Padang Brown Food Court has been around as long as I could remember as a child in 1960s. It is shaped like a circular crest with an internal grassed courtyard with trees and a monument, and on either sides of the circle is a half-shaped concave open sheltered structure with over 40 food stalls.
Padang Brown Food Court is also known as "Medan Selera Padang Brown" to the Malays or affectionately known as "Padang" to the local Hokkien Chinese. "Padang" is a Malay word meaning field. The history dated back to the colonial period when the British colonised the island.
The name came from a Scottish settler, David Brown, a philanthropist and one of the largest landowners in Penang at the time. He donated this corner piece of land of 12-acres bordered by Perak Road, Anson Road and Dato' Keramat Road with a large field. I remember the field was used for soccer matches and also by the school across the road, SMJK Convent Datuk Keramat - an all girls Chinese school.
There is a memorial erected in the honour of David Brown for his contribution and development of the island. He lived in Penang for twenty-five years, married locally and passed away in 1825 at the age of 49.
Today Padang Brown has been restored by the state government. It is cleaner and greener. The popularity is the food court selling both Chinese and Malay food. A great place for a casual, social gathering with friends from 1 PM onwards.
I chose Padang Brown Food Court as a meeting point with my friends visiting from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It is our 35-years class reunion. When they found out that I was coming back to Penang for a 2-weeks holiday, they asked me to organise a reunion get-together. All our classmates were invited using WhatsApp. The Group chat was founded by one of our classmate who managed to track down every single one of us after 35 years! The power of social media and internet.
Padang Brown is a great place for a culinary taste on the local Penang food. It has been around since the 1800s. One half of the stalls belong to the Chinese vendors, which opens from 1PM to 6PM. The stalls include some of the most famous Penang's street food - such as, Poh Piah, Nyonya Kuih, Hokkien Mee and Lor Mee, Lok-Lok, Char Koay Teow, Pasembur, Penang style Pancakes, Kangkong Cuttlefish and Otak-Otak, Curry Mee, Leong Tau Foo and many more. The other half of the stalls belong to the Malay vendors, which opens from 4PM to late night. I haven't tried the Malay section, but apparently it is as popular as the Chinese section.
The price in this food court centre has increased significantly because of its popularity with tourists, mostly from the Chinese/Asian background. Nowadays, the locals rarely go to Padang Brown because there are many other choices to go eat Penang street food and everyone has their own favourites.
However if you are a tourist looking for a taste of Penang street food in one place rather than hopping around town, this place is ideal. If you can, come with a group of friends so you can order heaps.
The MUST try at Padang Brown includes the Kuih Muih (delectable nyonya kuih), Char Koay Teow, Poh Piah, Penang Pancake (known locally as Ban Chang Kuih), Hokkien Mee (known in western countries as Prawn Mee), Lok Lok (like steamboat), Leong Tau Foo (or Yong Tau Foo).
Penang Insights blogs about travel and food, sharing with anyone who enjoys traveling to other destinations, taking photographs, meeting people, experiencing new cultures and traditions, enjoying cooking and trying other cuisines.