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!

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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Hainanese Delights serves up nostalgic cuisine of the colonial British era

Hainanese Delights © Adrian Cheah

In the 1920s, the Hainanese were among the last Chinese immigrants to arrive in Penang. Since other dialect groups had already established control over most trades, the late comers ended up as cooks and houseboys (domestic helpers) in British homes and establishments. The Hainanese cooks were taught on-the-job how to prepare British dishes and were also introduced to local ingredients and spices. They eventually evolved their cooking repertoire, infusing their creations with local flavours to suit the taste buds of Penangites and the colonial British. Thus, Hainanese cuisine in Penang, and at large, in Malaysia and Singapore, is unique in its own way and cannot be found elsewhere, not even in Hainan Island.

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A mouth-watering paella set lunch at Hola by Javu

Hola by Javu © Adrian Cheah

Hola by Javu established in November 2021 is a tapas bistro located at Tanjung Point, a stone's throw from the Chinese Swimming Club. The elegant spacious interior overlooking the tranquil beachfront of Tanjung Tokong is ideal for one to enjoy some Spanish treats. On a visit, my daughter and I shared the scrumptious paella set lunch, a true value for money priced at only RM59 nett (available only on weekdays from 11 am – 5 pm).

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TE AmOR Bakery & Confectionery – delightful pastries, bread loaves and buns

TE AmOR Bakery © Adrian Cheah

Mr James Loh bakes with passion. With no baking experience except raw enthusiasm, James honed his skills in the field of baking through first-hand experiences. He worked at various bakeries in Penang, six to be exact, before venturing out on his own. He established TE AmOR Bakery & Confectionery in June 2015 at a shop along Anson Road before relocating to 63, Gat Lebuh Chulia in December 2020.

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Viet Garden offers an extensive pork-free Vietnamese menu

Viet Garden © Adrian Cheah

Penang is lucky to have a string of good Vietnamese restaurants offering scrumptious signature dishes. Vietnamese cooking draws on the influences of Chinese, Thai, Indian and French cuisines to create irresistible combinations of delicate flavours, fresh ingredients and fabulous textures. Viet Garden, located at Kimberley Street, is one such destination in Penang to enjoy authentic Vietnamese delights.

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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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Neighbourwood – intriguingly inventive in serving European cuisine with an Asian twist

Neighbourwood © Adrian Cheah

When the MICHELIN Guide Kuala Lumpur and Penang 2023 was launched, Neighbourwood was listed as one of the Bib Gourmand establishments, along with 16 others in Penang. Located a stone's throw away from the iconic Minor Basilica of St. Anne in Bukit Mertajam, Neighbourwood serves delectable European dishes with an Asian flare including char-grilled choices.

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Banh Mi Kitchen – serving up authentic Vietnamese bánh mì and more

Banh Mi Kitchen © Adrian Cheah

As the name of the restaurant highlights, Banh Mi Kitchen focuses mainly on offering the iconic Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches. Freshly baked baguettes, spread with pâté and margarine, are packed with a selection of stuffings (including ham, barbecue pork, roasted chicken, meat balls, prawns, fish, eggs or pork floss), topped with cucumber, pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cilantro and fiery chilli peppers for an extra kick.

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The colourful bubur cha cha and pengat – almost similar yet different

bubur cha cha and pengat © Adrian Cheah

In Malay, “bubur” means “porridge”. As "cha cha" is a homophonic with the Hokkien "che che" (meaning "abundance"), it is a dish synonymous with unity and happiness in abundance. Although there are various theories, there is no one definitive consensus on its origin or what the name of the dish actually means.

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My unforgettable birthday dinner at The Tamarra

The Tamarra © Adrian Cheah

I turned 55 this year, travelled 55 times around the sun, clocking a distance of 8,228 million kilometres. Although moving at breakneck speed of 1,670 kilometres per hour through space, my precious life on earth seems to crawl at a much slower pace.

I look up at the night starry sky and marvel at the millions of miles I have travelled across the universe. I close my eyes and look within and marvel as well at more than half a century of wisdom and experience I have encountered. I am truly blessed!

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Un Poco Loco, a Spanish locale to go crazy about

Un Poco Loco © Adrian Cheah

Un Poco Loco is more than just a tapas bar as there are some items on the menu that offer a more hearty meal. Located at City Junction in Tanjung Tokong, it is the brainchild of the team behind the one Michelin star Restaurant Au Jardin. Un Poco Loco is headed by Chef Yan You (executive chef) and Chef Alex (chef de cuisine). The menu is curated by Chef Kim Hock.

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