Vegan Penang – let’s just say I went for the food. The lure of laksa soup, the all-vegetarian buffets, and the cool street art in Georgetown, Malaysia. I’d been following vegan travel bloggers for years posting about it and I wanted to see for myself what it was like in Penang.
So…was the vegan food in Penang worth it for vegans? Well, sort of.
While the sheer QUANTITY of vegetarian restaurants in Penang is impressive, my first reaction was that the QUALITY left something to be desired. My first few days’ of meals were a lot of cold buffet dishes, vaguely bland noodles, and things being closed when I showed up hangry.
…but then I slowly started discovering the street food in Penang, and the best restaurants in Penang recommended by other vegans opened after renovations and I started to get more into it.
I think Penang has the most interesting and accidentally vegan-friendly street food culture of anywhere I’ve been yet. That stuff just isn’t on HappyCow so it took me awhile to look in front of me and realize what’s vegan.
I’ll do a full separate post after this one on street food, for now, here is a guide on getting set up in Penang. Where to stay, which restaurants to check out, where to work, drink coffee and work out. Plus a little street food teaser until that post is ready.
Want to see a video version of this post? Head over to my Instagram profile and search for my “Penang” highlight!
- SIM Cards & wifi
- Co-working spaces
- Where to stay in Penang (guesthouses, hotels, hostels)
- Where to work out in Penang
- Vegan Penang food
Penang for Digital Nomads
I work remotely while I travel, so wifi is important. I had read wifi in Penang was not fantastic, but I decided to risk it for the two weeks I planned to be in Penang.
Penang did live up to the hype that the wifi was not great. The wifi in my AirBnB had a fast download speed, but nearly crawling upload speed, meaning I couldn’t do client calls, upload images without waiting ages or call my partner on the wifi. Most cafes I went to also had really unreliable wifi or were just full and didn’t have enough seats so it was awkward. This frustrated me a lot in the beginning, and I had a few meltdowns until I adjusted and came up with other solutions.
Get a good data package
If you work remotely I recommend you get a good data package from the airport when you arrive in Penang (or in town). I got the 5GB package from Digi. I found all the data packages really confusing as they have a base amount of data and then “extra” free data for specific things. For example, Digi came me 30GB for the first day I had the plan. Why I needed that all in one day, I have no idea. They also had an extra 5GB of data every day between 1-7pm and 10GB or so for video and music streaming. I determined the video and music streaming was for certain apps, so Spotify and YouTube for example I was able to stream with abandon.
The 5GB would have lasted the whole two weeks with just audio calls, but I decided I wanted to video chat my partner once and that sucked it up within 30 minutes.
Anyway, the data connection was great, and I constantly was hotspotting to my phone to work, stream TV shows at night in my AirBnB, in cafes when their wifi was unreliable, etc. Definitely get a good data plan in Penang and you’ll be fine
Join a co-working space in Georgetown
I’m usually a home worker, but once I got over the initial change I really loved working from Scoopoint, the co-working space in Penang I chose. It had a room overlooking the harbor, free coffee and tea (the real coffee ran out once so I had a brief meltdown), a nap room and most importably, reliable wifi.
I had actually planned to join aCAT as I read good things about it. It’s also a bit cheaper than Scoopoint. At 9am on a Thursday I showed up there right at opening hours panicking because I had a client call at 10am. Fifteen minutes later and still no one had showed up to sign me up and take my money. I looked around and it was pretty much only men there and more a big warehouse working environment.
So I left in a bit of a huff, walked right down the street to Scoopoint and was welcomed and signed up right away. The place is run by women and there are other women working there. It’s also a good mixture of nationalities and a much nicer interior. I paid about 38€ for a 10-day pass of co-working. In the scheme of things, not so bad.
My only pet peeves were that the 10-day pass does not give you 24/7 access (only a month or more does). This meant I had to be out by 6 and couldn’t be there on weekends. It made me sort of hate weekends actually as I spent them running around trying to get connected to deal with errands and talking to my partner and friends. I found going to Scoopoint every day really gave me a nice routine and feeling of purpose so was always sad when I couldn’t head over there.
The other pet peeve were that besides a tiny calling booth with no platform for your laptop, there were no calling rooms for client calls. So many co-working spaces make this mistake and I don’t get it, as client calls are such a big part of work. In any case, I picked a room from the side that had closing doors to do my client calls from and it ended up being fine.
Where to Stay in Georgetown, Malaysia
A quick note on areas of Georgetown. I stay right in the downtown touristy heritage district. I think this is good to stay in if you’re just in Penang for a short trip. If you’re staying longer, I recommend staying near Gurney Drive. I had my best vegan food in Georgetown there and found it a bit less chaotic. Cuz I’m old. Gurney Drive is about a 45 minute walk from the tourist center, but taxis are cheap or you can rent a motor scooter.
If you want beach, Batu Ferringhi is your place. Be warned though, Penang is not the place to go for pristine, perfect beaches.
I have hostels, apartments and hotels below, of all different price ranges. Have a close look and there should be something that fits your needs whether you’re backpacking Penang or looking to take a more luxurious vacation.
My AirBnB in Georgetown
I stayed at this AirbnB in Georgetown, Malaysia in one of the Heritage Houses. Minus the wifi not being good enough to work, which is true for most places, I loved it. I had a loft, with a downstairs with a shower, table and clothing rack and then a loft with steps leading up to the bedroom area. There were lots of well thought-out hooks and a kitchen downstairs I could use. Plus they had cute little parakeets that flew around free downstairs some days, one of which I eventually befriended!!! Location was great, they let me do laundry there too. Sign up with my AirBnB link to get 25€ off your booking if you’re new to AirBnB!
Best Guesthouses, Hotels & Hostels in Georgetown, Malaysia
For those that want something a little bit fancier than my place, or their own bathroom, or if mine is booked. I did a little walking tour around my neighborhood my last night to scope out other Penang guesthouses that looked good. If you’re wondering where to stay in Penang or where to stay in Georgetown check these out.
Where to Stay in Georgetown Heritage Area
If you want a nice pool. Has really great reviews.
Has a rooftop bar. You can get a basic compact room with double bed, desk, bathroom starting at just 24€ per night. For a room with more light coming in or multiple beds it goes up to 40€ per night. Bathrooms look nice, modern and clean. Just down the road from where I stayed and walking distance to lots of vegan places. I’m a bit envious of this one actually, wish I had discovered it.
Now that I’m looking at these I really wished I had known before I booked mine lol. This place has a unique atmosphere, nice decoration. Double room with shared bathroom starts at 19€ per night, for 22€ you get your own bathroom. They also have cute lofts, look how cute:
If you are on vacation and wanna have a bit more of a luxury trip, though at around 33€ per night it’s definitely not luxury price! I walked past this place and it looks adorable. Breakfast is included but not sure how much of it is vegan. Has family rooms.
This was literally right on my street so I can vouch for the area. Prices from 35-60€ per night. Also has family rooms.
Best Hostels in the Georgetown Heritage Area
Backpacking Penang or just short on cash? Want more opportunity to make friends? Here’s some recommendations for the best hostels in Penang. I did find it kind of hard to make friends in Penang and I think a hostel would have helped. But alas, I got a lot of shit done instead of being social lol.
Dorms and private rooms. If you want the chance to meet people, but want your own bedroom you can get one for 13€ per night. Good for digital nomads on a budget. They also have dorms in little private bed cubbies or in single beds in a mixed room starting at 7€ per night, so a little bit of everything. Good location.
Female-only hostel. Another vegan friend highly recommended this place to me when I was first researching where to stay. She said they also do a work-exchange if you’re looking for that. The beds all have curtains around them so you have privacy. No bunk beds.
If you want your hostel to have a pool. Starting at 4€ per night you can’t really go wrong.
Has street art all over and breakfast is included. Might even be vegan options as they mention noodles and roti with curry. Starts at 7€ per night, good ratings.
Gurney Drive Area
My favorite vegan places in Penang were in this area: Evergreen Vegetarian House (epic vegan buffet), Brown Poodle Cafe and Zen Xin Vegetarian.
A heritage house near the Gurney Drive area! Starts at 24€ per night and looks nice. Good if you want to stay in this area for longer as rooms come with a fridge, toaster, kettle, private bathrooms and AC. I think that’s quite good for the price. If I come back I will stay in this area.
Has a seaview! This is the area I mentioned where I had the best vegan food. This is an entire apartment complex, the place looks lux. They also have two and three bedroom apartments if you’re traveling with friends, or a family and want your own rooms. Prices start at 85€ per night. The three bedroom is 95€ per night though so if you split that between 3 or more people (it fits up to 7) that’s really not so bad at all.
If you want that lux hotel experience with a nice pool and fancy hotel bar, traveling for business, etc. I walked into this complex and it was super nice. Plus it’s near a bunch of malls with lots of cafes that have soymilk and semi-reliable wifi.
Where to Workout in Penang
For a good enough gym in Penang with machines, ellipticals, treadmills and a room to stretch in Ultimate Fitness Center Penang gets the job done. A day pass costs RM25. If you’re gonna be there longer they have other options. They also have yoga and other classes in the evenings sometimes. I went here about 5 times. Only thing that bothered me were the movies playing on loop featuring bodybuilder dudes.
The owner was super sweet/ funny though. I walked in on him teaching himself guitar and singing behind reception one morning.
For yoga in English check out Wholey Wonder. They post the monthly schedule in the cafe, on their Facebook and on their Instagram.
Vegan Penang Food Guide
What you’ve been waiting for…all that vegan food!
Vegan Penang – All that Street Food
There was so much I made a separate vegan street food guide to Penang here. Here’s some teasers…
Best Restaurants in Georgetown for Vegans
Well, my favorites at least. These are the places I went to more than once or just generally loved, in my opinion the best vegan restaurants in Penang. If you’re just doing a short trip to Penang, maybe one of those Thai visa runs, this section is for you.
Wholey Wonder Cafe & Yoga Studio (link)
This rainbow vegan cheesecake blew my mind and is a vegan Penang must. This is the place to go for healthy vegan food, nice buddha bowls, vegan desserts. If you’re looking for yoga or pilates classes in English this is also your spot. I tried to make it for yoga but the timing never worked out. I also ate a peanut butter cheesecake here but I stuffed it in my mouth before I took a picture.
EE Beng Vegetarian Buffet (link)
I ended up here a lot. They have the vegetarian buffet that’s open for lunch AND dinner, a massive steamed buns selection (my love) and if you go for breakfast or lunch there’s a lady running a vegetarian noodle stall out front where you can get vegetarian (mostly vegan, ask about milk) laksa soup, curry mee and char kway teow noodles. The food was generally not so warm, but I liked this buffet second best after Evergreen Vegetarian House.
Pinxin Vegan Cuisine (link)
This was the first and last place I went and it’s all vegan so you don’t have to have a meltdown about whether or not the mock meats are vegan. It’s a bit more upscale Malaysian food but not so pricey. They also do really nice Western salads and buddha bowl with tons of veggies, quinoa, etc. They sell metal straws and don’t use single use plastics. I heard the satay sticks here were mind-blowingly good too but I didn’t have enough space in my stomach!
Sushi Kitchen (link)
The Sushi Kitchen Georgetown location was under renovation until my last three days in Penang. I would have gone at least three more times had it not been, they were excellent! It’s all 100% vegan! Another vegan Penang must. Seems to only do online orders since COVID.
Blue Vegan Restaurant
This used to be called Cloud Dreaming, but they had JUST done a rebranding and re-opened my last few days in Penang, luckily so I could try them! I definitely would have gone here again had it been open. They are also a great place to go for dessert.
My only pet peeve is that the fried mushrooms in the burger were really hard to eat. They were delicious but big pieces so I ended up having to take them out, cut them, and put them back in the bun.
Zen Xin Vegetarian Restaurant (link)
This was my favorite vegan meal I had in Penang. That fried vegan chicken, omg! And the sambal eggplant just melted in my mouth, with nice big chunks. A vegan Penang must…go here.
Brown Poodle Cafe (link)
If you’re looking for vegan cheese in Penang, this is one place to try! It’s also in the Gurney Drive area. They wouldn’t put the vegan cheese on my burger though because they said it’d be weird, but they had it for the pizzas and for another cheese bake item on the menu. Apparently an actual poodle makes and appearance sometimes too. 😉
Evergreen Vegetarian House (link)
This was my favorite of all the vegetarian buffets. Unfortunately it was a 50 minute walk from where I was staying, in the Gurney Drive area, otherwise I would have gone all the time. They had a steamed buns case with tons of bao, a MASSIVE buffet with all sorts of vegetables, noodles, rice, and tempeh!! They also were willing to do a vegan coffee with soymilk and had a separate noodle stall out front if you wanted a la carte food. AND it was VERY affordable, compared with all the other buffets I went to. This is a vegan Penang MUST, even if you need to take a taxi there! Definitely one of the best restaurants in Georgetown for affordable yummy veg food.
Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Restaurant (link)
This place had my absolute favorite masala dosa (stuffed potato Indian crepe). At only 3RM (65 euro cents) you really can’t go wrong. I was here for breakfast a LOT. I also got their thali once and it was good, but I think I’m not as much of a thali person. Had I had more time I would have tried more of the a la carte dishes for dinner. It’s vegetarian, not vegan so make sure to specify no ghee. One of the guys that works there understands vegan, the guys that don’t understand asked him for me to clarify. Vegan Penang must for Indian food.
Every Fresh Juice & Smoothie Bar (link)
They use coconut milk in all their smoothies and smoothie bowls so it’s super vegan friendly. Great vegan Penang healthy option if you need to offset all those vegetarian buffets, haha.
Run by a Syrian guy so you know it’s good. He makes a really nice vegan garlic sauce that goes in it and it’s stuffed with lots of veggies and pickles and the falafel balls themselves are yum. A falafel wrap is RM10, bargain! It’s right in front of Reggae Bar who they are affiliated with. During the week the bar does free drinks for ladies in the evening (the drinks are mostly with flat soda hah but if you’re just looking for free booze). Owner has a bunch of cute dogs who come to play and is nice, I ended up here chatting with people for a couple hours.
Georgetown Restaurants That Didn’t Make the Vegan Penang MUST List
Tanny Vegetarian House (link)
This was perhaps the cheapest place I went, so if you’re a vegan on a budget head here. The only drawback is I didn’t really love what I ordered. The lady was super friendly though and if I had had more time I would have been back to try other things. Randomly, this place had the fastest wifi of anywhere I went in Penang, even faster than my co-working space, though it’d be a strange place to work.
It might be a better place to go once you’re in Penang for several days and more familiar with the local dishes. There are no pictures and it’s confusing to tell what things are until you are more familiar with Malaysian food. The lady that works there speaks English though and is happy to give suggestions. It’s right next to another vegetarian restaurant, Golden Lotus, which I didn’t get to try.
Lily’s Vegetarian Kitchen (link)
Be warned, there are three Lily’s Vegetarian Restaurants all right next to each other. It’s confusing. If you are facing them the one to the left has yummy vegan cakes and western stuff and is more of a cafe. The one in the middle is Chinese style with simple dishes and big tables with the idea you go with a group and share things. The one on the right is the one everyone actually mentions on HappyCow. This is the one I recommend you try first. They have pictures of everything so it makes it easier, they also do delivery if you don’t want to go out in that Malaysian scorching heat. I went to the restaurant and then right over to the cafe for cake afterwards. The middle one I didn’t find so exciting from the sort of hard to interpret english menu.
I liked this place, it was just a bit farther from me and I didn’t have time or enough motivation to walk over twice.
Lily’s Vegetarian Cafe
The one right next door I mentioned with the fluffy vegan cake! Go for the cake!
Zhu Yuan Vegetarian (link)
This Chinese vegetarian place wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. I went twice as it was right around the corner from where I was staying in Georgetown and it was cheap. Their lunch bento boxes are a good value. I would not recommend the satay sticks here though, as they were way too chewy.
Viva Victoria (link)
This is another one that just didn’t blow my mind. It’s around the corner from Sushi Kitchen. They played the music way to loud for the middle of the afternoon, like clubbing loud. They have a separate vegan menu. My vegan quesadilla tasted like it was cooked in butter – maybe they share cooking surface? I didn’t check to confirm but butter has a very specific taste. I also got the noodles with tomato sauce and it was pretty bland. Everyone raves about the vegan moussaka though (with vegan cheese) and they were out of it when I went so might be worth a shot for that. Or if you wanna party in the evening somewhere there is vegan food.
Luk Yea Yan Vegetarian Restaurant (link)
This place had a massive buffet with loads of different mock meats, also a shop with lots of veg products. All my food was cold though and the mock meats weren’t at all crispy on the outside. I think they do a la carte stuff too though, I just couldn’t figure out how that worked. They also have a steamed buns case out front so if they are nearby you can get some vegetarian steamed buns (red bean yum!). Similarly, people had drinks but I couldn’t figure out how that worked. My plate below cost RM25. I think I wasn’t supposed to take so many things because the guy stared at my plate a really long time before telling me the price.
Tofu Village (link)
Even though it’s called tofu village it’s not a vegetarian place. They have vegan items on the menu though. All the bloggers I read raved about this tofu dish below. I thought the flavor was great but I personally wasn’t a fan of the texture of the tofu so I just went once. They have a vegan noodle soup too I didn’t try.
Thali NR Sweets Cafe (link)
All vegetarian Indian buffet place that also does a la carte. I never had the energy to try and communicate which items in the buffet had ghee and which didn’t. If I had been there longer I would have eventually tried because an Indian buffet sounds great. I did try their masala dosa though, which was great with flavor, but lost points for being cold as they just took the sauces from the buffet.
As the name suggests they also have a case filled with self-serve Indian sweets. They all have ingredients and there are a few vegan ones. You can see below. Beware the chocolate one in the picture isn’t vegan. I went there when I was tired and saw the words “coconut” and “milk” next to each other and missed the comma in between. Later I realized it had milk when I bit into it, shit happens. The other sweets I didn’t really care for.
JanXden Greenlife (link)
I had really high hopes for this place, but when I got there all the most exciting (to me) dishes weren’t vegan. It was just some fried rice dishes that were vegan, which you can get anywhere. Some seemed silly to not be vegan as they were so close. For example, they had rainbow nori rolls with vegan tuna in them and they weren’t vegan because there was mayo in them. I tried to order without mayo but there was a miscommunication and it never came. Luckily that day they had a vegan cheese spaghetti special. It was good, but not something I’d go far out of my way for again. The employees were super nice though. They also told me you can order a vegan cake if you ask in advance.
Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House (link)
I went here twice because they do an almond coffee frappe with almond milk! It is very almondy but so nice on a hot day. The soy milk in most cafes tastes suuuuuper beany so in Asia I am always happy when I see almond or coconut milk instead on a menu.
Yun Shan Ge Vegetarian House (link)
I thought this place had very good flavor, nice employees. However for the price the portions were small and I was still hungry after eating so ended up having a second dinner right after. If you don’t have a big appetite and want food with really fresh veggies worth a shot though.
Mr. Shawerma (link)
This place was perfectly fine just not quite as delicious as the fa-laugh-ely. It has a lot more seating though if you want to sit down with a group.
Holy Guacamole (link)
Only Love lane with all the backpacker bars. They have a couple labeled vegan items like this pumpkin mushroom burrito with guac. Homemade chips, decent guacamole portions, good happy hour deals. Not tons of vegan options but the items they have are good and sometimes you just crave Mexican food, am I right?!
Nutriland Vegan Cafe (link)
This is the only place I saw that was all organic. From what I saw they only do brunch/lunch on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, but reading HappyCow seems to indicate they also do lunch? Everyone was very friendly here. You can make your own laksa soup and curry mee from the ingredients. It was not the best place I eat and more expensive I guess because it’s organic, which is good to support. Worth a visit if you’re nearby but it was not close to me so I did not make it more than once.
Best Cafes in Georgetown for Vegans
The cafe scene in Penang left something to be desired. Barely anywhere had soymilk and when they did it was the super beany bitter type.
Not gonna lie, I ended up at Starbucks and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf a couple times just because I knew they had non-dairy milk I liked.
If you just want vegan coffee a lot of the vegan restaurants also have good non-dairy options, like: Sushi Kitchen, Brown Poodle Cafe, Blue Vegan Restaurant, Yun Shui Ge, Wholey Wonder, Lily’s Vegetarian Cafe, and Every Fresh Bar that I mentioned above.
If you’re looking for cafes with fancy high-quality coffee and fine-tuned espresso machines with good non-dairy milk options here are two for you. They are around the corner from each other.
Wheeler’s Cafe (link)
This place was recommended as the best place to do work on a laptop in Georgetown but I found that absolutely not the case. It was always full and while they have an upstairs, it was always closed. Even when I asked to go up there as a friend recommended, they said no because maybe a private function was using it? When I finally did get on the wifi there were no outlets near me and the wifi wasn’t actually working. Maybe I just had bad timing but I don’t get it.
That said, they’ve added a few vegan items to their menu and they do have great coffee with tasty soymilk that’s not bitter and beany. You can get vegan nachos or a vegan panini, smoothies with coconut milk, etc. I got a lemon water that was the perfect amount of tart, and a few great coffees.
I did have a negative customer service experience though. When I sat down the waiter asked why I chose there. I said because they had vegan nachos. When he brought the vegan nachos I ordered, the same waiter told me I should order the chicken ones next time because they were better. If I told you I specifically came for the vegan nachos why would you try and convince me out of it?! I understand the guy probably just didn’t understand veganism but it was a bit off-putting for me. I just felt frustrated and annoyed after that experience. Like leave me alone with what I ordered, I obviously ordered it for a reason.
The Mugshot Cafe (link)
There was no vegan food here from what I could see, but they had great coffee without super acidic beany soymilk. I think you could arrange vegan smoothies as well. They have loads of seats, it’s a very long cafe. The wifi connected but did not work at all for me. Bonus points for metal straws though.
Pin this Vegan Penang Guide for later:
Traveling around Southeast Asia? Have a look at my other vegan guides for the area!
- Vegan Bangkok Guide
- Super Thorough Vegan Chiang Mai Guide
- Vegan Kampot, Cambodia: Go Live in a Treehouse in this Hippy Mountain Town
- Koh Phangan – Vegan Heaven or New Age Hell?
- Vegan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – A 4-day Layover
- I got in touch with my inner hippy in Pai – Vegan Pai Guide
- Vegan Bali Guide – All you need for a week (or more) in Ubud
- The Biggest Vegan Buffet in the World?! & a Mockmeat Scandal: Vegan Taipei Guide