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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 delicious 4-course set lunch at Le Venue

Le Venue © Adrian Cheah

My friends and I had a wonderful birthday celebration for Dorothy Wang at Le Venue. The hearty four courses in the set lunch were all elegantly plated, rendering a visual feast whetting the appetite. As always, Chef Petr Fehér's creations using quality ingredients were truly scrumptious. Let us take a closer look at each course.

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EMILY Darling Cafe bakes delectable pastries and indulgent desserts

EMILY Darling Cafe © Adrian Cheah

A fortunate stroke of serendipity can lead one down an unfamiliar path to new beginnings. Little did Danny Yeong, aformer optician and Marcus Tan, a graphic designer, realise that by joining a sourdough baking class in March 2021 by Old Man Teh in Kuala Lumpur would lead them to the opening of EMILY Darling Cafe three months later.

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Sigi's did more than tickle our taste buds!

Sigi's Bar & Grill © Adrian Cheah

My family and I enjoyed a memorable evening hosted by Dato' Welf and Datin Susan at Sigi's Bar & Grill at Golden Sands Resort Penang by Shangri-La. Although we could dine in air-conditioned comfort, or up on the upper deck with an elevated view, we chose an alfresco dining area near the beachfront of Batu Feringghi. The stunning vista of the beautifully landscaped gardens and the ocean beyond were priceless. The Resident Manager of the resort, Christoph Düker was at hand to greet Welf and Susan. He was also kind enough to take the above photo for us.

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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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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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Scrumptiously healthy breakfast offerings at EMILY Darling Cafe

EMILY Darling Cafe © Adrian Cheah

EMILY Darling Cafe starts operations at 8:00 am. It was only a natural progression that the cafe added some breakfast options to its list of tempting pastries and cakes. I was there that Saturday morning, 21 May 2022, the first morning that three breakfast offerings were made available. Staying at E&O Hotel that weekend, I had a pleasant stroll along Penang Road to the cafe.

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Le Venue revisited (many times over)

Le Venue © Adrian Cheah

When it comes to good food, Penangites are spoiled for choices, from hawker fare to fine dining cuisine. Having said that, to mark a memorable evening, one would still have to ponder and think of an appropriate venue. Some restaurants have introduced fusion food that does not make sense while others have to implement nouveau cuisine with hardly anything on the plate and everything on the bill. Being prudent with their spending, Penangites would feel disgusted if they leave half full, having to stop at a nearby coffeeshop thereafter for a plate of sar hor fun. I would always assume that such places would not survive the tough clientele on the island, nevertheless although many have fallen, there are those who have managed to thrive. There are also many restaurants that serve mediocre meals that are simply forgettable.

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Comforting ark bak (duck meat) koay teow th'ng

koay teow th'ng © Adrian Cheah

Loh Kei Duck Meat Koay Teow Th’ng is located at the side wing of the State Chinese (Penang) Association's (SCPA) in Perak Road. The other wing is occupied by Ang Hoay Loh Restaurant.

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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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The 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 Muslim restaurants in Penang.

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Springy Nyonya Kuih Talam

Kuih Talam © Adrian Cheah

Kuih Talam, a classic Nyonya cake, is still popular in Penang today. Its two signature colours are green and white. The sweetened green base layer is perfumed with pandan (screw pine) juice while the top white layer has a "lemak" (rich) indulgence of santan (coconut milk) that is mildly salty. It is dangerously addictive and a slice is never enough. Maybe that is why nowadays, Kuih Talam is cut and packed in two or three pieces. I also notice that the pieces are much smaller than what they used to be when I was growing up.

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