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All about Penang & more

Penang today is very much an amalgam of the old and the new – a bustling port, a heritage city and an industrial base. Perhaps it has more to offer per square mile than any other place in the world. For sheer variety of locales, cultures and foods, Penang is hard to beat. Here are stories about Penang and more.

Types of durians I am crazy about

durian © Adrian Cheah

Different people crave different varieties of durians. However, I truly relish durians from older trees as they bear fruits that have buttery-smooth, thick and creamy flesh, often with a stronger "fragrance" and flavour. Even from the same tree, durians can vary from season to season as the trees are influenced by soil conditions and weather. Over different seasons, the Or Chi (Black Thorn) fruits do not necessarily taste the same.

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The durian burger, a journey of discovery

durian burger © Adrian Cheah

I am game for all things durian. Durian egg tarts are delicious. Homemade durian ice cream is such a sinful treat, especially eaten with crispy kuih kapit (love letters). Passion Heart Cafe bakes one-of-a-kind Fresh Cream Durian Cake; it is a sponge cake layered with fresh cream and creamy durian paste, topped with durian kaya (coconut jam). This is one of my favourite cakes at the cafe.

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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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Sanctum sanctorums of the Thai and Burmese communities

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple © Adrian Cheah

In 1845, a large endowment of land in the Pulau Tikus area was made to the Theravada Buddhists, principally Thai and Burmese, whose importance is recorded in local street names to this day. Today, the extensive lands surrounding the Thai Wat Chaiyamangalaram are home to a small and thriving kampong of about thirty families (approximately 120 persons) of Thai Chinese and Hindu Indians. (The Changing Perceptions of Waqf, as Social, Cultural and Symbolic Capital in Penang, Judith Nagata)

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Japanese favourites and over 99 cocktails at Kaiden Japas Restaurant & Lounge Bar

Kaiden Japas © Adrian Cheah

Kaiden Japas Restaurant & Lounge Bar has an enticing array of Japanese cuisine, ranging from sushi and sashimi to makimono and ramen. Complementing the diverse menu is an extensive selection of cocktails, sake, wine and beers. During a recent lunch outing with my daughter, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and flavours of the dishes we savoured together.

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PARKROYAL Penang Resort – a tropical paradise to luxuriate in

PARKROYAL Penang Resort © Adrian Cheah

For two consecutive years, my daughter has requested the same birthday gift – a weekend at PARKROYAL Penang Resort. The Resort has been one of her favourite places to kick back and lose herself in a tropical paradise.

Living in Penang, we are indeed fortunate that we can just take a 35-minute drive from home to Batu Ferringhi sans the arduous plane and taxi rides (e.g., my cousin from Toronto took some whooping 23 hours to reach Penang).

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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 exotic hairy fruit called the rambutan

Penang rambutan © Adrian Cheah

In the vast range of local fruits available in Penang, the rambutan is a popular choice among Penangites. Rambutans are tied up in bunches of 50 or 100 each and sold at roadside stalls, at marketplaces and by some fruit vendors when in season. Prices vary according to size and quality. Rambutans sold in Penang are always fresh as they come straight from the local orchards.

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Celebrating Vesak (or Wesak) Day in Penang

Vesak Day © Adrian Cheah

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." – Buddha.

Vesak Day falls on the full moon of the lunar month of Vesākha (either in April, May or June). Also known as Buddha Purnima, it is considered as a holy celebration for the Buddhists as the day commemorates Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (parinirvāna).

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Pausing for Reflection on Holy Vesak Day

As 21st century Malaysia hurtles deeper into the recesses of globalisation, an urban rat-race and the 'kiasu' syndrome, does Buddhist culture still bear relevance in preserving traditional values?

Vesak Day © Adrian Cheah

The beggar readily sees a bare floor as a place for a good sleep. The rich man, on the other hand, will have nothing else but the softest bed in a 5-star hotel.

Both men, poor and rich, have one similar need - to sleep. But they have completely different levels of craving, different heights of desire.

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Bedak sejuk, a trusted beauty secret of our grandmothers

bedak sejuk © Adrian Cheah

At dusk, when women with white sceptre-like masks ventured out of their homes to purchase a snack or visit neighbours, children would gawk while adults would shrug their shoulders in indifference.

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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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