Lemaklicious

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!

All about duck and more at What The Duck Restaurant

What The Duck © Adrian Cheah

What The Duck Restaurant specialises in both Western and Asian-styles duck dishes among others. Claiming to be "the best duck specialist in town", my family and I had to sample its creations to see if this held water. The contemporary setting of a conducive casual dining was welcoming. The restaurant has two outlets in Penang, one in Setia Spice Canopy and the other in the heart of George Town at 40, Nagore Road.

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Chio Hua, the golden Nyonya Jelly

Nyonya jelly © Adrian Cheah

Reminiscing about my childhood days brings back fond golden memories especially about the kitchen where I first fell in love with cooking. For me, everything that my Mum shared with me will always have a special place in my heart – from cooking the most fiery sambal babi to making crunchy Nyonya jelly (commonly known as chio hua/cheok hwa). Mum has definitely enriched my childhood with these experiences.

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Pann – treat of the real thing

pann © Adrian Cheah

Literally translated from Tamil, 'otthu kadai' – that quaint little wooden roadside shop specking the streets of George Town – means "small shop".

The 'otthu kadai' is a pretty interesting emporium – tiny, compact and mottled with a collection of different things. Each of these small convenience shops is a veritable miniature open-air mart selling an exhaustive range of items in an incredibly confined space.

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Indulging in the finer things in life at Le Venue

Le Venue © Adrian Cheah

How much are you willing to pay for a great dining experience? If the sky is the limit, then Le Venue is just the place for you. With a brilliant flare of culinary magic, Chef Petr Fehér is able to transform top quality ingredients from the four corners of the world into sumptuous delights. His ultimate artistic presentation is a visual feast and the ingenious combination of flavours is simply astounding. 

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Ah Leng's supreme Char Koay Teow

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow © Adrian Cheah

Taste is very subjective and since Penangites are spoiled with choices, their discerning palate is indeed well-tuned to great food. Should you wish to see them enraged and in full disgust, just serve them a plate of something ordinary, or if you dare, something horrible. This only goes to illustrate how passionate they are about food, especially the local delicacies.

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Durian, the sensational "King of the Fruits"

Penang durian © Adrian Cheah

“You should wash your hands using water poured over the inside chambers of a hollowed durian skin. It will remove the strong odour from your fingers", urged Mr Teh, my neighbour who accompanied me on a durian feast at one of the many durian orchards in Balik Pulau. That morning, we had a satisfying breakfast like no other, amidst the natural surroundings of the orchard, shaded by towering durian trees.

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The Craftisan, tea-inspired gelato and hand-crafted desserts

Adrian Cheah at Craftisan

When the sweet tooth comes a-knockin', head to The Craftisan for one of its luscious dessert options. Whether it is brownies, crepe or gelato that strikes your fancy, its delicious offerings should satisfy your cravings. Hand-dripped coffee and a selection of teas complement perfectly its creative desserts.

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Hometown Vietnam Taste Restaurant, a quaint eatery serving pho-nomenal Vietnamese food

Penang Vietnamese food © Adrian Cheah

I love criss-crossing Penang on my motorcycle because it avoids two major headaches –  traffic jams and parking problems. Thus, it is easy for me the head down to Hometown Vietnam Taste Restaurant (formerly Que Huong Toi Enterprise) to slurp up a bowl of delicious phở bò (Vietnamese beef koay teow soup). 

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Make your own ketupat daun palas (boiled rice wrapped in palm leaves)

Ketupat © Adrian Cheah

The most popular types of ketupat found in Malaysia are ketupat nasi (made with plain rice) and ketupat daun palas (made with glutinous rice). Both varieties are wrapped in palm leaves and then boiled in water until cooked. It is said that ketupat daun palas originated from the northern states – Penang, Kedah and Perlis while ketupat nasi is more popular in Perak.

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Apong Guan – one piece is never enough

Apong Guan © Adrian Cheah

This is something I have recently noticed about Uncle Ah Guan. He has always been great fun to chat with but on my recent visit one afternoon, although he was smiling and friendly, he was not his usual chatty self. I realised that age is catching up and grinding over the stove in the scorching tropical heat, day in and day out, which cannot be an easy task for him these days.

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La Vie's splendid cuisine to celebrate life's treasured moments

La Vie Penang © Adrian Cheah

Appetisers are delicate petit morsels that tantalise our taste buds to increase our appetite. A well-planned menu would select appetisers that would coordinate and lead up to the flavours of the main dishes in a meal. In short, appetisers should give you an idea about the main course. Great appetisers put you in the mood; they get you excited about what else lies in store for you. We started our dinner at La Vie with an alluring march of four appetisers – crispy unagi, prawn salad, crab meat croquettes and clams in Thai-style sauce. Such an incredible quartet that kept us clamouring for more.

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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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The Ferringhi Garden Restaurant: great dining within an oasis 

Ferringhi Garden © Adrian Cheah

The Ferringhi Garden Restaurant has an amazing lush garden filled with flowers in full bloom. Even before looking through the menu, we could not resist taking a few photographs of its tranquil and beautiful dining ambience.

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Belacan, an integral ingredient in local cuisine

belacan © Adrian Cheah

Anyone who has paid attention to local cuisine can safely hazard a guess that Penangites, and Malaysians for that matter, have a predilection for pungent foods! Call it full-flavoured, aromatic, spicy or downright nasty, Malaysian cuisine boasts more pungent varieties than arguably any other country in the world. This piquant character manifests itself in various forms, in fresh fruits (durian and jackfruit), in condiments (budu), preserves (cincaluk and tempoyak) and the innocuous-looking belacan or shrimp paste. The last item is as indispensable to Malaysian cooking as herbs are to Italian cuisine or soya sauce to Chinese. Why some purists go as far as to declare that your 'Malaysianess' hinges on whether or not you like belacan!

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Sea cucumbers – back to nature cures

sea cucumber © Adrian Cheah

Marine life in Malaysian waters is full of many natural wonders. Among them is the humble sea cucumber. Locally, it is known as 'gamat' in Malay and 'hai som' in Hokkien. It is scientifically called holothurians, a class of the phylum echinodermata.

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Truly authentic, truly Thai at Chili Head

Chili Head © Adrian Cheah

Chili Head Social Bar and Eatery, a cool and hip Thai restaurant overlooking the beautiful marina at Straits Quay serves excellent authentic Siamese food. Here is a place where Thais themselves would love to eat.

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4-course set dinner at Au Jardin

Au Jardin © Adrian Cheah

My family and I love to explore Penang's rich culinary tapestry and for dinner, we headed to Au Jardin located in an old quaint warehouse within the compound of the historical Hin Bus Depot. The restaurant (according to their website) offers modern European fare. Chef Kim Hock and his team create dishes that celebrate fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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A marvellous View for an exceptional anniversary

The View © Adrian Cheah

With a stellar scene of Penang outside its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, The View at Equatorial Hotel is an exquisite fine dining restaurant wonderfully suited to mark any memorable occasion.

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Middle Eastern offerings at Halab in Chulia Street

Halab, Penang © Adrian Cheah

Halab, tucked in a bungalow along the bustling Chulia Street in the heart of George Town offers authentic Middle-eastern cuisine. It is no surprise that the Syrian and Arab communities in George Town frequent Halab, forming their base clientele alongside Penangites and tourists visiting the island.

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Traditional and avant-garde Asian cuisine at Maple Palace

Maple Palace © Adrian Cheah

Chinese New Year celebrations which last for 15 days offer an ideal time for family reunions as well as to catch up with old friends. When my classmates from Han Chiang High School decided to have a mini class reunion, Maple Palace was our top choice. The restaurant serves mouth-watering cuisine that is both traditional and avant-garde at the same time. It also offers festive Chinese New Year dishes synonymous with good luck and prosperity. On top of that, the quality of the delicacies at Maple Palace has been consistent throughout my visits in the past.

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