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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.

Sanctum sanctorums of the Thai and Burmese communities

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple © Adrian Cheah

In 1845, a large endowment of land in the Pulau Tikus area was made to the Theravada Buddhists, principally Thai and Burmese, whose importance is recorded in local street names to this day. Today, the extensive lands surrounding the Thai Wat Chaiyamangalaram are home to a small and thriving kampong of about thirty families (approximately 120 persons) of Thai Chinese and Hindu Indians. (The Changing Perceptions of Waqf, as Social, Cultural and Symbolic Capital in Penang, Judith Nagata)

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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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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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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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Jungles that hide Penang’s forgotten colonial dams

 forgotten colonial dams © Adrian Cheah

The dams of Cherok To’ Kun and Bukit Seraya continue to stand amid encroaching forests in secret testimony to the dedication of their builders and operators from a bygone era.

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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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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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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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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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Learn how to make authentic Nyonya Jiu Hu Char

Jiu Hu Char © Adrian Cheah

“Jiu hu” is Hokkien for “cuttlefish” and “char” means “fry”. Thus, Jiu Hu Char means “fried cuttlefish”. Although the shredded cuttlefish is the star ingredient (providing a potent umami flavour), there is more in that dish than just cuttlefish. The ingredients for this popular Nyonya offering consist of jiu hu si (dried shredded cuttlefish), yambean, carrots, cabbage, pork belly, mushrooms, onions and garlic.

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