I've been pondering why Penang remains a tourist destination – it used to be the beaches and it certainly isn't that any more. For a while now (apparently unknown to me), it has been street food and staying at Gurney Drive made me aware of this. Every evening tour buses would disgorge hordes of tourists to the end of Gurney Drive at the roundabout to Tanjung Tokong and they would descend upon the food stalls near our apartment.
We tried the food there one night – it wasn't all good – mostly miss than hit and the stalls didn't look particularly appetizing.
What used to be knowledge by word of mouth – where the best char koay teow was, etc. has now been formalized into guide books for foods as well as top ten lists in newspapers. I discovered all this on this particular trip and was slightly overwhelmed at how much things have changed. Of course, the Internet has been playing a big role as well. Try googling 'penang street food' and all kinds of web sites and blogs complete with mouth watering pictures of dishes appear.
Penangites (and its tourists) are apparently undeterred by the effect of emissions on the environment where food is concerned. They are willing to drive miles out of the way in search of the best hokkien mee or whatever seems to be on their mind.