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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.

Lemang: an insight into tradition, taste and timelessness

Lemang © Adrian Cheah

In Penang and across Malaysia the lemang is available all year round. Nonetheless, it has become a special dish during the Hari Raya celebrations – Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid al-Fitr) and Hari Raya Aidiladha (Eid al-Adha). Although its preparation seems simple enough, cooking lemang requires an open area with ample ventilation – which is why most people just prefer to buy lemang rather than attempt to make it themselves.

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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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Madam Hong and Cheng Beng

Cheng Beng © Adrian Cheah

There are some who believe that traditionally, the task of performing Cheng Beng rituals falls on the family of the eldest son, followed by the next in seniority and so on. The eldest son is thus entirely responsible in ensuring that the rituals of ancestral offerings are carried out properly.

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Yolk – where every hour is brunch hour

Yolk © Adrian Cheah

Starting my day with a lovely breakfast has always been a priority for me, so stumbling upon Yolk's full-on brunch menu available as early as 8 am was truly exciting. On those lazy mornings when I want to skip cooking, Yolk could be one of my go-to spots. Situated in a charming heritage building along Pengkalan Weld, this cafe's first-floor location offers breathtaking views of the ferry terminal and the 11-km wide Penang Straits. It is an ideal venue to indulge in a leisurely meal while basking in the beauty of Penang and if you arrive early, to soak up the gentle morning rays.

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Nostalgic Delights: A Seaside Ramadhan Buffet at The Tamarra

Nostalgia Warisan at The Tamarra © Adrian Cheah

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

In the spirit of these timeless words by the revered poet Rumi embraces all who seek warmth, hospitality and inclusivity. Likewise, The Tamarra extends its arms wide to welcome you. Here, within the embrace of its Ramadhan buffet – "Nostalgia Warisan by The Sea", every dish, every aroma, every shared moment around the table, holds within it a tale of love, heritage and cherished memories waiting to be uncovered. As you step into the award-winning restaurant, you are invited to embark on a nostalgic culinary journey amidst the comforting embrace of tradition.

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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). Santan (coconut milk) is a common addition to impart a creamy texture to Malay dishes. In Penang and 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, visit Lagenda Café.

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Hari Raya Open House

Hari Raya © Adrian Cheah

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes an open house as "a social event in which hospitality is extended to all". This could be taken to mean that the diplomacy of inviting one and all to your house to celebrate an event is not an unfamiliar practice. But one could conjecture that nowhere else in the world would you find an open house event as big and as merry as the ones held in Malaysia.

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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 that has an extensive culinary scene, offering diverse delights from various cuisines, including delicious Malay fare. Irama Dining stands out as a culinary revelation for me. It brilliantly blends the bold, aromatic Malay cooking style with the vibrant flavours of local herbs and spices. The presentation of dishes is impeccable, complemented by the understated elegance of the dining space.

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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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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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My unforgettable birthday dinner at The Tamarra

The Tamarra © Adrian Cheah

I turned 55 this year, travelled 55 times around the sun, clocking a distance of 8,228 million kilometres. Although moving at breakneck speed of 1,670 kilometres per hour through space, my precious life on earth seems to crawl at a much slower pace.

I look up at the night starry sky and marvel at the millions of miles I have travelled across the universe. I close my eyes and look within and marvel as well at more than half a century of wisdom and experience I have encountered. I am truly blessed!

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Fanning the flames of satay

Satay © Adrian Cheah

Satay is an example of how Penang cuisine was greatly influenced by the Arabs who came here to trade from the Middle East. Some say that this dish has Turkish roots. Be that as it may, satay has been available in Malaysia for many years already and is synonymous with Malay cuisine.

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