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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.

Gustoso By The Beach: celebrating authentic Italian cuisine

Gustoso By The Beach © Adrian Cheah

"Gustoso", translates to "tasty" in English. True to its name, the restaurant offers delectable Italian cuisine ranging from antipasti to risotti and from pasta dishes to seafood delights. Situated at the prestigious 5-star PARKROYAL Penang Resort along the famed Batu Ferringhi beach, the restaurant welcomed its first guests in 2019. Under the leadership of Sardinian Head Chef Gianmario Bassu (fondly known as Chef Mario), who curated the menu still cherished today, Gustoso flourished. Though Chef Mario completed his tenure (2019 – 2022) at PARKROYAL in Penang, his legacy lives on through his well-trained staff, who continue to uphold his culinary techniques and maintain the quality and flavours of his creations.

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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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The exotic hairy fruit called the rambutan

Penang rambutan © Adrian Cheah

In the vast range of local fruits available in Penang, the rambutan is a popular choice among Penangites. 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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Sanctum sanctorums of the Thai and Burmese communities

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple © Adrian Cheah

In 1845, a large endowment of land in the Pulau Tikus area was made to the Theravada Buddhists, principally Thai and Burmese, whose importance is recorded in local street names to this day. Today, the extensive lands surrounding the Thai Wat Chaiyamangalaram are home to a small and thriving kampong of about thirty families (approximately 120 persons) of Thai Chinese and Hindu Indians. (The Changing Perceptions of Waqf, as Social, Cultural and Symbolic Capital in Penang, Judith Nagata)

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Bedak sejuk, a trusted beauty secret of our grandmothers

bedak sejuk © Adrian Cheah

At dusk, when women with white sceptre-like masks ventured out of their homes to purchase a snack or visit neighbours, children would gawk while adults would shrug their shoulders in indifference.

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The vibrant and colourful Nyonya kerabu bee hoon

kerabu bee hoon © Adrian Cheah

When it comes to good food, the only one you have to really satisfy is yourself. When it comes to cooking (without deviating too far from the recipe), you can add whatever you like to your dish and omit all the ingredients that do not tickle your taste buds.

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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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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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Discovering the versatility of the mangosteen, the "queen of fruits"

mangosteen © Adrian Cheah

Penang is widely acclaimed as a food paradise, renowned not only for its delectable street food and authentic Nyonya cuisine but also for its eclectic mix of foreign flavours. During fruit seasons, Penang is celebrated for its famous Balik Pulau durians as well as a variety of exotic tropical fruits including rambutans, mangosteens, cempedak (jackfruit) and langsat.

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Japanese favourites and over 99 cocktails at Kaiden Japas Restaurant & Lounge Bar

Kaiden Japas © Adrian Cheah

Kaiden Japas Restaurant & Lounge Bar has an enticing array of Japanese cuisine, ranging from sushi and sashimi to makimono and ramen. Complementing the diverse menu is an extensive selection of cocktails, sake, wine and beers. During a recent lunch outing with my daughter, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and flavours of the dishes we savoured together.

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PARKROYAL Penang Resort – a tropical paradise to luxuriate in

PARKROYAL Penang Resort © Adrian Cheah

For two consecutive years, my daughter has requested the same birthday gift – a weekend at PARKROYAL Penang Resort. The Resort has been one of her favourite places to kick back and lose herself in a tropical paradise.

Living in Penang, we are indeed fortunate that we can just take a 35-minute drive from home to Batu Ferringhi sans the arduous plane and taxi rides (e.g., my cousin from Toronto took some whooping 23 hours to reach Penang).

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Pomelo kerabu, tu ka chor, inchi kabin and more at Sifu Nyonya Cuisine

Sifu Nyonya Cuisine © Adrian Cheah

Sifu Nyonya Cuisine, located at Jalan Pintal Tali, offers an authentic Nyonya dining experience. At the culinary helm of the restaurant is 71-year-old Madam Beh Geok Wah, whose culinary prowess is showcased through a menu featuring over 40 dishes. Some recipes are cherished heirlooms passed down through generations, ensuring that the essence of Nyonya cooking is preserved with every flavourful bite.

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