Tag Archive: Peranakan



Kuala Lumpur was like a stopover and pit stop on the way to and out of Penang. But we made good visiting some sites in KL and checking out a couple of recommended restos by a local. And Penang may be warmer 🥵 but certainly more interesting! We had a leisurely holiday but managed to cover as much ground as we could.

Stopover in Kuala Lumpur

First Day in Penang

Street Art in Georgetown

The Heritage Mansions of Penang

Going (Eating) Peranakan

City Hall of Penang

How we managed despite the high temps and humidity? A good, leisurely breakfast at the hotel, out by 10am to hit the Museums/Mansions/Temples 🕌🕍🏫, lunch, back to the hotel🏩 by 2-3pm to rest 💤, out again by 5pm to hunt for street art 🖼 and check out the jetties ⛵️, dinner then back to hotel 🏨 . For an even better appreciation and comfortable travel though, go during cooler months. December and January should be good months to visit. And soon! Many street art installations are in serious need of repair and restoration. Enjoy! 👣👣👣

Passed by Batu Caves As We Exited KL

Passed by Kek Lok Si Temple On Way Out of Penang

Going Peranakan


We’ve had our taste of Peranakan in Singapore, Malacca, Indonesia, and even some parts of Thailand. Peranakan is derived from the word “anak” meaning child or descendant. And they are — from Chinese immigrants who settled in these parts of Southeast Asia. Today, we see the Peranakan heritage in architectural styles and cuisine. Descendants of Chinese immigrants fully assimilated in Malay traditions and subsequently exposed to European influences when the British ruled the land. The 2-storey colonial-era buildings stand side by side with Chinese tea houses and shops, amidst a more modern skyline dotted with Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu temples, Anglican and Catholic Churches, some 19th century mansions, forts and high-rise condominiums. A perfect blend of Oriental and Western tastes.

We’ve visited houses here and found the Peranakan style and architecture very apt for the Malaysian high temps and very humid weather. The courtyards provide natural lighting, breeze and the space to “cool down” in this state just above the Equator. Louvered shutters, stained glass and stencilled window panes, gargoyles, heavy wooden doors make you pause to imagine how they were in the olden days. The spice and flower gardens, if any, provide the aroma as wind blows in. It’s both comforting and nerve-soothing despite the high temps. A second floor foyer provides ventilation on humid days and once more, I like the concept of looking down through the cast iron railings to the courtyard to see who’s coming for dinner. 😜 But what I’d really love to see is how the courtyard transforms into a pool as it collects rainwater on rainy days. Must be really cool to experience that while tea is brewing and some Nyonya cookies and biscuits are warming. 👍

And speaking of Peranakan’s Tambun biscuits, we’ve tried some and loved the variety available. some sweet, some savoury. So with their cuisine — a harmony of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. Some sour, others salty, or spicy or really sweet. Baba Nyonya cuisine as it is fondly called draw direct references to Baba (an honorific title applied to males) and Nyonya (as applied to females). In those days, the Nyonyas spent a lot of time at home, mostly doing embroidery or in the kitchen where they obviously whipped up “magic” integrating Malay and Chinese cooking. These Nyonya dishes acquired an altogether different cuisine quite distinct from that of plain Chinese or simple Malaysian. From Laksa to Nasi Lemak to Itik Tim to Nyonya Fish Head Curry to Kari Kapitan to Babi Pongteh, prepare those taste buds for an explosion of flavors.

Fish Head Curry

Babi Pongteh cooked in Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar)

Soft -Shell Crab Fried in Salted Egg

Many directed us to the hawker markets near the jetties, or in Gurney Drive or the more central market near Sunway Hotel for our coveted seafood dishes. There were also suggestions to stay around Love Lane but when we checked, there were mostly bars and a vibrant nightlife rather than the serious eating we were planning on. 😜 In the hawker markets, we found many choices but were discouraged by the crowd, chaos and the heat! And so we went in search of more quiet roadside eateries and found one. Not exactly that quiet as it opens up to the hawker market but the young chef-proprietor by the name of Vincent welcomed us in and promised to cook anything we fancy. His wife was there to assist but Vincent ruled the kitchen. And how we enjoyed our dinner! Vincent even allowed me to buy my new fav Chendol and some flaky tambun biscuits to bring in to eat. The following night in Penang, we got even luckier. We decided to hunt for street art by sundown as it was cooler and chanced upon The Nyonya Legend House. We were the last customers allowed in and we had a wonderful, authentic Nyonya dinner. A dinner that we couldn’t even finish as the servings were very generous!

Vincent’s Dinner

Tambun or “Dragonball” biscuits

The Nyonya Legend House In Lebuh Chulia

All told, we have fond memories of Penang. We like what we found, enjoyed what we saw, and savoured what we ate. The heat is a damper but over time, one gets used to it. In my case, Chendol and Ais Kacang were my friends. I had them every time I sensed a full migraine coming. It doesn’t choose a time of day, and I swear I can eat these flavoured ice shavings with fruits and other stuff anytime and anywhere. My only regret is I failed to try as many Nyonyan desserts as my stomach could hold! As for my travel companions, they were over the moon with their durian finds!


Who goes to Penang and fails to visit the Blue Mansion owned by Cheong Fatt Tze and the Green Peranakan Mansion? We enjoyed our guided tours of these two mansions in Georgetown and appreciated how the Penang elite used to live in those days. The official name is Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, after the man who rose from rags to riches in this corner of the world. Tagged by NY Times as the “Rockefeller of the East”, Cheong was born to a poor family from Guangdong, China but his industry and business savvy earned him prominence, wealth and errrrr….8 wives. The house’s architecture is an impressive fusion of Oriental and European architecture, an impressive display of British and Chinese artisanship. Truly, a masterpiece deserving of the “Most Excellent Project” awarded by the UNESCO Heritage Conservation Awards in 2000. The owners of this late 19th century house certainly did not scrimp building it. Peranakan tiles alone are some of the best and loveliest, and it was crazy walking over these original tiles in the Mansion. No wonder the hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians” used this Mansion in that poignant mahjong scene. And crazy rich may well describe how this heritage house was built. And subsequently restored.

Regarded as one of 10 greatest mansions of the world, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has 38 rooms, 7 staircases, 5 courtyards and 220 beautiful windows. The lucky number 8 pervaded around this eclectic masterpiece — in the number of pillars, number of steps in a staircase, etc. As one very prominent migrant known for his philanthropy and business acumen, his charms and fortune extended to his many wives and children. The Mansion claimed “Feng Shui” perfection but such good aura and chi must have worked only while the old man was around. His trading empire expanded around Southeast Asia but he made Penang his base, and this house essentially his favorite 7th wife’s. Tan Tay Poh was 20 when a 70 year old Cheong took her as his 7th. Imagine that gap – 50 years! She bore him one son but she died early at age 42, leaving the house to a son who allegedly squandered away his inheritance. The Mansion suffered disrepair and was in fact heavily dilapidated, with as many as 34 illegal squatter families living in it. Then a group of conservators bought the Blue Mansion to make sure this heritage house is lovingly restored and preserved. Hallelujah!

Mercifully, the restoration followed best-practice standards for the benefit of both locals and tourists who can now be reminded of the flamboyant lifestyles of Penang’s old rich. The indigo blue facade and walls invite attention and it is truly very fortunate that the conservators who purchased this Mansion from the descendants of Cheong Fatt Tze in 1989 turned it into the heritage home and boutique hotel it is now. Its fine dining resto called “Indigo” holds promise judging by its opulent decor and elegant style. We noticed too that its serving staff seem to know every diner like they’re regulars. Looks very exclusive, if you ask me. I’d love to dine there, but not keen about booking a room in the 18-room boutique hotel even for a single night. I bet it’s haunted.

📸 Weng S

On the other hand, the Peranakan Mansion is another Penang gem. Likewise owned by another Chinese tycoon by the name of Chung Keng Quee, this green Mansion showcases Penang’s Peranakan heritage. Penarakan is a culture unique to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Chinese migrants who settled in Southeast Asia and married locals gave birth to this new culture and heritage fondly called Baba Nyonya. Expressed in its architecture, cuisine and traditions, these Baba Nyonyas assumed an altogether unique culture. And you bet this green-hued residence and museum was also quite a popular and favorite movie set for international movies and TV shows like “The Little Nyonya” and “The Amazing Race”.

On display are paraphernalia and memorabilia of the Straits Chinese. Apparently, the Chinese penchant for anything gold, beady and ornate is adequately expressed in the costumes, ornamental decor, even Nyonya slippers to be found here. The hand-crafted jewelries and hand-embroidered wardrobe and footwear must have given rise to local businesses which flourished then. I am particularly impressed with one item where feathers from a kingfisher bird were actually used to adorn an outfit.

Not turquoise beads, but kingfisher feathers!

A trip to Penang should include visits to these 2 mansions. It’s very educational and both these Mansions tell an awesome story! The guide in the Blue Mansion did an impressive job. So did the guide (Ricky) in the Peranakan Museum except that he had a very heavy accent and we had to strain to listen to him. Just the same, we left learning so much more about the Baba Nyonya culture. Chinese migrants, Peranakan Chinese, Straits-Born Chinese. They’re called all these. Peranakan is a Malay word that translates to “local born” . It is not a separate race, but rather a sub-culture within the Chinese community. Peranakan cuisine blends Chinese cooking with Malay traditions. Think LAKSA. 😊