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Kuih Ee (glutinous rice balls in sugar syrup)

Kuih Ee © Adrian Cheah

Traditionally, Kuih Ee (tong yuen) is served on special occasions such as during weddings and the Winter Solstice Festival (sometime during the end of December, about a month before the Chinese New Year). These days however, Kuih Ee is available daily in Penang from certain hawkers in the Pulau Tikus and Ayer Itam markets in the morning.

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Capturing the opulence of bygone days - the Nyonya art of Sylvia Lee Goh

Sylvia Lee Goh

Sylvia Lee Goh embarked on a journey of discovery of identity and self-worth. It was a long road, but with a lot of encouragement and moral support.

In the mid-eighties Sylvia was a member of the Arts and Craft Guild, holding a committee member position for two years. This Guild was under the umbrella of the American Association.

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My Kebaya shirt - a journey where novelty meets sublime beauty

Kebaya shirt © Adrian Cheah

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

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Time always for Laksa

Penang Laksa © Adrian Cheah

Penang Assam Laksa is amongst the best known and loved of hawker fare in Penang. A bowl of steamed spaghetti-sized rice vermicelli is first generously garnished with finely sliced vegetables including onions, cucumber, red chillis, pineapple, lettuce, mint and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds).

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Ah Leng's supreme Char Koay Teow

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow © Adrian Cheah

Taste is very subjective and since Penangites are spoiled with choices, their discerning palate is indeed well tuned to great food. Should you wish to see them enraged and in full disgust, just serve them a plate of something ordinary, or if you dare, something horrible. This only goes to illustrate how passionate they are about food especially the local delicacies.

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Discovering what makes uncomplicated fish and chips truly delicious at Uncle Albert's

Uncle Albert’s © Adrian Cheah

I am very happy for my dear friend, Maggie T as she makes one of her life long dreams come true with the launch of Uncle Albert’s Traditional Fish and Chips at Straits Quay. She has always wanted to open a restaurant and where better than to have it here in Penang, one of the top food havens of the world. Together with Liam Healy, they bring authentic fish and chips to the shores of George Town.

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History of Little India

Little India, Penang © Adrian Cheah

This meticulously regimented network was among the earliest parts of George Town planned under the administration of Sir Francis Light, the English founder of Penang. The area is hence now referred to as the "Francis Light Grid" – a rectangular network bordered by Leith Street, Beach Street, Chulia Street and Pitt Street (now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).

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Sri Mariamman, the temple of an ancient goddess

Sri Mariamman © Adrian Cheah

Penang has a large community of Indians, broadly divided into those from the North (Bengalis, Sindhis, Gujerati etc.) and the South (Tamils). It is not surprising then that the Penang landscape is dotted with Hindu temples, from the large and ornate to the unostentatious makeshift huts and lean-to's.

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Pann – treat of the real thing

Pann © Adrian Cheah

Literally translated from Tamil, 'otthu kadai' – that quaint little wooden roadside shop specking the streets of George Town – means "small shop".

The 'otthu kadai' is a pretty interesting emporium – tiny, compact and mottled with a collection of different things. Each of these small convenience shops is a veritable miniature open-air mart selling an exhaustive range of items in an incredibly confined space.

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Indulging in the finer things in life at Le Venue

Le Venue © Adrian Cheah

How much are you willing to pay for a great dining experience? If the sky is the limit, then Le Venue is just the place for you. With a brilliant flare of culinary magic, Chef Petr Fehér is able to transform top quality ingredients from the four corners of the world into sumptuous delights. His ultimate artistic presentation is a visual feast and the ingenious combination of flavours is simply astounding. 

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The culinary legacy of the Nyonyas

Nyonya cooking © Adrian Cheah

Historical records suggest that when Chinese migrants arrived in then Malaya, they brought with them several culinary styles, among them Hakka, Hainan, Foochow, Canton and others. One style of cooking which metamorphosed out of these 'prototypes' is known today as Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, a combination of Chinese and Malay flavours.

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Nyonya kasut manek (beaded shoes) – timeless objects of beauty

Nyonya beaded shoes © Adrian Cheah

English influence

The British presence in the three Straits Settlement states had a profound influence on Peranakan culture. Suddenly, the hitherto unknown suits and skirt became à la mode for men and women respectively.

Western techniques also influenced the art and craft of fashioning Peranakan footwear. The style of embroidery for example, once influenced by the Malays was in turn influenced by Western culture. The fine bead work for shoes with which the Nyonya is identified with is a comparatively recent invention from 19th century Britain and Continental Europe.

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Acar Chee Ya Hu (pickled mullet fish)

Acar Hu © Adrian Cheah

This is one of my mum's favourite acars. She has been making this for as long as I can remember. It is such an appetising dish when served with a bowl of steaming white rice.

Like other Nyonya acars, this dish is a combination of sweet and mostly tart flavours. However, the other ingredients, like onions and garlic still impart their individual aromas. The deep-fried fish absorbs the gravy and becomes succulent and moist.

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Church of the Holy Name of Jesus – a historical church in a sleepy hollow

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus © Adrian Cheah

Introduction

Old churches are fascinating buildings. Aside from their obvious roles as houses for worship and community gathering, old churches are also well known for their sublime architecture and illustrious histories. The Western continent has some of the finest and world-renowned churches, the mind immediately recalling structures like the early Gothic-styled Notre Dame in Paris (1163), St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican (349AD) and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City (19th century). Equally fascinating ones also include the Santa Maria Maggiore (430AD) and Santa Prassede (780AD) in Rome and the Saxon Brixworth and Escombe churches in England (around 670AD).

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Penang’s all-time favourite Char Koay Teow

Penang Char Koay Teow © Adrian Cheah

I have always wondered where the all-so-famous Penang Char Koay Teow came from? Who were its original creators? Some believe that Char Koay Teow (‘fried flat noodles in Teochew) was first sold by Chinese fishermen, farmers and cockle-gatherers on the island who moonlighted as Char Koay Teow hawkers in the evening to supplement their income.

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Little India of George Town

Little India, Penang © Adrian Cheah

Not many visitors and tourists to George Town's famous Little India enclave know that the area's name was adopted by the local authorities only nine years ago.

But whatever it is named, visitors hardly fail to sense the remarkable nostalgic charm and almost innocent simplicity of the area. And no wonder. Little India breathes a rich living history that spans over two centuries. Culture here throbs with antiquity and tradition.

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The upside-down tree – Penang's very own Baobab

Penang's Baobab tree © Adrian Cheah

According to African legend, the Baobab wanted to become the most beautiful tree of all. When it realised that this was not possible, it put its head into the ground, so only the roots pointed heavenward. Another legend holds that when the Baobab was planted by God, it kept walking, so God pulled it up and replanted it upside down to stop it moving.

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"Roti! Roti!", the lure of the bread man

Penang bread man © Adrian Cheah

The 'roti man' or bread vendor is quite a common sight in Penang. They are usually on their rounds in the mornings and from tea time, plying their stock-in-trade in a road contraption that resembles a hybrid between a motorcycle and a 'meat safe'.

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Murtabak – a hearty meal all by itself

Penang Murtabak © Adrian Cheah

Hameediyah Restaurant in Campbell Street serves good Murtabak. Established in 1907, this is one of the oldest Indian restaurants in Penang.

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La Vie's splendid cuisine to celebrate life's treasured moments

La Vie Penang © Adrian Cheah

Appetisers are delicate petit morsels which tantalise our taste buds to increase our appetite. A well-planned menu would select appetisers that would coordinate and lead up to the flavours of the main dishes in a meal. In short, appetisers should give you an idea about the main course. Great appetisers put you in the mood; they get you excited about what else lies in store for you. We started our dinner at La Vie with an alluring march of four appetisers – crispy unagi, prawn salad, crab meat croquettes and clams in Thai-style sauce. Such an incredible quartet that kept us clamouring for more.

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