A Penang Story – Part 1

So it all began with this photo I saw posted by a friend on Facebook.


To most of you, this might seem like an ordinary photo. But for me, it’s so much more. It reminds me of my other home, Penang, in Malaysia. The photo is recent, and the location of where it was taken was at a famous shopping mall nearby where I used to live when I was residing in Penang. It was where I used to go almost everyday to have my meals, meet up with friends, and do my shopping. It’s been 11 years since I was last there. When I saw this photo, I immediately became homesick. It sure hit me hard.

There are 13 states and 3 federal territories in Malaysia. But out of them, Penang is the most different state. The people, the community, the lifestyle, the environment, is somehow different from the other states/territories. If you live in one state and then move to Penang, you will automatically feel the difference. A good difference. After being magnetized by the photo, I decided that I wanted to share with you my tour of Penang via my personal thoughts, views, knowledge, and experience, with also the help of some of my Penang friends with the visuals. Instead of presenting everything in one post, I am going to divide them into categories. My tour will include some of my favourite local food where you can’t find ANYWHERE else in the world, famous streets, art, stories and gossips (both local and personal), a haunted hill and war museum, and a history of an Englishman.

Enough said. Let the tour begin.

Malaysia is a multicultural country. There is Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, and Eurasian. Therefore, the food in Malaysia is also multicultural. Some have a combination of Malay and Chinese, while others may have a combination of Chinese and Portuguese. But in the end, no matter how many cultures there are, in food and people, it all comes together as one, Malaysia.

msia24The Penang flag.


I lived in one of those tall condominiums by the seafront back when I was residing in Penang from the beginning of 2003 till end of that year.

msia6msia20komtar Penang’s iconic tall building.

What I miss the most is the food. Sure, there are Malaysian restaurants around the world. But it is never the same as home. I’ve tried many Malaysian dishes in London (where I am living), and the food never tastes the same. The food isn’t bad either, but it just doesn’t taste like home. It’s not as authentic, even though they say it is. In some restaurants, they even have the names of the food wrong. I don’t know how I’ve survived 11 years of no home food. I’ve even tried cooking some of the dishes, but they just don’t taste the same. I guess I just have to wait for some of my Malaysian friends to come and visit so that they can teach me the authentic way. Below are some of the food that are so authentic that it’s hard to find anywhere else in the world except for home.

msia12Char Kuey Teow, a noodle dish cooked in light and dark soy sauce, with egg and seafood.

msia11Noodle dish with meat or seafood dumplings. Most Malaysians like to have their dishes with iced/hot tea or coffee with milk.

msia22msia8Noodle dish in soup. This is an extremely rare dish to find in any western countries. The closest I’ll ever get to tasting the real deal is a pot noodle version from London Chinatown 😦msia14A typical noodle cafe. msia15A noodle stand.

msia7Not just is this dish rare to find in western countries, but so is the fish. I call this fish the white fish.

msia13When I saw this photo while looking through a friend’s Facebook album, I almost cried. This is my all time favourite Malaysian dessert. It is made out of rice flour and thick coconut milk. It is layered, and I have a way of eating it. I don’t like eating it as it is, or taking a bite off it. There has only been ONE way I would eat it, and that is by layers. I would gently peel off each layer and eat it. I don’t know why. It’s the only way I will eat it. There’s no other way. Every time I see this dessert, I would immediately think of my childhood. msia17Another all time favourite. Biscuit with dried coloured icing on top.

msia16Of course, how can I forget about the rice balls.

My other posts on rice balls:




msia1A typical Malaysian breakfast. It is a very simple dish. Bread with butter and sugar spread on top. Bread can be toasted or not, up to you. I prefer it toasted.

msia3Roti Canai, flat bread with spicy sauce.

msia21Traditional prawn curry in deliciously thick sauce. My goodness.

msia23A typical stall selling traditional desserts.

msia10Durians, also known as the smelly fruit to some. Like marmite, either you like it or you don’t. msia5Inside the durian. It does leave a strong odor on your hands afterwards. They are very expensive here in London Chinatown. Crazy expensive.

msia9Chinese buns. It is usually used for celebrations or prayers.

That’s it for the first part. To be continued.

A huge thank you to Irene Soo and Suzanne Yeang for the wonderful photos.

How to make Chinese rice balls

Hello all. Firstly, I do apologize for my absence. Anyways, I’m back. I’m going to show you how to make rice balls. It’s simple, as long as you have the ingredients right. So let’s get started.

First, you will need the following ingredients, glutinous rice flour, ginger, and pandan leaves. You can get the ginger at any stores or supermarkets. But as for the glutinous rice flour and pandan leaves, you will probably need to get it in Chinatown or in Asian stores (Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese stores).




Pour the glutinous rice flour in a medium or large bowl. The amount of flour you want to pour in the bowl is up to you.


Now, this is the tricky bit. Slowly add a small amount of tap water (or bottled or tap water, it’s up to you) onto the glutinous rice flour, and as you do, mix the flour and water together with your hand. Stop adding water when the flour feels not too dry or not too sticky, but more like soft play dough.



Take a pinch of the ‘dough’ and start rolling it with the palms of your hands until they are the shape of a ball. Depending on the size of the rice balls that you want, you can add more of the dough as you are rolling it.


If you want to add colours to your rice balls, you can do so by adding the colours when you have made the flour into the dough. It’s up to you how much of the colourings you want to add. As for me, I wanted to make my rice balls look like marbles, so I just added two to three small drops of the colourings.





Once you have finished rolling, boil some water in a pot. When the water starts to boil, put all the rice balls in and let it boil for 5 minutes. Do not put the rice balls in the water when it is not boiling, or else they will stick to one another. After 5 minutes, take the rice balls out of the water and put them in a bowl of cold tap water. The purpose of boiling the rice balls is to give them a wash. And then by putting them in a bowl of cold tap water prevents them from sticking together as the texture has become quite sticky. Meanwhile, boil another pot of water. This time, add in the ginger (don’t forget to peel off the skin) and a few pandan leaves and let it boil. After then, put in the rice balls and let it boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. Also, add in some sugar or rock sugars into the boiling water. It’s up to you how much sugar you want to add in.



And then you are ready to eat the rice balls. Enjoy!