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Hungry Ghost Festival in Penang

(Photo Credit: Visit Penang)

Every year, during the 7th month of lunar calendar, the streets of Penang, especially George Town, come to life and become the center stage for traditional Chinese operas, puppet shows, and open-air concerts (Ko Tai). The sights and sounds of such performances mark the month-long observation and celebration of “Hungry Ghost Festival” in Penang—the equivalent of western Halloween, albeit for an average of 30 days!

This year, Hungry Ghost Festival starts from August 10th and ends on September 7th. It’s an annual ritual that is celebrated by many people in Penang. The traditional Chinese operas, puppet shows, and concerts are said to appease the roaming spirits in our world during the 7th month of lunar calendar. Other observance includes elaborated food offerings and prayers…

(Photo Credit: Visit Penang)

My family back home in Penang observes this festival religiously. When I was little, my aunt would always take me to watch the Chinese opera, puppet show, or concert (Ko Tai) in our neighborhood. While she was busy offering her prayers or enjoying the entertainment on the stage, I would be roaming around buying and eating various snacks and junk food, sold by the many temporary vendors beside the stage. It was always so much fun as once a year, I got to savor the “special” foods commonly sold during the Hungry Ghost Festival—si koh th’ng/四果汤 (a tasty, colorful, and icy sweet desserts), grilled satay jellyfish on the stick, grilled cuttlefish, ice cream, and a slew of other delicious foods. I was equally mesmerized by the storyline and the performances on the stage nonetheless. Hungry Ghost Festival was like a funfare to me…it was an annual event that I would always look forward to.

If you are interested in the unique culture and tradition in Penang, August is a great month to visit. You will see large-scale prayers and food offerings at the many temples in George Town; you will, hopefully enjoy (or at least be intrigued by) the open-air opera shows and entertainment; and you will certainly enjoy all the delicious foods found in Penang.

Fore more information about Hungry Ghost Festival in Penang, please visit this post by Penang Tourism. You can also check out this post at Visit Penang. Finally, if you are in Penang during the Hungry Ghost Festival and would like to learn more about this festival and get an insider’s view about it, send us an email and join our Penang private tour.

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7 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Robbie

    I love the unique Asian culture and tradition and Hungry Ghost Festival sounds intriguing to me. I would love to learn more about it. Do you think you can arrange for me to interview some people? Perhaps temples and those putting together the opera shows, food offerings, prayers, etc.

  2. Lana Chen

    HI !

    I envy you site so much. The photography is amazing !!! I hope I can someday create something like this also. I’ve recently gained interest in photography, and esp food! yumyum !!! I want to make everything you have on this but I just dont know where to find these ingrendients. I live by seaport, and eat time I buy cretain ingrendients to make the dishes i always seeem to have a lot of left over ingrendients. I end up throwing it in the trash. :( do you have any suggestions how I can continue to use cretain ingrendients? or any must have in the kitchen?

    – Lana

  3. Marilyn

    Hi there! I had the pleasure of visiting Penang finally just last week and I was absolutely blown away by the food! I am going to make Penang an annual visit now just to eat. My favourite would have to be the char kway tiaw. Followed by the sublime salted egg crab that I had in Gurney. Love it love it love it. Would you be able to feature a salted egg crab/chicken/prawn recipe sometime soon?
    As for me I will be attempting to recreate the kway tiaw this weekend thanks to your recipe! :-)

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