Glorious food

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

Having a reputation as a food paradise, be it haute cuisine, or cuisine bourgeoise (hawker fare), Penang offers a heady and exotic mix of delicious cuisine to choose from.

In a word, Penang food is both famous and fabulous. When people mention Penang food, they are more often than not referring to hawker food and coffee shop dining. It is true that some of the hype is overblown but it cannot be denied that Penang is home to many uniquely delicious chow. Ironically, hawkers in other states or towns have been known to pull the crowd by simply advertising their food as hailing from Penang, regardless of its authenticity or quality. Then there are the Penang hawkers who advertise their cuisine as specialties from another state, like Johor bak kut teh, Ipoh chicken and bean sprouts or laksa Kedah. In short, an infinite variety of dishes are yours to savour – all you need do is pick and choose.

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

Penang hawker food can be broken down roughly into several varieties, with each being attributable to Penang's multi-cultural character: Nyonya, Chinese, vegetarian, Indian, Malay, Hakka-styled Western, seafood and desserts. Hybrids are also known to exist, and some famous examples are Malay style chicken rice and char koay teow, and Chinese satay and nasi lemak. Prices are cheap and reasonable.

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

With fishing being a major economic activity on the island, Penang is naturally a haven for seafood, and a handful of restaurants have already achieved legendary status among locals and foreigners. Tucked away in remote corners, these eateries are not easy to find without local guidance but are definitely worth the extra effort seeking out.

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

Desserts play a major role in Penang gastronomy. There are as many varieties as there are races in Penang! To mention a few would do injustice to the rest, so you would just have to let your nose and eyes be your guide. A word of warning though – most local desserts tend to be sweet and rich, as coconut milk, flour and sugar are main ingredients.

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

Thanks to early Chinese migrants, Chinese cuisine ranges from Cantonese to Teochew to Hokkien to Hainanese to Szechuan cooking. There's also Penang Nyonya food, which is a combination of Chinese, Malay and some Thai. The Penang variety of Nyonya food, apparently, is different from the Malaccan or even Singaporean versions. For a touch of luxury, try a five or ten-course Chinese meal at one of the restaurants or hotels in town.

Penang food © Adrian Cheah

Indian cuisine goes by two names generally – banana leaf rice and nasi kandar. Both are hot and savoury with rice being the main staple, and a menu from north Indian tandoori and nan bread, to South Indian rice and capati.

Nasi kandar is famously popular with Penangites, and many restaurants selling it are well known not only to those on the island but those in other states as well. It is quite common to find people from other states detouring to Penang just to stop for a meal of nasi kandar before continuing on their journey elsewhere...

Indulge! Savour!

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Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah © All rights reserved
Updated: 6 March 2019


Le Venue revisited (many times over)

Le Venue © Adrian Cheah

When it come to good food, Penangites are spoiled for choices, from hawker fare to fine dining cuisine. Having said that, to mark a memorable evening, one would still have to ponder and think of an appropriate venue. Some restaurants have introduced fusion food that does not make sense while other have implement nouveau cuisine with hardly anything on the plate and everything on the bill. Being prudent with their spending, Penangites would feel disgusted if they leave half full, having to stop at a nearby coffeeshop thereafter for a plate of sar hor fun. I would always assume that such places would not survive the tough clientele on the island, nevertheless although many have fallen, there are those who have managed to thrive. There are also many restaurants that serve mediocre meals that are simply forgettable.

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Dozo – Japanese avant-garde cuisine arrives at the isle of Penang

Dozo, Penang © Adrian Cheah

You can now add Dozo to your list of Japanases restaurants to dine in Penang. It opened its doors on 1 August 2020 serving fine Japanese cuisine with an avant-garde flair.

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Kazumasa Japanese Cuisine, marked with quality ingredients and artistry

Kazumasa © Adrian Cheah

With a giant crab scaling the facade of the building at Fettes Park, it is quite difficult not to miss Kazumasa Japanese Cuisine. It is here that the omakase menu was first brought to the shores of Penang. Besides the omakase and ala carte possibilities, set lunches are also available.

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Hachiban Izakaya, more than just a typical Japanese pub

Hachiban Izakaya © Adrian Cheah

Located at Jalan Kelawai, Hachiban Izakaya serves more that just sake and pub grub. "Hachiban" means "No. 8" and "Izakaya" stands for a casual venue to chill out after work for drinking; similar to that of an Irish pub or a Spanish tapas bar.

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Thai cuisine at Bukit Genting Hill Leisure Park and Restaurant

Bukit Genting © Adrian Cheah

As long as the meal is not meant to take centre stage, I highly recommend a trip up to Bukit Genting. Here, one can enjoy al fresco dining with amazing views of the Straits of Malacca and the South Channel. Surrounded by forested hills, the breathtaking vistas of the rustic village of Balik Pulau below come complete with paddy fields. The view at sunset when the sun dips into the ocean is even more spectacular!

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3-course set lunch at Indigo restaurant at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Indigo © Adrian Cheah

Located on the first floor of the Blue Mansion, Indigo restaurant is inspired by Cheong Fatt Tze himself, offering a fusion between East and West. My friend and I had the 3-course set meal priced at RM75++ per person, available only for lunch. We selected one dish for each course.

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Sigi's did more than tickle our taste buds!

Sigi's Bar & Grill © Adrian Cheah

My family and I enjoyed a memorable evening hosted by Dato' Welf and Datin Susan at Sigi's Bar & Grill at Golden Sands Resort Penang by Shangri-La. Although we could dine in air-conditioned comfort, or up on the upper deck with an elevated view, we chose an alfresco dining area near the beachfront of Batu Feringghi. The stunning vista of the beautifully landscaped gardens and the ocean beyond was priceless. The Resident Manager of the resort, Christoph Düker was at hand to greet Welf and Susan. He was also kind enough to take the above photo for us.

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A mini reunion at the Book Sandwich Café 

“When it comes to crafting a dish, each mouthful is meant to be savoured, like how it is when one reads a book. There are many layers to be explored and with every bite, we hope to bring you a surprising burst of flavour.” – The Book Sandwich Cafe

Book Sandwich Café © Adrian Cheah

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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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A birthday affair at the Java Tree

If you are dining at the Java Tree of the E&O Hotel, I would recommend that you arrive an hour earlier to enjoy classic cocktails and good wine at the Farquhar's Bar. This was exactly what my friends and I did. It provided us the opportunity to catch up on recent happenings and engage in meaningful conversations. 

Farquhar's Bar © Adrian Cheah

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My memorable birthday dinner at The View

The View © Adrian Cheah

I am happy that my birthday which falls on the 2nd of January every year offers me the opportunity to start off each new year with a celebration. Turning 52 this year, I headed to The View at Hotel Equatorial for a delightful evening.

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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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