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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.

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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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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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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Penang ban chien kuih, filled with grounded peanuts, creamed corn and more

ban chang kuih © Adrian Cheah

Ban chien kuih, a popular street snack in Penang is easily available throughout the state. In Hokkien, ban chien kuih 慢煎粿 (or ban cien koay, ban chean kueh, ban chang kuih or ban jian kway) literally means "slow-fried cake".

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Bee Koh Moy, a healthy bowl of goodness

Bee Koh Moy © Adrian Cheah

In Penang, Bee Koh Moy (Hokkien for black glutinous rice porridge, Bubur Pulut Hitam in Malay) is often served topped with fresh coconut milk. The yin-yang-looking combination of mildly sweetened black rice porridge drizzled with a slightly salty creamy white coconut milk sauce is a scrumptious treat. The rich and creamy dish, perfumed with aromatic pandan (screw pine) leaves, can be served warm or chilled. This offering is usually enjoyed for breakfast, at tea time or as a dessert after a meal; it is best savoured in small portions as it is hearty and filling.

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The good ol' classic taste of Penang's Hokkien mee

Hokkien mee © Adrian Cheah

In 1989, Mr Lim Chong Beng, the only son in the family, took over the family Hokkien mee business from his parents when they were too old to carry on. A bowl was then selling for a mere 80 cents.

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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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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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Delightful bowl-shaped appam at Singgah Sebentar

appam © Adrian Cheah

The appam (also known as palappam) or apom (in Penang) is an Indian pancake made with a fermented rice flour and coconut milk batter. The contrast of textures in this dish is alluring. The pancake - with a crispy fringe and is with a spongy, soft fluffy rice cake centre – exudes a distinct yeasty aroma. The crispy fringe reminds me of kuih kapit.

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Emperor Villa's "kochabi" set meals good for lunch or dinner

Emperor Villa © Adrian Cheah

Emperor Villa, a family-run business offering accommodation and dining first opened its doors to the public in September 2019. It took two years to complete the construction of its rustic villas complete with a spacious swimming pool, nestled among nine acres of greenery in the hills of Sungai Ara, Penang.

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A sensationally divine 6-course dinner at Salsas Penang

Salsas Penang © Adrian Cheah

Right off the bat, I have to tell you that I am going to be biased. David Kaw is a close friend of the family for ages and we are all huge fans of his culinary creations. Too many birthday dinners, wedding anniversaries and special occasions have been celebrated at Salsas Penang. And every time, David has taken great care of us making each event memorable.

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Penang's famous Kim Leng Loh Mee – a magical, gloopy bowl of wonder

Kim Leng Loh Mee © Adrian Cheah

The constant stream of customers to Kim Leng Loh Mee in Perak Road indicates its popularity among locals. Located at Joo Huat Restaurant, this famous lor mee stall is only a stone's throw away from the bustling Perak Road morning market.

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