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!

Edible masterpieces at La Vie en Rose Pâtisserie 

La Vie En Rose Pâtisserie © Adrian Cheah

If the name of this pâtisserie sounds familiar, you must have recognised it from Édith Piaf's signature rendition of La Vie en Rose in 1947. This popular song has been covered by a plethora of different celebrities throughout the decades. Although it literally means "life in pink", it is often interpreted as "life in rosy hues", "life through rose-coloured glasses" or "life in happy hues".

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A luxurious omakase dinner at Maple Palace

Maple Palace © Adrian Cheah

Dining at Maple Palace has always been a satisfying experience. The elegant 6-course omakase dinner celebrating my 54th birthday was such a delightful encounter. Lavished with priced ingredients, the flavours of the scrumptious feast were top-notch!

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An irresistible dim sum encounter at Bao Teck Tea House

Bao Teck Tea House © Adrian Cheah

Dim sum ("touch the heart" in Chinese) refers to an array of dainty bite-size snacks enjoyed all over the world, especially among the Chinese communities. In Penang, dim sum is available for breakfast, lunch and even dinner from push-cart vendors, coffee shops, tea houses, restaurants and fine-dining establishments. Although the price difference can vary dramatically, there are many options for one to enjoy dim sum according to one's budget.

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Le Petit Four Patisserie serving little wonders of pleasure

Le Petit Four Patisserie © Adrian Cheah

When I was in France, I was bowled over by the pâtisseries, offering delicate beauties that were truly culinary works of art. Sipping a creamy cup of cappuccino while savouring a freshly baked croissant or a slice of the rich, decedent opera cake was indeed a heavenly experience.

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Roti canai, good for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper and any time in between

roti canai © Adrian Cheah

Yes, this is how popular roti canai is in Penang, available all day long at almost every street corner. This simple flatbread is adored by both young and old, men and women of all races in the country.

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Inventive roti canai sarang burung in Balik Pulau

Roti Canai Sarang Burung © Adrian Cheah

Being a popular dish among Penangites and Malaysians at large, roti canai or roti paratha is a flaky, moreish flatbread enjoyed any time of the day. Made with flour, water, salt, a little sugar and fat, the mixture is kneaded into a dough and allowed to rest. It is then divided and rolled into palm-size balls. The rested dough ball is stretched; held at a corner, it is then flung in the air onto the oiled work surface twice or thrice, stretching it paper thin before folding to obtain a layered texture.

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Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant – the friendly gastropub at Straits Quay, Penang

Healy Mac’s © Adrian Cheah

Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant has a winning formula with a successful chain of gastropubs in Malaysia (one in Penang, one in Ipoh and four in Kuala Lumpur), Indonesia, Spain and Ireland. Having to do more than the luck of the Irish, it is hard graft, dedication and desire for constant improvement that the owner Liam Healy and his team have managed to establish an authentic Irish identity for his gastropubs since 2009.

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Savouring mouth-watering Chinese dishes at Jia Shi Restaurant (formerly at Song River)

Jia Shi Restaurant © Adrian Cheah

It is vital for a restaurant to have popular signature dishes loved by many. This is an important factor in establishing a long and lasting clientele that will continue its patronage.

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Da Shu Xia Seafood House – sumptuous and fresh seafood in Penang

Da Shu Xia Seafood House © Adrian Cheah

Penangites just want it all – fresh seafood, delicious flavours, beautiful presentations, a cosy ambiance, great service and above all, cheap prices!

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Feringgi Grill, redefining haute cuisine

Feringgi Grill © Adrian Cheah

Feringgi Grill, one of Penang's premier Western-style grill restaurants, has won numerous awards and accolades since 1973, delighting some of the most discerning diners. It is one of my favourite restaurants to celebrate a romantic evening or to mark a special occasion.

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A memorable 9-course vegetarian dinner at Happy Realm

Happy Realm © Adrian Cheah

Being a food paradise, Penang offers many avenues for full-fledged vegetarians to obtain scrumptious meals. From Indian vegetarian restaurants to Chinese outlets, there is a wider range of food available. During the Jade Emperor Festival (first to the ninth of the ninth month of the lunar calendar), more stalls mushroom all over Penang selling vegetarian delights from rice dishes to stir-fried noodles and from Chinese cakes to Italian pizzas. Furthermore with the creation of faux meats, some dishes are unbelievably "uncanny".

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Auntie Jo's delightful jelly mooncakes

jelly mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Taishi cakes, the predecessor of mooncakes, were present during the Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). For a long time in history, mooncakes have been created as an offering during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Although traditional baked mooncakes have been around for thousands of years, this symbolic mooncake making tradition has not stopped evolving.

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The versatile French toast that is easy to make

French toast © Adrian Cheah

When my seven siblings and I were young, my late Dad would cook up a storm for breakfast, having many hungry mouths to feed. French toast was one of his popular breakfast dishes.

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Ice kacang, Penang's all-time ubiquitous but favourite dessert

ice kacang © Adrian Cheah

Ice kacang, the mother of all Malaysian desserts, is also known as ang tau s'ng (Hokkien for iced red beans) or ABC (ais batu campur in Malay). Although “kacang” means beans in Malay, this jubilant offering contains more than just ice and beans. Brimming in a bowl, the colourful concoction is made of a tower of shaved ice swirled with a mixture of red beans, leong fan (grass jelly or cincau in Malay), creamy sweet corn, chewy tapioca pearls and translucent attap chee (nipa palm fruit), smothered with at least two types of syrup and evaporated milk. You can further top it with a scoop of ice cream (especially durian, making it even more sinful).

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The vibrant and colourful Nyonya kerabu bee hoon

kerabu bee hoon © Adrian Cheah

When it comes to good food, the only one you have to really satisfy is yourself. When it comes to cooking (without deviating too far from the recipe), you can add whatever you like to your dish and omit all the ingredients that do not tickle your taste buds.

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Nangka stuffed with pulut

Jackfruit with glutinous rice © Adrian Cheah

Steaming pulut is easy. All you have to do is rinse and soak the pulut overnight. The following day, drain and steam the pulut with santan and pandan leaves. Enjoying pulut with nangka (a local term for jackfruit), mango or durian is truly delicious.

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Tips on making really good Seri Muka

Seri Muka © Adrian Cheah

Seri Muka (literally means "radiant face" in Malay) or Kuih Salat is a dainty sweet cake that consists of two layers. The base is made from glutinous rice which is topped with a green custard layer, scented and coloured with pandan juice. Santan (coconut milk) is a key ingredient as it imparts the “lemak” (rich) taste to the glutinous rice as well as the custard layer.

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Springy Nyonya Kuih Talam

Kuih Talam © Adrian Cheah

Kuih Talam, a classic Nyonya cake, is still popular in Penang today. Its two signature colours are green and white. The sweetened green base layer is perfumed with pandan (screw pine) juice while the top white layer has a "lemak" (rich) indulgence of santan (coconut milk) that is mildly salty. It is dangerously addictive and a slice is never enough. Maybe that is why nowadays, Kuih Talam is cut and packed in two or three pieces. I also notice that the pieces are much smaller than what they used to be when I was growing up.

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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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The humble golden kee chang that are extraordinary

kee chang © Adrian Cheah

Preparation for kee chang (alkaline dumplings) starts a week in advance. Picking the jasmine rice grains out from a heap of glutinous rice is time-consuming and requires patience. The laborious task is necessary in order to obtain a translucent finish for the dumplings. If rice grains are present, the kee chang will lose their translucent appeal. I vividly remember sorting through the grains of rice when young, or as Mum would call it, “pilih the pulut”. I failed to understand then why such a tedious undertaking was even necessary since everything would be gobbled up eventually. Mum refused to entertain our rationale and would not compromise on quality. Today, being a "product" of Mum, I too have learnt not to compromise on quality, finding it rather ironic that my daughter would utter the same arguments I once did.

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