We have written a lot of how affordable places like Penang can be. When it comes to food there are so many choices it is sometimes hard to quantify. Yes, going to a Western restaurant with white table cloth service, a nice wine list and a foreign chef can cost you serious money. That is true everywhere. That said, there are still places to go where Western food is inexpensive and the wine list not bad. Many places will allow you to bring your own wine for a very mall corkage fee, if they charge at all. That can take a very nice dinner for two down to RM100 (Malaysia Ringgit), or less than USD$30.
However, those days of the week where you eat with the locals can be a pleasant surprise and very easy on the wallet.
Case in point. Last night we went to a beachfront restaurant in Tanjung Bungah with the rather ominous name 'Tsunami village'. The 2004 tsunami did hit Penang and several died but not nearly the toll on the beaches of Indonesia and Thailand. As you look out to sea the floating mosque is on your left and the jazzy condos off the beach on your right. On the beach in front of you fishermen are mending their nets. This odd little place is reached by wandering through a repair shop of outboard motors. Just when you think this might have been a very bad idea a charming little patio over the water is revealed. There is no wine served (but, you can bring your own at no charge) and the beer is served ice cold with frosty, chilled glasses. The food, kind of a fusion of Malay/Chinese, is for sharing and we sure did. Our group of seven ordered at least nine dishes including crispy chicken, stir fried rice, deep fried prawns, etc. We supplemented that with six quart bottles of Heineken brought to us in an enormous ice bucket
The food was excellent, the sunset over the water only adding to the experience. When all was said and done the bill was RM218 (Malaysian Ringgit). That is AUD$77, CAD$76 or just a shade over $10 dollars a piece. No tipping required here and while we tackled the food with gusto, we couldn't eat it all.
Expats in Penang don't eat at local spots every day. However, it just adds to the fun when a large group can have a great big meal on the beach for very little money.