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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.

Types of durians I am crazy about

durian © Adrian Cheah

Different people crave different varieties of durians. However, I truly relish durians from older trees as they bear fruits that have buttery-smooth, thick and creamy flesh, often with a stronger "fragrance" and flavour. Even from the same tree, durians can vary from season to season as the trees are influenced by soil conditions and weather. Over different seasons, the Or Chi (Black Thorn) fruits do not necessarily taste the same.

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Durian, the sensational "King of the Fruits"

Penang durian © Adrian Cheah

“You should wash your hands using water poured over the inside chambers of a hollowed durian skin. It will remove the strong odour from your fingers", urged Mr Teh, my neighbour who accompanied me on a durian feast at one of the many durian orchards in Balik Pulau. That morning, we had a satisfying breakfast like no other, amidst the natural surroundings of the orchard, shaded by towering durian trees.

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E&O Hotel, timeless charm of the British colonial era

E&O Hotel © Adrian Cheah

The Eastern & Oriental, popularly known as the E&O, is an all-suite luxury hotel that exudes a timeless charm of the British colonial era.

Located along Jalan Farquhar with a seafront in the heart of George Town, the hotel has an interesting history established by the famed Sarkies brothers – Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak. Although the family name was Ter Woskanian, the brothers adopted their father's first name Sarkies as their surname. Their firm Sarkies Brothers dominated the hospitality trade in the East for nearly half a century.

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EMILY Darling Cafe bakes delectable pastries and indulgent desserts

EMILY Darling Cafe © Adrian Cheah

A fortunate stroke of serendipity can lead one down an unfamiliar path to new beginnings. Little did Danny Yeong, aformer optician and Marcus Tan, a graphic designer, realise that by joining a sourdough baking class in March 2021 by Old Man Teh in Kuala Lumpur would lead them to the opening of EMILY Darling Cafe three months later.

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Le Petit Four Patisserie serving little wonders of pleasure

Le Petit Four Patisserie © Adrian Cheah

When I was in France, I was bowled over by the pâtisseries, offering delicate beauties that were truly culinary works of art. Sipping a creamy cup of cappuccino while savouring a freshly baked croissant or a slice of the rich, decedent opera cake was indeed a heavenly experience.

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Moi, comforting rice-based porridge to warm the soul

congee, moi © Adrian Cheah

If the truth be known, a bowl of piping-hot plain white moi (congee in Hokkien) is unpretentious and is as bland as ever. Yet through the millennia, it has become a comfort food that has no equal. Moi has become the food of love, health and of the home for millions. At times, I marvel at how food this simple can be elevated to taste so deliciously divine.

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The exotic hairy fruit called the rambutan

Penang rambutan © Adrian Cheah

In the vast range of local fruits available in Penang, the rambutan comes in a close second to the durian as a popular choice. Rambutans are tied up in bunches of 50 or 100 each and sold at roadside stalls, at marketplaces and by some fruit vendors when in season. Prices vary according to size and quality. Rambutans sold in Penang are always fresh as they come straight from the local orchards.

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Nangka stuffed with pulut

Jackfruit with glutinous rice © Adrian Cheah

Steaming pulut is easy. All you have to do is rinse and soak the pulut overnight. The following day, drain and steam the pulut with santan and pandan leaves. Enjoying pulut with nangka (a local term for jackfruit), mango or durian is truly delicious.

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All-day breakfast at the gorgeous La Maison d’Antiques

La Maison d’Antiques © Adrian Cheah

La Maison d’Antiques, French for "The House of Antiques" is no ordinary antique shop. Unlike many antique shops that are packed to the brim with items for sale, La Maison d’Antiques elegantly curates the items into alluring dining halls. It is as if you have just entered a château or villa in the charming French countryside to indulge in an all-day breakfast affair. Yes, the breakfast menu stretches right up to 9:00 pm.

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The Maker – offering eye-candy temptations of sweet treats and pastries

The Maker © Adrian Cheah

The Maker, located along upper Beach Street in George Town, first opened its doors to the public in March 2020. It offers fabulous-looking desserts and pastries from shortcakes to croissants and from tarts to breads. It is a heaven for those who relish sweet treats. There is a display glass counter that flaunts lovely beauties unapologetically. Let us dive in and take a closer look at some of The Maker's popular desserts.

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Savour the titillating essence of Nyonya cooking at Nyonya Breeze Desire

Nyonya Breeze © Adrian Cheah

Penang is synonymous with Nyonya cuisine and many locals would have Chinese Peranakan parentage. This means they would have tasted exquisite Nyonya cooking prepared by their grandmothers, mothers and aunties, and for some, even uncles. With this in mind, it would be quite impossible to please their palate simply because they would always compare similar dishes served elsewhere to those prepared at home. Any Nyonya restaurants that intends to out-gun grandma's recipes would be engaged in a challenging endeavour.

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Kuala Muda fishing village and whispering market

Where fisher folk keep alive a most quaint and unusual tradition of bidding

Kuala Muda whispering market © Adrian Cheah

The political boundary between the states of Penang and Kedah is partly defined by a majestic age-old gift of nature. This is the magnificent Sungai Muda river which meanders quietly but imposingly from the Ulu Muda rainforests deep in the interior of peninsular Malaysia towards the Straits of Malacca.

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