Tek Sen Restaurant: Best Chinese food in Penang, Malaysia

Tek Sen Restaurant in George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tek Sen Restaurant in George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Since opening in 1965, Tek Sen Restaurant has become one of the best Chinese restaurants in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. George Town, a UNESCO Historic Site, is a must-visit destination located 180 miles (289 kilometers) northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

If you love food, Penang is a must. For over 50 years, Tek Sen Restaurant has served various authentic Chinese dishes, including Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, and Peranakan.

When Tek Sen Restaurant first opened in 1965, it operated out of a small stall known as Teik Seng Rice Stall.

Although they have moved their business into a renovated heritage building in the center of George Town, the quality of food and authentic flavors have remained the same.

If you are looking for more information about Penang and Malaysia, I highly recommend picking up a guidebook such as Lonely Planet Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang or Lonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei 15.

Popularity of Tek Sen Restaurant

Crowds of people waiting outside of the restaurant, Tek Sen Restaurant, Penang, Malaysia
Crowds of people waiting outside of the restaurant

Over the years, Tek Sen Restaurant has become popular with locals and foreigners. The restaurant has been on television shows, YouTube channels, and countless travel blogs like my own.

Thanks to all this exposure and the great food, you can always expect to find a crowd waiting patiently outside the restaurant for a table.

I recommend visiting during the week if you want to avoid the lines and crowds. Also, lunch hours will be less busy than dinner hours. If you plan to visit for lunch, arrive before they open at noon.

I arrived 5 minutes after they opened, and only two tables were available. By 12:15 PM, the line for a table extended out of the restaurant’s front door.

If you plan to come for dinner, I recommend arriving before they open at 6:00 PM.

Interior of Tek Sen Restaurant

Open interior of the restaurant
Open interior of the restaurant

As mentioned, Tek Sen began as an open-air eatery and later moved into a beautiful heritage building. Although the restaurant has modernized over the years, parts of its past remain to this day.

The large open-air dining room, with tables scattered around, reminded me of the hawker centres I encountered while traveling in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

As with these hawker centres, the dining room was loud and hot without air conditioning. Instead, you had constantly spinning fans hanging from tall ceilings to cool you down.

While the décor was simple, the white walls made the space bright and open. Even more impressive was how clean the dining room was.

Tek Sen Restaurant was by far the cleanest restaurant I encountered on my two-week trip to Malaysia.

Worker scooping rice into bowls
Worker scooping rice into bowls

In the back of the dining room was a small window with a view into the kitchen.

While waiting for my food, watching the workers, dressed in black shirts and green aprons, efficiently moving around the dining room was interesting.

Everyone seemed to have their specific job, including the lady who was constantly scooping bowls of rice from a big pot.

Tek Sen Restaurant Menu

The menu at Tek Sen Restaurant, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Something for everyone on the menu at Tek Sen Restaurant (Click to enlarge)

The menu at Tek Sen Restaurant featured various Chinese dishes.

The extensive menu had different sections. Sections included seasonal vegetables, pork, tofu, chicken, egg, seafood, specials, soups, and rice.

Whether stir-fried, deep-fried, braised, or steamed, there was something for everyone on the menu.

The majority of the menu items could be ordered in medium (M) or extra large (XL) sizes. A few items offered a large (L) option. Some items, including seafood and daily specials, were only available in one portion size.

If you are unsure of what dish to order or, like me, you can’t decide, look for the small hearts located next to certain items on the menu.

These hearts indicated menu items that were all-time favorites, including the Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi and Stir-Fried Kang Kung with Sambal Sauce and Prawns.

I ordered both of these items based on the hearts on the menu. You can’t go wrong with choosing any of these items, and you really can’t go wrong with whatever you order.

Ice cold Tiger beer on a hot day in Penang
Ice cold Tiger beer on a hot day in Penang

Besides food, the menu featured an assortment of beverages, including tea, coffee, soft drinks, fruit drinks, soya milk, and beer.

Some of the more exciting and unique drinks on the menu included blackcurrant squash juice and a water chestnut and sugarcane syrup drink.

All drinks, hot or cold, ranged in price from 1 to 3 Ringgit ($0.24 to $0.72).

Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi

The signature dish, the Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi
The signature dish, the Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi

If you visit Tek Sen Restaurant, you are going to want to order their Home Recipe Double Roasted Pork with Chili Padi (18 Ringgit (M) or 30 Ringgit (XL) or about $4.34 (M) or $7.23 (XL)).

My server told me that this was their signature dish. Everyone was ordering it.

While hastily thrown together, the dish was very flavorful. It consisted of chopped roasted Chinese pork belly stir-fried in a mixture of salty dark soy sauce, sugar, and chili padi.

This type of chili is also known as Bird’s eye or Thai chili. They also had a version without the chili padi if you prefer less spicy foods.

When I took my first bite of the homemade double roasted pork belly, all I could think was wow. I understood at that moment why the restaurant was so popular.

Each piece of the roasted pork looked beautiful and glistened under the lights. After being stir-fried, each piece of pork was crispy and crunchy on the outside yet chewy and tender on the inside.

The pork perfectly balanced the tender meaty bits and melt-in-your-mouth fatty-rich parts. It was like bacon but somehow even better.

With the added chili padi, I was expecting a kick of heat, but unfortunately, this was not the case for me.

The soy sauce and sugar coating the pork cooled, making it sticky, salty, and sweet. It was like pork candy.

The sauce’s sweetness might be too much for some, but I enjoyed it. I just wanted more heat to complement the sweetness.

If you love pork, you are going to enjoy this dish. I could eat this all day. After trying it, I understood why this was their signature dish.

Stir-Fried Kang Kung with Sambal Sauce and Prawns

An order of the Stir-Fried Kang Kung with Sambal Sauce and Prawns
The Stir-Fried Kang Kung with Sambal Sauce and Prawns

After such a rich and sweet pork dish, I gladly welcomed the Stir-Fried Kang Kung with Sambal Sauce and Prawns (12 Ringgit (M) or 20 Ringgit (XL) or about $2.89 (M) or $4.82 (XL)).

If you are wondering, kang kung is a water spinach popular in Southeast Asian cuisine.

Even though I ordered the medium portion, I was surprised by how much water spinach was packed onto the plate. And being sautéed, I couldn’t imagine how much spinach the chefs initially used.

While I consider regular spinach quite bitter when sautéed, this water spinach had a mild savory flavor, which was refreshing. Its texture was tender yet crunchy, similar to regular spinach.

The most interesting part of the water spinach was the crunchy hollow stems, which reminded me of green onions.

Coating the water spinach was a sambal sauce. Sambal, to me, is a spicy, salty, thick red sauce found in Southeast Asian dishes.

However, this sauce was thinner than I was expecting. It was not red but brown in color. Though thin, the sambal packed a lot of rich, oily, and salty flavors.

In addition, sambal, garlic, and red pepper flakes were sprinkled over the water spinach, adding even more flavor to the dish. I just wanted the sambal sauce to be spicier.

Mixed with the water spinach were two large pieces of tender, moist shrimp. While I wish there was more shrimp, each piece was perfect. You can never go wrong with more shrimp in a dish.

The combination of textures and flavors of the tender, crunchy, refreshing water spinach, moist shrimp, and flavorful sambal sauce worked well.

This dish also complemented the rich double roasted pork dish.


Of all the places I visited in Malaysia, I would say the service at Tek Sen Restaurant was the most efficient I encountered.

All the staff worked together, even talking to each other with wireless microphones. Each worker had their own job: taking orders, delivering food, or greeting guests.

The efficient staff ensured that my order arrived quickly and correctly, allowing the line out front to move more rapidly.


Penang, an island strategically located off the coast of northwest Malaysia, is an interesting mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures and flavors.

A quick walk around George Town will immediately notice a strong Chinese influence, from Chinatown to the many Chinese temples and restaurants.

One of the best ways to experience this Chinese influence is by eating at one of the many Chinese restaurants, such as Tek Sen Restaurant.

Over the years, the restaurant has transformed from a humble street stall into a clean, modern restaurant. What has remained the same is the quality and flavors of the food.

While the Double Roasted Pork might not be for everyone because of its sweetness, it was delicious, and I would return just for this dish.

If you want something other than pork, you are in luck with such an extensive menu featuring time-tested dishes that keep people coming back decade after decade.


  • Double roasted pork was like pork candy
  • Large menu with a wide variety of Chinese dishes
  • Clean interior
  • Efficient service


  • Spicy foods were not spicy
  • Expect a wait
  • Cash only


Monday-Sunday: 12:00PM-3:00PM and 6:00PM-9:00PM


18, Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
GPS Coordinates: 5.417419,100.335975


Last Updated on April 23, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.