Penang Food Paradise
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Penang is a state in Malaysia, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.
The island was referred to as pokok pinang The name “Penang” comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut palm (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang can refer either to the island of Penang or the state of Penang.
The capital of Penang state is George Town. More specifically, George Town is also called Tanjung in Malay. Penang Island is simply Pulau Pinang and Penang state is Negeri Pulau Pinang in Malay.
Penang is severally known as “The Pearl of the Orient” and “Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara” (Penang Island of Pearls).
The common languages of Penang, depending on social classes, social circles, and ethnic backgrounds are English, Penang Hokkien, Tamil and Malay. Mandarin, which is taught in Chinese-medium schools in the state, is also increasingly spoken.
Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China.
It incorporates a large number of loanwords from Malay and English. Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.
Malay is spoken locally with north-western dialect features, such as hang for “you” and depa for “they/them”.
English is a working language widely used in business and commerce, and is also the language of instruction of Science and Mathematics in schools. English used in an official or formal context is predominantly British English with some American influences. Spoken English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in the form of Manglish (Malaysian colloquial English).
Other languages, including Cantonese and Tamil, are also spoken in the state. Teochew is heard more in Province Wellesley than on Penang Island.
The official religion of Malaysia is Islam and the head of Islam is the Yang Dipertuan Agong, but other religions are freely practised. These are Buddhism, in the Theravada, Mahayana and increasingly also Vajrayana traditions, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism (the largest denominations of which are the Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptists) and Sikhism- reflecting Penang’s diverse ethnic and socio-cultural amalgamation.
There is also a small, but little-known, community of Jews in Penang, mainly along Jalan Zainal Abidin (formerly Jalan Yahudi or Jewish Street)
Penang agriculture is mainly made up of the major export crops of rubber and oil palm and some cocoa, the food commodities comprising paddy, fruits, coconut, vegetables, livestock (which is dominated by poultry and swine), fisheries and aquaculture, and new emerging industries such as ornamental fish and floriculture.
Owing to limited land size and the highly industrialised nature of Penang’s economy, agriculture is given little emphasis. In fact, agriculture is the only sector to record negative growth in the state, contributing only 1.3% to the state GDP in 2000. The share of Penang’s paddy area to the national paddy area accounts for only 4.9%.
Penang island is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia and even Singapore to sample the island’s unique cuisine, earning Penang the nickname of the food capital of Malaysia. Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004, citing that nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap.
Penang’s cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is also strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. It’s especially famous “hawker food”, sold and eaten roadside, strongly features noodles and fresh seafood. Places to savour Penang’s food are Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, New Lane, Swatow Lane, Penang Road and Chulia Street. Local Chinese restaurants serve excellent fare too. American fast food outlets and cafés are readily found throughout the state.
Although Penang has lost much of its shopping paradise grandeur of its past, it still boasts several modern shopping malls catering a wide range of merchandise. Among the more popular ones on Penang Island are:
- Queensbay Mall, Penang’s largest and longest shopping centre,
- Gurney Plaza, touted as Penang’s first lifestyle-oriented shopping mall. Opened in 2001, it is located at the famous Gurney Drive precicnt.
- KOMTAR is Penang’s first and oldest modern shopping mall. Plans are currently underway to revive the massive complex.
Other notable shopping malls on the mainland part of Penang:
- Sunway Carnival Mall located at Seberang Jaya.
- Seberang Prai City Perdana Mall located at Bandar Perda.
Concerns about Penang beaches
State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said that there were plans to clean up and landscape the beaches in Batu Ferringhi. “The cleanliness of our beaches has been neglected for more than 10 years and this is a challenge to the tourism sector,”.
He added that the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) took water samples from beaches in Batu Ferringhi and determined numerous pollution sources including the sewage system, illegal restaurants and hawkers and car-washing activities.
State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said he was informed of the matter by the management of Malaysia Airlines. “The number of tourists from these regions has been steadily declining over the past decade” and “Tourists come to the state for the surf and sand but they usually return home disappointed. We are even losing out domestically to Pangkor and Langkawi” “Rivers will be cleaned up and illegal outlets draining sewage into the sea will be connected to a treatment plant by 2009.”
Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (ATAP) chairman Eddy Low said “We strongly discourage food courts or stalls being set up or built near the sea to prevent the dumping of rubbish into the sea and around the area. ” He said there should also be a massive plan for a central sewerage system so that waste would not go to the sea. There is also a need to protect the outer islands such as Pulau Jerejak, Pulau Rimau and Pulau Aman. “It is important for us to maintain these islands which are still pristine and untouched by pollution.”
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