Bubur Cha Cha for Chap Goh Meh

The 15th day of Chinese New Year is called Chap Goh Meh, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day.  It is a big deal here in Penang with events all over including a big gathering at the Esplanade in George Town hosted by the Penang State Government.  Read more about what the holiday is about in last year’s post.  Also visit the curated photo blog Living in Penang illustrated to see images from Instagram of the Chap Goh Meh celebrations.  Find out why young singles are throwing mandarin oranges into the sea.  This year I want to share one of the traditional dishes eaten during Chap Goh Meh, Bubur Cha Cha.


Bubur Cha Cha is the name for a Nyonya dish that is sometimes confused with a similar dish called Pengat.  It is a sweet dessert that is said to make the new year sweeter.  The Cha Cha is supposed to sound like ‘che che’ which in Hokkien means ‘prosperity’ or ‘abundence’.


This is a dish to be shared, so serve it to friends and neighbors today.  It is also the last day to hand out those red envelopes.  Children should be getting their last bit of loot before the river runs dry.

Bubur Cha Cha recipe


  • 1 cup cubed sweet potato – the orange variety – because orange is the color of Chap Goh Meh11008187_906182509402059_1341056860_n
  • 1 cup cubed yam, yellow and purple for more colors.
  • 100 g pearl sago
  • water
  • sugar
  • coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 pandan leaves, tied in a knot


  1. Boil Sago Pearls on their own in water until they are soft and translucent.  This should take about 15 minutes
  2. Steam the yam and sweet potato.  They should get soft but not mushy.  If you don’t have a steamer, sprinkle with water and microwave for 10 minutes.
  3. Bring 1 cup of water and 1/2 a cup of sugar to a boil.
  4. Drop to a simmer and add the pandan leaves.
  5. Add 1 cup of coconut milk and simmer for 4 minutes.
  6. Remove pandan.
  7. Add steamed sweet potato and yam, stir to coat.
  8. Serve over a heaping spoonful of sago pearls.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - March 5, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Categories: Food and Drink, Holidays   Tags:

Thaipusam in Malaysia, Singapore and on Instagram

I’ve written about Thaipusam in the past on this blog.  It’s a red-letter public holiday that is one of the Hindus’ most important days.  It is a colorful festive display with most of the celebrations focused in four locations: Penang, Ipoh, Batu Caves in Selangor, and Singapore.  Thaipusam is a really big deal.

It is also well captured on social media, especially Instagram. As a service to my readers, I’m curating the Thaipusam pictures that I’m finding on Instagram into a series on the Tumblr feed, livinginpenang-illustrated.  The Thaipusam pictures can be found under the hashtag #thaipusam.


Thaipusam images

Thaipusam at Batu Caves 2015

Batu Caves

Young Thaipusam celebrant

Young Thaipusam celebrant

Silver Chariot in Penang, with KOMTAR in the background

Silver Chariot in Penang, with KOMTAR in the background

Thaipusam Chariot procession in Singapore

ThaipusamChariot procession in Singapore

Find more images from Thaipusam on the Tumblr.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - February 3, 2015 at 10:40 AM

Categories: Uncategorized   Tags:

HypnoBirthing in Penang

There are many expats in Penang who have had babies while they were living here. We’ve had one, and we’re about to have another. There is a Certified HypnoBirthing Practitioner who works in Penang. Her name is Jaye Chan. She agreed to an online interview to help us understand what HypnoBirthing is and where in Penang we can find her services.

It is a pleasure to get to know you, Jaye. Let’s get started.

1) What is HypnoBirthing ® and how is it better than conventional birth practices?

HypnoBirthing ® is as much a philosophy of birth as it is a technique for achieving a satisfying, relaxing, and stress-free birth. Unlike conventional birth practices, which often marginalize the mother by distrusting her natural birthing ability and usher her into an anxious and restless mode by being so highly dependent on machinery and drugs and relying on unnecessary protocols and practices that are less effective and less humane, in HypnoBirthing ®, we see birth as natural, normal and healthy, with a natural rhythm and flow. When a healthy woman, carrying a healthy baby, experiencing a healthy labour, trusting birth, is free of fear, is undisturbed and is appropriately relaxed, her body will function normally without pain or incident. HypnoBirthing ® teaches you to release all prior programming about birth, to free yourself of limiting thoughts and emotions, and embrace the amazing ability of your body to birth your baby naturally, easily and comfortably. The techniques you will learn allow you to stay in control and calm during labour and birth and works very effectively with all types of birth – natural or surgical.

2) Am I giving up control when I am under hypnosis?

Although there are many misconceptions and misinformation about hypnosis, you are definitely not unconscious during self-hypnosis. When giving birth with HypnoBirthing ®, you will be conversant and in good spirits – deeply relaxed, but fully in control. You will be able to decide the extent to which you feel the sensation. You will experience your birthing calmly and relaxed, with your body’s natural anesthesia (endorphins) replacing the stress hormones that cause pain. When it is time for your baby to be born, you will be fully awake, aware and involved.

3) What is the process for having a HypnoBirthing ® birth?  How far in advance do I need to prepare?

It is always better to prepare yourself as early as possible to ensure a positive outcome. When opting for a HypnoBirthing ® birth experience, your body and mind need to be optimally conditioned, so that when the time comes, you can effectively enter into a deep relaxation state, which will bring your body into harmony with the birthing rhythm and the orchestration of your birthing hormones, making your birthing calmer, safer and easier. Hence, it is important to attend a HypnoBirthing ® course to increase your chances of having a successful HypnoBirthing ® birth. There are special breathing, relaxation and visualization techniques, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning exercises that can be learned. Most importantly, it fosters an air of mutual respect for the birthing family, as well as the health-care provider in a conventional health-care system or an alternative setting. All this knowledge can help you in your preparation to have a beautiful HypnoBirthing ® birth.

4) Where can I read more about HypnoBirthing ®?

For more information on HypnoBirthing ®, you can visit the official website www.hypnobirthing.com, or you can grab a book “Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method” authored by Marie F.Mongan.

5) How can I find you, Jaye, online to ask more questions and to hire you?

You can find me through my website www.gentlebirthmalaysia.com, or you can also contact me through my Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/jayechan, or through the Hypnobirthing in Malaysia Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/hypnobirthinginmalaysia.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - February 2, 2015 at 10:27 AM

Categories: Birth, Health, Kids, Practicalities   Tags:

Weird doesn’t have to be a bad word

How to Make Your Own LemonadeWhen I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to call things weird. Especially if I wrinkled up my nose and said it dripping with disdain. That was the case when the family would be invited to a large 12 course Chinese meal and the foods that were served passed beyond the normative range of an American Born Chinese kid. Picture a large platter of fresh sushi on ice with two lobster heads as the centerpiece. Now imagine a 14 year-old getting freaked out because the decapitated lobster head facing him just moved its eyes to watch me eat its flesh.  My mother was quick to point out, the meat is “so fresh!”  That just wasn’t good enough for me.

Weird is part of being a TCK

Now the tables have turned and I’m the parent, and my children are the third culture kids.  They are finding things new and different and weird in this land of Penang.  There are new customs, new festivals and holidays, new foods.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, third culture kid, let me recommend the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Pollack and Reken. A TCK is a person who grows up outside their parents’ home culture. Expat parents should get familiar with the challenges and benefits that comes with being a TCK.  More resources below.

But my point is, I’m having to hear from my kids that things are weird.  I’m not entirely comfortable to say that they need to stop.  I think we just need to redefine the term.

Redefining weird

Let’s take the wrongness out of weird.  Let’s remove our egocentricity and see things from another perspective.  And now we realize that weird can mean different, without being bad.  An egocentric person would consider anything outside of my personal frame of normalcy to be wrong.

With this simple tool of allowing for someone else’s normal we take the first step towards living cross-culturally successfully.  We can go into these cross cultural situations and think, “that’s different, but I might like it.”  You can also give yourself (and your children) permission not to like it as well.

I’m finding that this new sense for the word weird to be freeing.  We are now free to experience the weird and look at things that are different.  We can keep our judgment to ourselves or to be discussed at home.

Now conversations can be like “Wow that’s weird.”  “I know cool huh?”

More TCK resources

Read at least one book about TCKs to familiarize yourself with the issues.

Participate in a twice monthly twitter chat under the hashtag #TCKChat (1st and 3rd Wednesday, 10am and 10pm).  For those of us in Penang that’s 11pm Wednesday or 11am Thursday.  Send me a message @livinginpenang and I’ll show you how to participate in a twitter chat.




photo by:

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 21, 2015 at 8:14 AM

Categories: Culture   Tags:

US Consular Officer coming to Penang

This came in from the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur. 


The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia is pleased to announce that a Consular Officer will be traveling to Penang to provide limited service in the area on January 28 2015 from 9am to 12pm.  During this visit, the officer will be able to provide notary services and take U.S. passport applications back to the Embassy for final processing.  Appointments are required.  Please email [email protected] to schedule your appointment.  We will provide information on the venue and required fees for each service when we confirm your appointment.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 20, 2015 at 5:47 PM

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World Curry Festival

The World Curry Festival is coming to Penang

Are you as excited as I am?  The World Curry Festival will be coming to Penang Jan 30 to Feb 1, 2015.  For the last 5 years this has been a British event.  The aim was to establish Britain as one of the curry capitals of the world.  It’s true too.  Recently I hosted two families of Britons at my house, and as a joke I googled traditional British recipes.  Chicken Tikka Masala came up as the third search result.


For this 6th annual festival, they are taking it international, to Penang.  Curries from everywhere, not just Malaysia, will be represented.  It will be part of the Penang International Halal Expo and Conference.

Events include:

  • Gala Dinner
  • Curry Master classes
  • World Curry Festival Cooking School
  • Street Food
  • Market Stalls
  • Pop Up Restaurants
  • and more to be announced

World Curry Festival on Social Media

Facebook: WorldCurryFest

Twitter: @worldcurryfest


1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - at 8:41 AM

Categories: Event, Food and Drink   Tags:

Pongal Festival Hindu Thanksgiving

Pongal Festival

Every year, the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal, is celebrated in January.  It is a four day festival that dates back over a millenium.  There are celebrations going on throughout Malaysia for Indians.  This year, it is scheduled for 14-17 January.

Penang has one of the best places to experience Pongal festival.  It is at the Sri Veera Kaliamman Devasthanam Temple. The temple is located in Gelugor, Penang.  The temple has been the focal point of Pongal festival in Malaysia since 1975.  Another place to go is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple on Queen Street in George Town.  This is the oldest Hindu Temple in Malaysia.

The word pongal in Tamil means “to boil” or to “to boil over”.  The timing of the festival is to coincide with the harvest for rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking).  This begins the traditional month for large expensive family celebrations like weddings.

The Pongal Festival continues to be an important part of Malaysian Indian culture.  It keeps them connected to their South Indian roots and traditions.

In Hindu temples bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells sound out to mark the joyous festivities of Pongal. Sweet rice is cooked with fresh milk  in new clay pots until they boil over. This symbolizes an abundant harvest and prosperity.  Some of the rituals performed in the temple include the preparation of rice, the chanting of prayers and the offering of vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the gods.

The Pongal Festival is a time for Tamil families to get together, time for reunions.  Old grudges have to be forgiven and forgotten.  Reconciliation is supposed to rule the day.  Love and Peace are the central themes of Pongal.

Have you been to the Pongal Festival?  Please share your experiences below or on the Facebook page.



1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 12, 2015 at 8:47 AM

Categories: Event   Tags:

Where’d the Penang Durian season go?

Durian where?

It really isn’t my fault.  The information on the web, and even from locals on the street say that December used to be a Durian harvest.  So I posted about Durian’s second season.  An excited out of town friend sent me a WhatsApp message saying he was in town and read my post.  He invited me to go get some.  So my one daughter who enjoys Durian, and my friend, and I went into Balik Pulau looking for a Durian stand… and there were none.

Read more…

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 8, 2015 at 8:17 AM

Categories: Fruit   Tags:

Food Stall: Chee Cheong Fun

Chee Cheong Fun

Chee Cheong Fun is also known as Steamed Noodle Roll.  It hasn’t topped any list (that I’ve seen) of Penang foods to try.  And yet it’s a yummy local favorite.  My gluten-free expat friends love it because it’s a rice noodle dish that they can eat.  So let’s explore what Chee Cheong Fun is.

Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Categories: Food and Drink, Hawker stalls   Tags:

Appointments needed for American Consular Services

Americans take note

There is a new online appointment system for the American Citizen Services unit at the US Embassy in KL.  The new system kicked in at the start of 2015.  This is for non emergency services.  Those include

The exact procedure is on the Embassy website.  Also included is a list of things you can and cannot bring in.  Finally there’s a link at the bottom to the online form that you can fill out to get an appointment.   There’s also a online form to fill out to cancel your existing appointment.

You can also contact the American Citizen Services section during normal business hours.  Phone: 03 2168 4979 or 4997.  I’ve found that they are very responsive on their email line [email protected].

I’m excited about the change.  I think this will speed up the wait time when we go to register our next baby’s birth.

Anyone used the new system yet?

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - January 5, 2015 at 8:31 AM

Categories: Documents, Practicalities   Tags:

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