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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.

Inventive roti canai sarang burung in Balik Pulau

Roti Canai Sarang Burung © Adrian Cheah

Being a popular dish among Penangites and Malaysians at large, roti canai or roti paratha is a flaky, moreish flatbread enjoyed any time of the day. Made with flour, water, salt, a little sugar and fat, the mixture is kneaded into a dough and allowed to rest. It is then divided and rolled into palm-size balls. The rested dough ball is stretched; held at a corner, it is then flung in the air onto the oiled work surface twice or thrice, stretching it paper thin before folding to obtain a layered texture.

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Nasi lemak – a parcel of Malaysian goodness

Nasi lemak © Adrian Cheah

A favourite breakfast dish for most Malaysians is Nasi Lemak – something which transcends the often-tenuous ethnic boundaries in this multi-racial country, as Malays, Indians and Chinese, all love it!

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Roti canai, good for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper and any time in between

roti canai © Adrian Cheah

Yes, this is how popular roti canai is in Penang, available all day long at almost every street corner. This simple flatbread is adored by both young and old, men and women of all races in the country.

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Irama Dining, the rhythm of a fresh and modern dining experience

Irama Dining © Adrian Cheah

Penang is truly a food paradise. One can find almost everything under the sun here on this tropical island including good Malay food. Dining at Irama is a game changer for me. The strong, aromatic and distinct Malay-style cooking is combined with the rich flavours of local herbs and spices. The food presentation is masterful and the dining room is tastefully elegant.

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Traditional Malay cooking at Lagenda Café in the heart of George Town

Lagenda Café © Adrian Cheah

The key signature in traditional Malay cuisine is definitely the generous use of local herbs, spices and belacan (shrimp paste). Coconut milk is also added to Malay dishes to enrich them with a creamy finish. In Penang, as well as the northern states of Malaysia, Malay cooking has further integrated Thai flavours. Meats and seafood are usually marinated with a special blend of herbs and spices before being cooked. Vegetables are often stir-fried and some eaten raw always with sambal belacan. I love Malay dishes because of their strong, spicy and aromatic oomph. For an authentic Malay feast, head down to Lagenda Café.

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Make your own ketupat daun palas (glutinous rice wrapped in palm leaves)

Ketupat © Adrian Cheah

The most popular types of ketupat found in Malaysia are ketupat nasi (made with plain rice) and ketupat daun palas (made with glutinous rice). Both varieties are wrapped in palm leaves and then boiled in water until cooked. It is said that ketupat daun palas originated from the northern states – Penang, Kedah and Perlis while ketupat nasi is more popular in Perak.

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Lunchtime elegance – experiencing the set lunch at Suffolk House

Suffolk House © Adrian Cheah

On my 56th birthday in January, Cindy and Dorothy, two cherished friends, treated me to a scrumptious luncheon at the charming Suffolk House. This rare surviving Georgian mansion in Penang, dating back to the 1800s, stands as a historical treasure that once served as the residence for successive British governors. The beautifully-restored Anglo-Indian mansion is imbued with an extra layer of enchantment by a sprawling garden and even a running brook. The setting provided a lovely backdrop for our celebration, making the day even more special and memorable.

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Roti Jala (net crepes) are simply irresistible with curry chicken and potatoes

Roti Jala © Adrian Cheah

If you are a tourist in Penang during Ramadhan, you have to add the Ramadhan bazaar to your list of must-see places. The month-long Ramadhan bazaar (opens from 3:30 – 7:30 pm) offers a wide variety of Malay specialities and it is a wonderful market to scout for delicious treats. Roti Jala is something I will usually buy among many others.

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10 March 2023: PIA St. Patrick’s Ball at E&O Hotel, Penang

St. Patrick's Ball 2023 © Adrian Cheah

"Claddagh" – a reflection on the friendship and love between Ireland and Penang was the theme for PIA St. Patrick’s Ball 2023. It was celebrated by 300 strong with great merriment on Friday, 10 March at E&O Hotel in Penang. The Black Tie affair was packed with live entertainment and a scrumptious 5-course sit-down dinner. Here is a pictorial essay of the vibrant festivities photographed by Adrian Cheah and Frankie Yap.

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Acheen Street Mosque, priceless legacy of the Penang Muslim community

Acheen Street Mosque © Adrian Cheah

The history of the Acheen Street mosque (also known as the Malay mosque), began in 1792, which marked the arrival of its founder Tengku Syed Hussain Al-Aidid who had come from Acheh to settle in Penang. A member of the royal family of Acheh, Sumatra and descendant of a sovereign Arab family, Hussain became a hugely successful entrepreneur and one of the wealthiest merchants and landowners in Penang.

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Spongy Kuih Bahulu recipe

Kuih Bahulu © Adrian Cheah

Kuih Bahulu (also known as Kuih Baulu or Kuih Bolu) is a perennial favourite among Malaysians of all ages. In Hokkien, it is called Kay Nui Koh. It is a mini light and fluffy sponge cake made from eggs, flour and sugar. It has a slightly crusty outer layer with a soft and fluffy inside, quite similar in taste and texture to a French Madeleine. However, when compared to many western cakes, Kuih Bahulu is much lighter in texture and has a subtle sweetness.

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Ramadhan – a time for reflection

Ramadhan © Adrian Cheah

Once again, Ramadhan, the holiest of months for Muslims, is almost upon us. The ninth month of the Muslim year is strictly observed by all Muslims as a month of fasting (and abstinence) during which they would abstain from the pleasures of eating, drinking and carnal desires and actions from sunrise to sunset. Ramadhan usually lasts from 29 to 30 days, after which Muslims celebrate Id-al-Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa in the local language). Fasting is one of the five basic duties of Islam.

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