as early as 6am, and close by noontime or latest 1pm. There are only a few which open in the afternoon, like the Lebuh Cecil Market and the Batu Lanchang Market, which are open from 2pm to 7pm. It is best to shop in the morning, or as soon as the market opens and the vendors bring out their produce. The earlier you come, the better chance you get to find fresher food.
What are the downsides of going to wet markets? Well, it is unavoidable for wet markets to be smelly in some parts, especially the meat and fish sections. Most areas are also “wet”, perhaps that’s why it is called so. Often it is hard to park near the market, especially those with vendors who use up the surrounding streets to sell their goods. Wet markets are also usually crowded particularly on weekends, as there are more vendors and more shoppers. So you need to be prepared to literally “rub elbows” with fellow buyers.
There are many popular wet markets in Penang. Heritage markets like the Chowrasta Market, Campbell Street Market, and Air Itam Market sell complete range of fresh produce and groceries. Located on the north coast, you can find the Pulau Tikus Market, Tanjung Bungah Market and the Teluk Bahang Market. In George Town, you will want to check out the Campbell Street Market, the Chowrasta Market and the Jelutong Market. In the Bayan Lepas area, there are Bayan Baru Market and Bayan Lepas Market, while in Air Itam area, the Relau Market Complex & Hawker Centre is one of the biggest.
Aside from these daily wet markets, there are also night markets and those that open only on weekends, like the street market around Campbell Street on Saturday mornings.
Another important reason for going to wet market is breakfast! Yes, wet market is the best place to eat breakfast or brunch in Penang. They may not be the most sanitary place to eat, but the foods are surely amazing. In fact, some of the best restaurants in Penang started with stalls in the market. Favourites like koay teow, nasi lemak, noodle soups, roti or kuay, matched with coffee, milo or hot barley, will surely start your day right. The food also cost less compared to restaurants or stalls set up in the shopping complexes.
The wet market is still the go-to place for those who enjoy bargaining and those who value freshness of the produce more than the aesthetics of the place. With all the sweat, the haggling and the tireless walking, it feels good to leave the wet markets knowing you bought good items at reasonable prices, and with breakfast there, with full a tummy.