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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.

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 from moving.

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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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The best laksa in Balik Pulau

Balik Pulau laksa © Adrian Cheah

Penang laksa is extremely popular, especially among locals for its wonderful balance of spicy, sweet and sour flavours. This is strictly a hawker treat, as one is unlikely to find great laksa in a fancy restaurant.

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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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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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The Baking Garage offers a great loaf for the table

The Baking Garage © Adrian Cheah

It is such a joy listening to the sound of a butter knife spreading butter onto a warm crispy toast. Tasting the salted butter melting on the bread is something so basic yet remarkably rewarding. Its crispy, comforting bite is heavenly. But hold on – not just any toast: it has to be a thick artisan sourdough slice from The Baking Garage (TBG).

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Morpheus Restaurant Penang, making culinary dreams come true

Morpheus Restaurant Penang © Adrian Cheah

Morpheus Restaurant Penang is located at Lorong Aboo Sittee in the bustling city of George Town. It first opened its doors to the public in April 2023 by head chef and owner Andy Lai. Using top quality ingredients, each dish is crafted to showcase the coupling of culinary artistry and elegance. Here is an account of my inaugural dining experience at Morpheus.

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Never Forgetting Balik Pulau – exploring an alluring, rustic village in Penang across time

Josephine Choo
Photography, design and layout by Adrian Cheah

Never Forgetting Balik Pulau © Adrian Cheah

"Never Forgetting Balik Pulau" is part memoir, part guide. The author, after spending her entire youth in the village, accumulated a bagful of tales. Exploratory trips back gave credence to past memories but gradually, a comprehensive guide with maps to the village evolved.

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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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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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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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