Cheap eats in Pantai Cenang

A bunch to choose from

What we say: 3.5 stars

With increased international tourism to Langkawi, more mum and pop restaurants are not only surviving, they’re thriving. Despite increased rents for many local businesses, these family-owned and operated eateries continue to serve their specialty dishes at backpacker prices. We sussed out a few winners in Pantai Cenang that embrace culinary dishes from several continents and are well worth checking out.

There’s a restaurant in there somewhere.

Hong Kong Lai Kwai Fong RTV Cafe is more than a mouthful of a name. Located directly across from Underwater World Langkawi on the corner lot, the cafe is easily overlooked due to nearby business signs competing for airspace. Possibly reincarnated from a karaoke bar past life, this open-air cafe is off the busy road just enough to keep the noisy road at bay.

Floor show seating area.

Hong Kong Lai entices early risers with Western and local breakfast options, including banana pancakes or wanton noodle, from 07:30 to 11:30. They also offer set lunches and dinners starting at 10.90 ringgit and other inexpensive a la carte selections like roasted chicken and noodle soup. Lunch is served from 12:00 to 16:00 and they re-open for dinner from 18:00 until 22:00. The English-speaking staff are quite friendly and helpful if you have difficulty choosing from their extensive menu. They also serve beer, which isn’t on the menu — you just have to ask. They’re open Thursday through Tuesday and make an excellent cheap dining option.

This footpath dining area fills up at night.

At the end of busy Jalan Pantai Cenang is the only Javanese restaurant in Langkawi. The recently opened Java Cafe’s original business was selling souvenirs but perhaps the dimly lit interior deterred shoppers. With the addition of the cafe, word-of-mouth recommendations have made this place a big hit with locals and travellers. The prices can’t be beat either. Open daily 12:00 until midnight, a lunch set of ayam lepas (fried chicken Javanese-style), rice and tea will fill you up and set you back 5.50 ringgit. With the few tables crammed together, people watchers will enjoy the sidewalk dining option later in the day.

Tasty ayam penyet with a la carte spices.

Around the corner as you cross into Pantai Tengah is Thein-Thein Lai Seafood & Hawker Centre serving daily from 10:00 to 15:30 and 18:00 to 22:30. The slightly chaotic looking interior and blaring TV may be off-putting to some, but this budget dining option is worth a visit.

A multi-coloured ribbon winner!

Although not all of the staff are well versed in English, pointing at what you’d like on the menu should get your selection whipped up from scratch and promptly delivered to your table. Our khuay teow sup and tea was a full meal for 14.50 ringgit and they didn’t skimp on ingredients. Their open-air dining space is also great for people watching.

The naan man!

But if you happen to be seeking nourishment at some odd hour of the day or night or perhaps have a craving for Indian cuisine, then 24-hour hotspot Restoran Tomato Nasi Kandar is the place to go. That’s right, they never close. Easy to spot at night by the neon tomato sign, it’s located diagonal to the Cenang Mall, beachside. Serving Malay and Indian cuisine, this restaurant is always full of patrons. Their naan bread is made on-site the old fashioned way and is great for dipping into their tasty chicken butter masala. That and a glass of tea will set you back 13 ringgit, satisfaction guaranteed.

Last reviewed by:
Vanessa eventually based herself in Langkawi and settled into the island lifestyle. The location offered a gateway to Southeast Asia, from where she continues her exploration of Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong and other destinations on her 'to-do' list.

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