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All about Penang & more

Penang today is very much an amalgam of the old and the new – a bustling port, a heritage city and an industrial base. Perhaps it has more to offer per square mile than any other place in the world. For sheer variety of locales, cultures and foods, Penang is hard to beat. Here are stories about Penang and more.

Minor Basilica of St. Anne: monument to faith and enduring legacy

Church of St Anne © Adrian Cheah

The humble legacy of 19th century French missionaries have become among the greatest pilgrimage centres of the region.

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Echoes of history: "Lim Boon Keng – The Musical" at Jen Hotel

Lim Boon Keng The Musical © Musical Theatre Limited

On Sunday, 14 July 2024, I had the pleasure of attending an enchanting evening at the Grand Ballroom of Jen Hotel. The occasion was the screening of "Lim Boon Keng – The Musical", thoughtfully paired with a Penang-Singapore people-to-people friendship dinner. The event combined cultural celebration, historical reflection and fine dining, creating a charming evening.

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Savoury Or Kuih (steamed yam cake) recipe from Lily Wong

Or kuih (yam cake) © Adrian Cheah

"Yam", as it is often known in Penang, actually refers to taro. While "yam" encompasses various plant species in the Dioscorea genus with edible tubers, Or Kuih specifically uses taro. For local authenticity, I'll stick with "yam". Or Kuih, a steamed yam cake, is a lovely local delicacy topped with aromatic shallot oil, fried dried shrimps, crispy shallots, spring onions and diced chillies. Traditionally served with chilli sauce or "tnee cniau" (sweet sauce) on the side, this dish embodies comfort food. A perfect slice of yam cake should be aromatic and tender, with yam chunks that melt in the mouth.

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Springy Nyonya Kuih Talam

Kuih Talam © Adrian Cheah

Kuih Talam, a classic Nyonya cake, is still popular in Penang today. Its two signature colours are green and white. The sweetened green base layer is perfumed with pandan (screw pine) juice while the top white layer has a "lemak" (rich) indulgence of santan (coconut milk) that is mildly salty. It is dangerously addictive and a slice is never enough. Maybe that is why nowadays, Kuih Talam is cut and packed in two or three pieces. I also notice that the pieces are much smaller than what they used to be when I was growing up.

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My Kebaya shirt – a journey where novelty meets sublime beauty

Kebaya shirt © Adrian Cheah

Having grown up in a Chinese Peranakan household, I have always been intrigued by the beauty of the kebaya. It is not just about how the entire ensemble – when matched with a traditional floral sarong is wearable art, one that gives a veritable statement on the opulent cultural heritage of the Nyonyas.

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The durian burger, a journey of discovery

durian burger © Adrian Cheah

I am game for all things durian. Durian egg tarts are delicious. Homemade durian ice cream is such a sinful treat, especially eaten with crispy kuih kapit (love letters). Passion Heart Cafe bakes one-of-a-kind Fresh Cream Durian Cake; it is a sponge cake layered with fresh cream and creamy durian paste, topped with durian kaya (coconut jam). This is one of my favourite cakes at the cafe.

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Tides of candlelight adoration at St. Anne's Feast

St Anne

One of the largest and most extraordinary religious mass gatherings in Southeast Asia is the St Anne Novena and Feast in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang.

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Tze Whay: charting a path of purpose through life's labyrinth

Tze Whay © Phang Tze Whay

Dr Stefan Phang Tze Whay and I were moulded by the same hands, shaped by the same brilliant and dedicated teachers at La Salle School in Penang, Malaysia. Those formative years, shared with some of the most inspiring educators, laid the foundation for our lives. We were taught to think critically, to understand that our actions impact those around us, to hike, to camp and to revel in the embrace of nature. Our education transcended the classroom, preparing us for life at large. "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire," as WB Yeats once said. Our teachers ignited that fire within us.

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Chef Sue Ching's artistry at Third Culture Penang

Third Culture Penang © Adrian Cheah

Third Culture Penang offers a "seasonal" menu that draws from the fresh ingredients of Penang and neighbouring states, skilfully prepared by Chef Khor Sue Ching. She deploys French cooking techniques learnt from L’Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. However, most of her culinary skills were honed not in classrooms, but in the actual kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants. Learning about this, I eagerly anticipated creative flavours paired with exciting new culinary combinations for a delightful dining experience.

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George Town World Heritage Site: The story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang

By Mark Thompson and Karl Steinberg with photographs by Adrian Cheah

George Town World Heritage Site: The story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang

Walk between two of George Town’s most famous landmarks with this illustrated guide. Discover the story of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Penang and explore some of the community’s fascinating characters, customs, architecture and events.

For as long as it has existed, George Town in Penang has attracted travellers and settlers from across the globe and is a true confluence of cultures. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to enchant visitors with its traditional charm and its well-preserved historical townscape.

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The elegant Nyonya kebaya – wearable art that knows no seasons

kebays © Adrian Cheah

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is an oft-quoted maxim about the importance of adapting oneself. Whether or not this bit of wisdom was known to the early Chinese immigrants to Malaysia, some of them eventually married the local folk and adopted Malay customs while remaining quintessentially Chinese in belief and philosophy. The result of this union was the Chinese Peranakan (more commonly known as Babas and Nyonyas), a unique cultural hybrid with a cosmopolitan persona that flourished for centuries throughout Malaysia.

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Comforting ark bak (duck meat) koay teow th'ng

koay teow th'ng © Adrian Cheah

Loh Kei Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng finds its home at the side wing of the State Chinese (Penang) Association (SCPA) on Perak Road. Just across the way, Ang Hoay Loh Restaurant occupies the other wing.

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