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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 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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Sutera Restaurant's oriental offerings take flight

Sutera Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

When you witness the beginning of a new venture, it is with optimism. Success will follow suit if everything is organised well and executed to the best of one's abilities.

The launch of Sutera Restaurant holds great potential with a winning menu, scrumptious offerings and eye-arresting presentations. The conducive dining deco even has a beautiful mural of a larger-than-life peacock perch on a branch overlooking its diners.

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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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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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Chap Goh Meh – The Night of Romance

Chap Goh Meh © Adrian Cheah

A fascinating Chap Goh Meh story tells the tale of a lonely young bachelor, who during an outing on this moonlit night, was suddenly enchanted when he caught a glimpse of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Intrigued by this exquisitely delicate beauty in all her finery, he wondered about her identity. With excitement pounding in his heart, the hopeful young man swiftly jotted down her car's number. The following morning, driven by enthusiasm, he sought her address and eagerly asked his mother to send a matchmaker to the home of the girl he envisioned marrying.

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Auntie Gaik Lean Old School Eatery – Chinese Peranakan cuisine cooked with love

Auntie Gaik Lean © Adrian Cheah

Having been born into a Chinese Peranakan family, I often find myself leaning towards other cuisines – be it Chinese, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Continental, Mexican, Indian or Malay – when dining out, unless I am hosting guests from abroad who crave for Nyonya cuisine. If time permits, I will roll up my sleeves and whip up a Nyonya feast, ensuring that my guests leave Penang with a lasting impression of the vibrant and distinct flavours that Nyonya dishes are imbued with.

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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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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 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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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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Kek Lok Si Temple, the monastery on Crane Hill

Kek Lok Si © Adrian Cheah

In Chinese iconography, the Crane holds special significance. It is an auspicious symbol denoting longevity, and wisdom that comes with age. The Crane is said to manifest a peculiar interest in human affairs and is also often associated with good luck, high-mindedness, purity and freedom.

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Sri Bahari Hainan Chicken Rice – legacy on a plate

Sri Bahari Hainan Chicken Rice © Adrian Cheah

Hainanese chicken rice is an uncomplicated dish that comprises succulent poached chicken and aromatic rice cooked with chicken fat and stock accompanied by a chilli dipping sauce and a bowl of clear chicken soup. Some vendors may also serve it with other condiments like a ginger dipping sauce or some thick soy sauce.

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