Category Archives: Breathing Space

Accentuating the essentials of an artful lifestyle to include homes, cars, dining, beauty and much more

The Biscuit Chronicles

A Taste That Transcends Generations

Mention Penang’s ‘must-buy’ items and sure enough, tau sar pneah makes the list in a heartbeat. Its name literally means ‘bean paste pastry’, which is what it is; mouthwatering balls of sweet mung bean paste with the savoury hint of fried shallots, enfolded within layers of flaky pastry and baked to golden perfection. This popular snack enjoys somewhat of a cult status in the state, so much that many insist no visit to Penang is complete without them.

The origins of the humble tau sar pneah can be traced to the Fujian province in Southern China during the mid-19th century. 1856 was the year when the first ever pastry house dedicated to traditional Southern Chinese pastries was founded in Penang with the aid of a Fujianese pastry chef, and this marked the start of a legacy. This pastry house is Ghee Hiang, which until this very day continues the ages-old custom of making biscuits and pastries by hand.

Interestingly, the emergence of tau sar pneah isn’t limited to Penang. In tandem with the Chinese diaspora, regions in Southeast Asia have their own versions of the pneah (biscuit). The bakpia (‘meat pastry’), which is also known as hopia (‘good pastry’), is a highly-popular snack in Indonesia and the Philippines. Introduced by migrants from Fujian during the turn of the 20th century, its recipe also calls for a filling of sweetened mung bean paste. However, the bakpia or hopia does not have fried shallots. In Indonesia, lard is replaced by vegetable oil to accommodate the religious restrictions of its demography.

Despite all this, little can detract from the international popularity of tau sar pneah and through it, other traditional Southern Chinese pastries. Confectioneries such as beh teh saw, hneoh pneah and phong pneah fall under that category where in place of mung bean paste, they have fillings of molasses, brown sugar or refined sugar. Together they represent the sugar cravings that have spanned several generations from Fujian to Penang.

The next time you make a trip to Penang, be sure to pick up a box of Ghee Hiang’s delicious Fujian pastries to have a taste of the Malaysia’s oldest tau sar pneah brand!

Sublime Dining

A Taste of Heaven at Maple Palace

Giving tradition a little artisan twist, the elaborate dishes are prepared with unique interpretations that pay homage to many different Asian cooking methods.

Penang is widely acclaimed as a food haven and taking this notion to celestial heights is Maple Palace, a grand heritage mansion turned restaurant that serves impeccable Chinese cuisine. Having opened in 2009, the fine dining restaurant specialises in a wide-range of Cantonese and Szechuan dishes made from the freshest and finest ingredients.

Giving tradition a little artisan twist, the elaborate dishes are prepared with unique interpretations that pay homage to many different Asian cooking methods. The blending of both old and new makes for an unforgettable dining experience.

Topping the signature list is the Fish Steamboat that has patrons returning for more. The aromatic soup is boiled for hours giving it a depth of wholesome flavour. Another fragrant dish that has been lauded is the Lap Mei Fun (waxed meat claypot rice) which is a customary dish served during the Chinese New Year festival. This exotic dish is prepared with preserved Chinese sausage, waxed duck thigh, goose liver sausage and Chinese wine.

But the most consistent dining favourite is without a doubt the Traditional Crispy Peking Duck famous for its crunchy roasted skin. Served with spring onions, cucumber and sweet sauce on the side, this dish is best enjoyed when all the ingredients are rolled into a layer of pancake that holds them together. Each bite is then a textured sensation of salty, sweet and tangy.

The culinary opulence is equally reflected in the restaurant’s décor. The tasteful furnishings are reminiscent of the understated elegance of it colonial past. It is no wonder that the restaurant attracts the upper echelons of society for various dining events. Catering to an elite clientele, the restaurants is a top dining venue for society weddings, milestone celebrations as well as the regular family gatherings.

Helming this fine establishment is proprietor-cum-chef, Tan Loy Sin, a savvy restaurateur who recognises the need for constant transformation to appeal to the patrons’ sense of novelty. The restaurant is redecorated ever so often with a new menu added every three months.

Just as much thought and effort that goes into maintaining the menu and the dining room, equal emphasis is placed on ensuring the quality of the food that leaves the kitchen. Maple Palace is famous for its commitment to purity of the food. No MSG is used in the preparation of the food nor is the freshness of the ingredients used ever compromised.

No Money, Make Coffee

The obsession with the phrase ‘No Money, No Honey’ is popular, and is especially true for older guys, or should I say matured guys, when it comes to finding young companions. In many ways, this saying reflects the ultimate truth of human nature when it comes to the distinction of age: how and why do some young and beautiful ladies end up with much older men or vice versa?

‘Love’ is always the most popular answer as it holds up to the ethical part of the law of not being a gold digger, or as we Asians say, ‘money faced’. Although there are some such couplings of those with large age gaps that come together because of true love, a vast majority of these couples are together simply under the disguise of a win-win situation or what is politely refered to as a marriage of convenience. This is a true revelation of the older generation, but what about the current Generation Y?

Today’s Generation Y are a bunch of young and smart people who have never experienced any crisis during their young life. While many Malaysians above a certain age have been through the British colonial period, the Japanese occupation, the May 13 riots, Operasi Lalang, the global financial crisis, etc, this group of lucky late-comers have everything they could ever want the minute they came out from their mothers’ wombs. All they have to do is cry!

Mum and dad are always there to make sure that they have the best of the best. Why such indulgence, some may ask? The simple answer is that nowadays family groupings are much smaller with only one or two children unlike the good old days where most families had more than four or five children.

One cannot blame this fearless generation for wanting more and better since most of them have yet to meet the bad side of what growing up can be about. All they want are the simple things in life – good pay, good position, good benefits, good everything and less work. Hence, many have chosen the popular career path of joining up with a few friends and starting their own business – a modern-day ‘marriage’ of convenience.

Mums and dads are willing to be the main financiers as long as their children are happy without taking into much account whether they are experienced enough or not to run their own business. The most popular business for this generation is the lifestyle café.

Not the tried and tested formulas of established brands such as Coffee Bean or Dome, but the decorative, themed-cafés of various concepts. Simple and easy way of making money, so to speak.


So, in short,

‘No Money, Make Coffee’.

The Human Touch (Frankie Lam)

_DSC7570Dorsett Singapore Charms Its Guests

In the heart of Singapore’s vibrant traditional Chinese quarter of Chinatown is the stylishly modern Dorsett Singapore. A favourite among business and leisure travellers, this 10-storey hotel offers all the amenities and facilities of a world-class hotel for a comfortable stay. On a recent visit to the island country, EZ not only got the chance to experience Dorsett Singapore, but also have a chat with its Director of Sales & Marketing, Frankie Lam.

One of Dorsett Singapore’s most obvious strengths is its prime location. So strategic is this hotel that it is very accessible by public transportation, what with being located just above the Outram Park MRT interchange station! Just an escalator ride down a short walk from its lobby, you will find yourself on the MRT lines that will whisk you away to Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands, HarbourFront and Singapore’s Central Business District, most of which are a mere train ride away.

Dorsett Singapore is impressive on the outside with its full-glass building façade that gleams in the city skyline. This novel concept of high drama continues inside the hotel with the jet black tiles that are punctuated with streaks of brilliant gold. The walls of the lobby are tiled in reflective glass and mirrors, setting a theatrical backdrop for the opulent chandelier that greets guests as they walk through the doors of the lobby.

While dramatic and quite avant-garde in its appearance, the hotel staff and services come together to offer its visitors an experience of understated luxury that is tastefully contemporary. Lam, who has been with the hotel since its development phase shared with us the scope of work that was done to create this mid-scale hotel that is artistic, cutting-edge and people-centric.

Part of the pre-opening team, Lam joined Dorsett Singapore almost a year before it was opened. ‘It started with a few of us, the GM of course, the Financial Controller, the Room Division Manager, the HR Manager, and myself.’ Having been in the hospitality and hotel management industry for almost three decades, his vast experience, along with that of the rest of the team, has proved to be a success and has attracted guests from all over the world.

‘I built my team and set up the system in the sales and marketing division and the booking procedure. I worked closely with the other departments as we all shared our experiences to benefit the hotel and train the young people,’ said Lam, adding that most of the staff in the hotel front office were working in a hotel for the first time and were trained by Lam and his team.

It is the human touch that Lam said drew him to the hotel industry and at Dorsett Singapore, getting to meet diverse groups of people from different regions and interacting with the hotel staff and training them has been gratifying to him. ‘I enjoy working with people in person and networking. No doubt now the technology has really advanced and technology can help us in certain areas, but the main feature is still human touch. Human networking cannot be replaced with computers or technology. For instance, here we have installed the best hotel management system in the hotel computers, but we still need people to greet the guests and to key in the data to let the system run,’ he said.

As for interacting with the hotel guests, Lam said, ‘I meet many happy people every day; most of them are happy because they are in Singapore and are staying here at the Dorsett. Some of them are here on business, and for their weekends, we talk to them and share with them some good tips or experiences they could try when staying in Singapore. They feel happy and feel like they have been taken care of.’ It is that human touch that sums up what Dorsett Singapore is all about.

Seamless Splendour

Designing Through Harmony

The picture-perfect district of Tanjung Bungah is one of the most glamourous addresses to have in Northern Malaysia. With plenty of sun, sand and sea, millionaires can’t resist to call this place home. Amongst Tanjung Bungah’s luxurious condominiums is Springtide Residences, where its units measuring between 4,000 and 5,000 sq ft allow for unlimited possibilities for exceptional interior design.

To bring out the best of its dimensions, one homeowner at Springtide Residences enlisted award-winning interior décor firm Splendid Interior Décor (Splendid) for this project, and they delivered. Within only two months, team leader Darren Tan transformed the empty space into a practical and elegant open-concept family home.

Seamless transitions between distinct areas such as the living room and kitchen, and the dining area with the lounge create an open and relaxed space that is casual and inviting. Each space blends with the next, with closed sections arranged within in a balance of privacy and airiness.

Eclectic Oriental antiques from the homeowner’s personal collection, which the Splendid team has displayed strategically, harmonise with the contemporary accents of the condo. These artefacts add intimacy to each space and reflect the client’s globetrotting pursuits. A grand Japanese console of dark red wood with Burmese and Thai lacquerware dominates the lounge, while a dining set from Chiang Mai complemented with French silverware is set against a large contemporary painting.

In the lounge, minimalist modern furniture is arranged around an ornately carved antique bed-turned-coffee table from Hong Kong. Adorning its cream-coloured walls are Burmese scriptures, Japanese paintings and bright modern artworks that intensify the warmth of the space. In contrast, the cool ultramarine tones of the kitchen and living area are paired with Chinese porcelain ware, French paintings and an antiquated chest resting upon a Persian carpet, taking the edge off the industrial vibe from high-tech appliances.

Bringing more nature into the room, Darren has introduced autumn hues and solid textures to meld this international feel together with the modern gadgets of the unit. Parquet and tan marble flooring, linen curtains and cotton fabrics create the middle ground that bring modern accents and oriental antiques together to create an air of intimacy and comfort. The result of the Splendid team’s artful coordination with spaces, colour and décor is this vision of a relaxed casual lifestyle.

Come Home To Paradise

BOTANICA.CT unveils its fourth phase of resort-style Tropical Hillside Villas in Balik Pulau

Drawing inspiration from resort living architecture, BOTANICA.CT Garden Township is a unique residential development that combines modern amenities with the calming influences of nature. Developed by MTT Properties & Development Sdn Bhd, commonly known as MTT Group of Companies, BOTANICA.CT Garden Township boasts an exclusive sense of refinement, understated luxury and lush natural surroundings.

Villa2_4Located along the idyllic banks of Sungai Air Putih on the Penang Island district of Balik Pulau, the recent unveiling of the Township’s fourth residential phase, BOTANICA 4, offers 29 spacious, three-storey villas on a raised plateau. Each of the villas boasts individual built-up areas upwards of 6,000 sq ft and land areas between 9,000 to 16,000 sq ft.

Built for people with vision, the 300-acre BOTANICA.CT Garden Township began its journey to become an integrated and self-sustainable township in 2006. Continuing its purpose of becoming a holistic lifestyle sanctuary, BOTANICA.CT plans to launch at least five more residential phases with its heritage club house due to open by the end of the year. This is to be followed with a pedestrian mall named Botanica Walk, a private medical centre, health resort and retirement resort, thus achieving its status as a self-contained and self-sufficient township.

Available in seven contemporary designs to choose from, each unit in BOTANICA 4 comes complete with its own swimming pool, ensuite bathroom for all bedrooms and private home elevator, with some designs offering outdoor lanai, water features and verdant landscaping, creating a contemporary zen-like atmosphere.

The units are available from RM5.5 million onwards and the show villas are available for viewing, preferably by appointment. The BOTANICA.CT Sales Gallery in Balik Pulau is open from 9am to 5pm from Mondays to Saturdays and 11am to 5pm on Sundays and Public Holidays. For more information, contact +604-8662 399.

Show Stopping Showhouses

In a time when properties are hitting the million-ringgit mark and beyond, and with each development one-upping the other with new technologies and security features, aesthetics can play an important and deciding role. How one presents a showhouse could be the key to the potential home-buyer’s heart.

When potential home-buyers walk into the space, they immediately start visualizing how the space could fit their requirements and lifestyle, more so when the property is on the higher end of the market. This is the reason showhouses exist – to show how a particular house can serve as a home and how the standard space can be transformed into something new and with the right design by the interior decorator, spectacular.

Penang-based interior décor firm, Splendid Interior Décor, is one such expert in transforming empty shells into statement houses. Employing clever lighting techniques, smart space management and arresting art works, Splendid Interior Décor has designed some outstanding contemporary showhouses.

One such project is the Botanica.CT residential development in Penang’s idyllic town of Balik Pulau.   Styling the two-storey and three-storey houses, Splendid Interior Décor has created showhouses that are not only liveable and practical, but also elegant and stunning.

One of the design elements that was used to enhance the ambiance of the spacious living and dining areas was lighting, which in this project consisted of a combination of gorgeous chandeliers and warm accent lights. By combining the right lighting fixtures with the correct hues and intensity, Splendid Interior Décor has highlighted features of specific room that deserved the attention, and making the generous spaces cosy and charming.

Playing off the lighting, artworks in earth tones adorn the wide walls, blending in perfectly with the perfect ambience, colour and illumination scheme of the showhouses. Another design element that elevates the overall concept of the Botanica.CT showhouses is the contemporary sculptures that add a certain glamour to the spaces. The result is a set of showhouses that are inviting, stylish and reflective of a contemporary lifestyle.

For further information, email

 A Flair for flavour

In a land where spicy street food and Hokkien cuisine rule supreme, there is one heavyweight champion that is slowly turning the tide by introducing impeccable Cantonese Szechuan cuisine in a classy setting that is fit for a king. Set in Maple Gold Club, a grand heritage mansion tucked in the millionaire’s row of Penang’s swanky Northam Road (or Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), is Maple Palace Restaurant. The restaurant has made a name for being one of the top places frequented by the well-heeled millionaires and socialites of Malaysia’s high society.

The proprietor and head-chef of Maple Palace, Tan Loy Sin, or Loy as he goes by, recently hosted celebrated food critic and writer, C.K. Lam, and EZ to sample the restaurant’s new menu. Lam, who runs one of the most visited food websites in Malaysia is widely regarded as an authority on the Penang food scene and has written for numerous publications in Malaysia and beyond.

Tan Loy Sin and CK Lam
Tan Loy Sin and CK Lam

Joined by Loy and his partner Vivien Teoh, we were treated to a sumptuous spread that included Double Boiled Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs, Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber & Black Mushroom, Fresh Water Prawn Curry with Mantou, Steamed Marble Goby with Superior Soya Sauce, Steamed Chicken, and finished with a sweet note with the Sweetened Ginger Tea with Glutinous Rice Ball.

As the tantalising aroma of the food wafted, the conversation around the table naturally turned around to food. Lam, who originally hails from Kuala Lumpur, was soon sharing her insights on the restaurant industry with Loy. ‘Most important is the food, and so is the word of mouth,’ she said, explaining that when customers like the food and service in a particular restaurant, they spread the word to their friends and family, which everyone at the table agreed that it works even better than any advertisement.

Echoing Lam’s sentiments, Loy in turn shared with the table his attitude on running a successful restaurant. He said that customers’ feedback was very important to him as he strives to maintain the type of service and quality that has come to be accepted of Maple Palace. ‘We need to be in tune with our customers’ preferences, and so, much thought is put into deciding what goes in our menu,’ said Loy, who personally creates the course set menu.

Lam chimed in, saying ‘There is much competition these days and Maple Gold is one of the Chinese restaurants that is on top of the game. Loy works closely with his kitchen staff in maintaining the standard for the food and keeping the menu fresh and exciting. Dishes are prepared with bold and exciting flavours using quality and fresh ingredients.’

‘Many know the restaurant for its comfort fish steamboat. Among the large selection of delectable dishes, the fish steamboat is one dish that I will order time and again. The aromatic soup boiled for hours has lots of flavour and depth,’ she said, ‘Maple Palace is also a must go destination for waxed meat claypot rice (Lap Mei Fun). This fragrant dish which is available during the festive Chinese New Year period is prepared with preserved Chinese sausage, waxed duck thigh, goose liver sausage and Chinese wine.’

On what was being served that afternoon, Lam said, ‘The curry udang galah (fresh water prawn), which is part of the new exciting menu, is a huge winner. The fresh prawns stand up beautifully to the divine combination of Indian spices and the ladies’ fingers made a perfect accompaniment to this spicy dish. You can have it with deep-fried mantou or white rice.’

The other dish that stood out for her was the beautifully steamed marble goby dish. ‘The steamed fish in soy sauce is a simple dish and it is put together with a dazzling sauce – the chef uses the high quality Kikkoman soy sauce.’  As for the dessert, the self-professed sweet tooth had this to say about the desserts at Maple Palace; ‘A must-try dessert is the black sesame glutinous rice balls done two ways – served in warm ginger tea or rolled in grinded peanuts. I particularly like the ones in ginger tea.’ As each one of us polished off the hot aromatic bowl of Sweetened Ginger Tea with Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Ball, we had to agree with Lam.

For more information or to make reservations, please call +604 227 9690 / +604 227 4542 or visit

Up, Up and Away!

Gliding through the clouds is not novel, but venturing beyond the stratosphere is.

Imagine watching the ground fall away at your feet as you climb higher and higher into the azure blue sky, protected by a luxurious capsule with five other passengers and two crewmembers. Above you is an enormous helium balloon, expanded to the size of a football field that pulls you further and further away from the ground, until the blue sky dissolves into the blackness of space. Behold, the marvelous curved expanse of planet Earth greets your eyes.

Such a scene could soon be a reality as a start-up company of Tucson, Arizona commercialises high-altitude ballooning, an activity normally restricted to astronauts. World View Enterprises offers an accessible and affordable way to take passengers into space for an experience similar to human spaceflight through suborbital quests. No special training is required; all you need is USD75,000 for a reservation. The sum is quite reasonable when compared to Virgin Galactic’s USD250,000 price tag for a trip to space. Moreover, it is safer than space exploration ventures such as those by Virgin Galactic because participants of high-altitude ballooning experience far less cosmic radiation which has been documented to cause cataracts in astronauts.

A World View Venture lasts for approximately six hours from lift-off to landing. The journey from launch pad to the zenith is a gentle ride in the pressurised gondola suspended by a helium balloon which gradually expands as it floats further away from Earth. For the next two hours as the balloon hovers over the stratosphere, passengers can see the curved horizon of the planet framed against the backdrop of the cosmos. The magnificent view can spark off the ‘overview effect’, a concept coined by space philosopher Frank White to describe the inexplicable euphoria one has when seeing the world from space.

The NASA veterans and Biosphere 2 designers who lead World View Venture’s expeditions are experts in high-altitude ballooning, human spaceflight as well as environmental control and life support systems. The company’s partner and vehicle developer, Paragon Space Development Corporation is reputed for the manufacture of life support equipment designed for hazardous and extreme environments. If you are part of the voyage, be at ease knowing that dire situations depicted in the film Gravity are unlikely to unfold as their projects have been successful for decades. Just relax at the refreshment bar and share the magnificent view of your home planet on social media in real time through the gondola’s built-in internet access, documenting the memories of a lifetime.

Image courtesy of World View Enterprises, Inc. 

Eclectic Charm

A touch of modern, a hint of retro and a whole lot of character

Penang’s beach district of Tanjung Bungah is home to some of Malaysia’s most luxurious super-condominiums. With rumours of well-known Asian movie and pop stars having holiday homes here, clearly having a Tanjung Bungah address is glamorous to say the least.

It is not just enough to own a super-condominium. It is the manner in which one chooses to accentuate the confines of such a place that make the distinction of style, class and luxury. One of the hottest super-condominiums in Tanjung Bungah is the Infinity Beachfront Condominium. With a built up area of 4,000 sf on average, it poses quite the challenge to home owners who wish to bring out the best of the space.

One such homeowner at Infinity Beachfront Condominium reached out to Splendid Interior Décor to turn the empty shell into a space that reflected their personal style and living comforts. Splendid Interior Décor (Splendid), a reputable and award-winning interior decorating firm based in Penang is no stranger when it comes to working on high-end, luxury properties.

After discussing with the homeowners about their likes, dislikes, expectations and budget, the team from Splendid, led by Darren Tan, took to the task of creating a unique concept that would perfectly match the homeowners. The condo should not only serve as a space to live in, but also to be a sanctuary where the residents can retreat to and relax; it should also be a space that is functional, interesting and appealing for the homeowners to entertain their guests.

Employing various colours to create the mood for different spaces, what is created is a distinct home with lots of personality. To enhance the each area’s theme, arresting artworks and furniture were used to create a distinguished style. The artworks and furniture used were mostly purchased by Darren around the world specifically for the project to complement items from the homeowner’s personal collection.

Artworks and sculptures are casually displayed around the condo, creating conversation spaces which draw in attention unconsciously, perfect for entertaining guests as these spots are a seamless conversation space. The private areas of the condo are cleverly concealed and are cosy, while the public spaces are open and airy, creating a wonderful juxtaposition of the inner and outer spectrums of a home.

The end result is a space that is charming, eclectic and, most importantly, inviting. Despite its size, the condo exudes an intimate feel as the Splendid team had masterfully created private spaces within the relatively open layout of the unit.