Lemaklicious © Adrian Cheah

Lemaklicious illustrates my passion for good food. "Lemak" is a Malay word that means more than just "fat" or "rich in taste". It can be used in any context, always bring with it a luxurious feeling of creamy and rich indulgence that is equally satisfying and rewarding. Hence, it is most fitting that I fuse "lemak" with "licious" (from delicious) to sum up my love affair with food.

I grew up in Penang, surrounded by a large Peranakan family, so it is no wonder that I became passionate about food. The food we ate was very traditional – delicious Nyonya recipes based on fresh ingredients. Over the years, I recreated the taste of home or other delicious dishes which I have tasted around the world. I came to learn that preparing food is not just about the recipe itself but also its ingredients and awareness for choosing each element to create a dish. Enjoy and indulge!

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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Pomelo kerabu, tu ka chor, inchi kabin and more at Sifu Nyonya Cuisine

Sifu Nyonya Cuisine © Adrian Cheah

Sifu Nyonya Cuisine, located at Jalan Pintal Tali, offers an authentic Nyonya dining experience. At the culinary helm of the restaurant is 71-year-old Madam Beh Geok Wah, whose culinary prowess is showcased through a menu featuring over 40 dishes. Some recipes are cherished heirlooms passed down through generations, ensuring that the essence of Nyonya cooking is preserved with every flavourful bite.

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Reinventing kuih kapit (love letters)

kuih kapit © Adrian Cheah

"Creativity is intelligence having fun." – Albert Einstein.

The "love letter", more commonly known as kuih kapit (a paper-thin crispy, fan-shaped biscuit), is an essential feature during Chinese New Year. However, when a classic item like kuih kapit becomes deeply entrenched in tradition, introducing a daring innovation to reinvent it can evoke mixed reactions – either embraced with enthusiasm for its novelty or met with scepticism and disapproval.

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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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Lao Hakka Cafe: a culinary haven of traditional Hakka flavours

Lao Hakka © Adrian Cheah

At Lao Hakka, the unpretentious Hakka cuisine comes alive, with each dish serving as a testament to the transformation of ordinary ingredients into extraordinary experiences. The cooking style of the Hakka people, also known as Hakka or Kuh-chia cuisine, originated mainly from the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangxi. Its comforting home-style dishes are known for their distinct flavours and aromatic meat-centric options such as stuffed tofu (yong tau foo), braised pork belly with taro and stuffed bitter gourd. The Hakka cuisine primarily features rice, pork, tofu and preserved vegetables. Of course being in Penang, some local favourites such as crispy belacan chicken and savoury gulai tumis (fish curry) are also featured on the menu.

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CRC Restaurant – a culinary icon among Penangites

CRC Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

In the 1900s, a group of Chinese sports enthusiasts established the Penang Chinese Recreation Club, a heritage clubhouse. Located at its premises in Victoria Green are two dining outlets – CRC Restaurant and CRC Victoria Cafe. Situated across the road from CRC is the "new" CRC Chinese Restaurant, sharing the same building as the North Malaya Cheah Si Chong Soo. Today, both the "old" and "new" CRC Restaurants are popular choices among Penangites for family meals, birthday celebrations as well as wedding and corporate dinners.

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Indulging at the award-winning Chin's Cuisine

Chin's Stylish Chinese Cuisine © Adrian Cheah

Chin's Cuisine represents owner Dave Chin's unique interpretation on Chinese cuisine, primarily inspired by Sichuan and Hunan flavours. Dave and his team of chefs draw inspiration from the vast treasure trove of Chinese cuisine, a culinary tradition that has evolved over thousands of years.

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Wayla Kin Authentic Thai & Western Cuisine – a hidden gem in Penang

Wayla Kin © Adrian Cheah

Wayla Kin Authentic Thai & Western Cuisine is situated in the Old Frees Association building along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Here, the tantalising aromas of Thai cuisine beckon you to savour the likes of tom yum seafood, coconut crab curry, Thai green curry, fried sea bass with fish sauce (pla tod nam pla) and stir-fried glass noodles with acacia and prawns, just to name a few. It was my good friend Audrey Lim who introduced me to this hidden gem and ever since, it has held its place as one of my cherished Thai dining destinations in Penang.

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Savoury Cantonese-style dishes at Zen Xin Vegetarian Restaurant

Zen Xin Vegetarian © Adrian Cheah

Zen Xin Vegetarian Restaurant is a vegetarian restaurant located along Nagore Road in the heart of George Town. One thing that strikes me when dining at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Penang is the creativity involved in preparing innovative vegetarian alternatives that closely resemble traditional faux meats or seafood dishes. It is almost like you are eating the real thing, from texture to taste! Using various plant-based ingredients such as tofu, seitan, mushrooms and soy-based products, the chefs are able to create wonderful dishes.

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A Balinese Feast of Tradition and Taste at Nona Bali

Nona Bali © Adrian Cheah

Bali, an island province of Indonesia, lies at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, nestled between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. This picturesque island is famed for its vibrant culture, rich tradition of art and spirituality, intricate architectural structures, breathtaking rice terraces, pristine sandy beaches and its delicious cuisine.

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Exploring Mexican flavours at Holy Guacamole

Holy Guacamole © Adrian Cheah

Worldwide, very few cuisines can boast of a longer culinary lineage than Mexican food. Some believe it dates back as far back as 9,000 years to 7000 BC, beginning with its presence in indigenous communities such as the Mayans and other Mesoamerican civilisations. Throughout millennia of refinement and influences from various sources, including indigenous cultures and the Spanish colonisation, Mexican's rich food culture is today loved and enjoyed by millions all over the world. Incidentally, Mexico is also among the very few countries worldwide to have its cuisine being listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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Lotuss Nyonya Kitchen – where maximalist style meets maximum flavours

Lotuss Nyonya Kitchen © Adrian Cheah

A rendezvous with friends should always set the stage for a fun-filled outing. However, as true-blue Penangites, our palates demand nothing less than something seriously ho-chiak (delicious in Hokkien), the kind that commands attention above all else. This must be closely followed by the thrifty wisdom of value for money. Moreover, if an attractive ambience is coupled with warm friendly service, the escapade would indeed be a memorable one. Lotuss Nyonya Kitchen, located in the heart of George Town, seems to have it all.

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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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Indulge in authentic Japanese flavours at Miraku

Miraku © Adrian Cheah

"Miraku," which translates to "a wonderful destination for customers to indulge in exquisite cuisine", epitomises the essence of excellence. The restaurant takes great pride in upholding the revered Japanese culinary traditions, while seamlessly blending in modern refinements into their meticulously curated menu. Showcasing a commitment to utilising only the finest ingredients, including seasonal produce imported directly from Japan, the chefs at Miraku take pleasure in enchanting guests with a mesmerising symphony of flavours, presenting dishes that are as visually captivating as they are delectable.

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Discovering the versatility of the mangosteen, the "queen of fruits"

mangosteen © Adrian Cheah

Penang is widely acclaimed as a food paradise, renowned not only for its delectable street food and authentic Nyonya cuisine but also for its eclectic mix of foreign flavours. During fruit seasons, Penang is celebrated for its famous Balik Pulau durians as well as a variety of exotic tropical fruits including rambutans, mangosteens, cempedak (jackfruit) and langsat.

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The spirit of Italian cuisine at Bottega Penang

Bottega Penang © Adrian Cheah

Like the unmistakable local Nyonya cuisine, one of the success secrets to Italian food is also the ability to borrow, adapt and invent some of the distinct yet sublime dishes we love today.

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Archipelago Penang – a hidden bar serving fabulous cocktails to soothe the soul

Archipelago Penang © Adrian Cheah

Cocktails were initially inspired by British punches, which contained spirits, fruit juices and spices in big bowls. The term “cocktail”, known to be an alcoholic beverage, appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository (Hudson, New York) 13 May 1806. Editor Harry Croswell answered the question, "What is a cocktail?" as “a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters".

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A luxurious 6-course treat for Mum at Maple Palace Restaurant

Maple Palace © Adrian Cheah

Mum turned 89 this year and I was only too glad that I was able to celebrate her birthday at Maple Palace Restaurant with a scrumptious top-notch feast. Although owner Loy Tan was overseas when I contacted him, he was obliging enough to curate a luxurious 6-course menu for Mum. The individual serving of each course was beautifully presented, making it a delightful visual feast to whet the appetite.

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Deliciously authentic Hainanese chicken chop at Hai Onn Restaurant

Hainanese chicken chop © Adrian Cheah

Hai Onn Restaurant at Jalan Burmah is one of the few Hainanese kopitiams (coffee shops) left in George Town. Although there are two original signages at the entrance of the kopitiam with "Hai Oan", the correct spelling of this restaurant is actually "Hai Onn". This only goes to illustrate how forgiving the owner was in agreeing to carry on with the typographical error in the company name.

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Senandung Rasa by the Sea at The Tamarra – a Ramadan feast for all

The Tamarra © Adrian Cheah

"Senandung Rasa by the Sea" at The Tamarra returns this Ramadan for an indulgent celebration filled with a lavish spread of modern Malay gastronomic delights. For an experience unlike any other, get ready to explore hearty yet nostalgic flavours of the Malay archipelago. Highlights from the extensive buffet spread include Kambing Golek (spit-roasted lamb), Nasi Kerabu Udang Lagenda (mixed herbal rice) and Gulai Ketam Nenas Tok Ma (flower crab curry) as well as live action stalls and a spread of over 100 items, not to mention a colourful ensemble of tempting desserts.

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