[Penang] Modern-Penang lunch at Third Culture, Codrington Avenue

A gastronomic feast for the senses at lunch today by the very talented Sue Ching of Third Culture. Sequestered away in a graceful bungalow along Codrington Avenue, Chef Sue Ching conjured up a delightful train of comestibles guaranteed to rejuvenate the most jaded palates.

Back in 2020 when I first came across her, Sue Ching was a young but already very accomplished chef, having honed her skills at 3-Michelin-star Troisgros and Astrance in France. She was last in Hawaii, before coming back to Penang in 2018.

Her supper club then was ensconced in a townhouse overlooking College Square, and sailed silently below the radar of ordinary folks. In the often madcap world of social media food-blogging and Instagram-chasing, camera-toting crowd, awareness of Third Culture was clandestinely whispered only among the serious food lovers - a form of culinary insider trading.

Sue Ching today is more confident, and her cooking showed panache, whereas it was subtle and restrained previously.

For our lunch today, we started off with a really good sourdough, accompanied by a delightful trio of flavoured butters: garlic-and-parsley butter, salted duckโ€™s egg yolk-and-sambal butter, and smoked butter.

:small_orange_diamond:Lunch partner #1 is a vegetarian who chose the Gazpacho - chilled tomato soup, basil oil, marinated cherry tomatoes, and whey granitรฉ.

:small_orange_diamond:I opted for the Cream of mushroom soup, grilled Penang oyster mushrooms, poached kampung egg and butter croutons. Earthy, creamy-rich and with lovely slices of fresh mushrooms. The coddled egg was unnecessary, but gave an added richness which was very much welcomed.This was what I looked for in a start to a meal: simple, comforting, but with enough character to make me sit up and look forward to the next course.

:small_orange_diamond:Lunch partner #2 opted for the Layered baby Romaine, smoked salmon mousse, pickled shallots and squid ink tuille - he pronounced it to be a total delight - both aesthetically pleasing, and gustatorily satisfying.

:small_orange_diamond:Lunch partner #1 had the Mushroom bourguignon, with cauliflower mash and crispy shoestring potatoes, which I eyed suspiciously. For me, anything โ€œbourguignonโ€ should be preceded by โ€œboeufโ€, let alone a fungi! But my lunch partner pronounced it a complete delight!
It came with a cauliflower mash which looked like pommes purรฉe, but which my lunch partner said was โ€œjust as goodโ€.

:small_orange_diamond:Balik Pulau duck-leg confit, watercress salad, house mash, red wine sauce poured tableside. Iโ€™d always loved duck confit - one of my must-orders if offered by any French bistrot - whether in Paris or San Francisco or Tokyo. I was wondering how itโ€™s going to be like here.

Interestingly, Chef Sue Ching explained that she flame-grilled the slow-cooked duck-leg at the end, instead of giving it the customary sear in a very hot oven. It was, I was delighted to find, the tastiest version Iโ€™d had in a long while.
The red wine sauce she prepared had an elusive, fruity taste, with hints of mace.

:small_orange_diamond:Lunch partner #2 chose Grilled seabass, beurre blanc, braised leeks and dill. It was pronounced a triumph - not a surprise as the locally-sourced ingredients were the freshest one could find.

:small_orange_diamond:Duo of chocolate (Valrhona chocolate), orange compote, orange sorbet and Maldon salt. - a beautiful composition which melded sweet, salty, chocolatey and orangey flavours, and seemed more than the sum of its parts.

:small_orange_diamond:Coconut panna cotta, passionfruit compote, almond crumble, Sauvignon Blanc jelly. - this was so creamy and delicate, you want to keep prolonging the pleasure of savouring it as long as you can.

An enormous talent lies behind the casual veneer of fresh-faced Sue Ching - her food is light but lip-smackingly delicious, and one continues to eat long after one is no longer hungry - simply because each component on the plate looked too beautiful to leave behind. A return visit beckons.

Third Culture
19F, Codrington Avenue, 10350 George Town, Penang
Tel: +6012-723 6861
Operating hours: By appointment


Michelin star caliber!

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Very much so, Charles! Somehow, it slipped under the radar of the inspectors for the Michelin Guide 2023 to Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

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You had me at really good bread and trio of butters!

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Back to Third Culture last week to suss out Sue Chingโ€™s latest offerings. We always relished coming here, with its bright, sun-lit dining room that provided the perfect setting for Sue Ching to showcase her vibrant culinary offerings.

Our lunch consisted of quite a few of Sueโ€™s vegetarian/vegan options, which we were curious about.

  1. ๐˜พ๐™ง๐™š๐™–๐™ข ๐™ค๐™› ๐™ˆ๐™ช๐™จ๐™๐™ง๐™ค๐™ค๐™ข ๐™Ž๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฅ - mushroom soup, garnished with king oyster mushroom. Drizzled with Kulim oil. Earthy and deep-flavored - Iโ€™ll come just for this.

  2. ๐˜ฝ๐˜ฝ๐™Œ ๐™’๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง๐™ข๐™š๐™ก๐™ค๐™ฃ & ๐˜พ๐™๐™–๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™š - chilled cucumber, watermelon, chayote and tomato salad. Beautiful concoction - everything seemed lightly marinated, not pickled, giving the fruits a lightly softened texture, and a sweetish, gentle flavor. The barely discernible โ€œsournessโ€ was there to offset the sweetness. The fresh dill and the green, leafy ulam raja herb provided the floral aroma.
    Itโ€™s a dish that grows on one. Iโ€™d order this again if I come back.

  3. Savoury panna cotta with crab meat. This dish was a triumph: creamy, savory and absolutely delish.

  1. ๐˜พ๐™ง๐™ช๐™™๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™š ๐™‹๐™ก๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง - mixed vegetables and salad leaves, with ranch dressing. Beautiful to look at, and an absolute delight. Everything was so fresh and crisp.

  1. ๐™๐™๐™ค๐™™๐™š ๐™„๐™จ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™๐™š๐™™ - succulent chicken with crispy skin, oyster mushrooms, smoked potato, creamy mustard sauce, pickled onions and seasonal greens.
    This was my favorite dish at this lunch.

  1. ๐˜ฝ๐™ค๐™ก๐™ค๐™œ๐™ฃ๐™š๐™จ๐™š - Omni meat, legume bolognese sauce, penne pasta. Tasty, but the vegan bolognese was sweeter than Iโ€™d have liked.

  2. ๐™‰๐™ค๐™ฉ-๐™”๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐˜พ๐™๐™š๐™š๐™จ๐™š๐™—๐™ช๐™ง๐™œ๐™š๐™ง - mushrooms-beet-sweet-potato patty, vegan cheese sauce, tomato, lettuce, mayo, gherkins. French fries on the side.
    Beautifully textured, but Iโ€™m reminded why I can never be a vegan/vegetarian. :grin:

  3. ๐™Ž๐™ฅ๐™–๐™œ๐™๐™š๐™ฉ๐™ฉ๐™ž ๐™Ž๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ค๐™œ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™›๐™› - mixed mushrooms, white sauce and spaghetti. Another wonderfully-textured dish, but something too โ€œvegetarianโ€ for me to appreciate.

  4. Seafood Bouillabaisse - with Balik Pulau mussels, king prawns and Teluk Bahang sea bass. This was one of Sue Chingโ€™s seasonal specials and was the piece de resistance for this meal. The cornucopia of fresh seafood was a delight. It didnโ€™t quite have the traditional French flavors Iโ€™d been expecting - not sure whatโ€™s missing: orange zest? Saffron? Clam juice?


  1. ๐˜ฝ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™– ๐™Ž๐™š๐™ข๐™ž๐™›๐™ง๐™š๐™™๐™™๐™ค - banana, chocolate, peanut and cookie crust.

  2. ๐™ƒ๐™–๐™ฎ & ๐™‚๐™ง๐™–๐™ฅ๐™š - dark chocolate ganache, skinless scarlet grapes, hay custard, black grape sorbet, palm sugar cookie shards. I loved this dessert - a medley of flavors and textures which complimented each other.

  3. ๐˜ผ๐™›๐™›๐™ค๐™œ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ค - house vanilla ice-cream and espresso.

Always good to be back at a place where the Chef/Proprietor is passionate about her offerings.


Back to Third Culture early this week, but for a very special bespoke meal. Hosted by the Royal Thai Consulate-Generalโ€™s local representative for Thai visitors from Pattani, Southern Thailand, the delegation are from a Thai government-supported creative team, Melayu Living, charged with rejuvenating a province which was rocked by a violent Muslim insurgency in recent decades.

Led by artist, Rachit Radenahmad, and supported by the Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage, the movement has been converting old houses in Pattani into art galleries, co-working spaces and cafes.

The delegation is in Penang to promote the โ€œnew Pattaniโ€ to Malaysians.

Lunch at Third Culture consisted of a special spread of local, Nyonya & Malay-inspired dishes prepared by Chef-Patron, Sue Ching, utilising Southern Thai produce.

Gai Yang (Thai: เน„เธเนˆเธขเนˆเธฒเธ‡) - grilled chicken, served with pickled shallots and a Penang-style rendang sauce.

โ€œCrying Tigerโ€ Grilled Beef (Thai: เน€เธชเธทเธญเธฃเน‰เธญเธ‡เน„เธซเน‰) - the dishโ€™s name, โ€œseua rong haiโ€, refers to a piece of grilled brisket steak which is supposed to be so delicious, yet so very chewy, even a tiger will cry with frustration at its chewiness. No problem here, as Chef Sue has cooked this perfectly. She serves the beef with a Penang-style chili paste.

Crisp-fried Silver Sillago

Kerabu Taugeh - Penang Nyonya-style beansprouts salad. Penangโ€™s 200-century-old Nyonya cuisine has direct influences from Southern Thailand, its nearest neighbor, and Penangโ€™s plethora of โ€œkerabuโ€ (finely-chopped and highly-seasoned salads) is a close counterpart of Thai โ€œyamโ€ salads.
The main ingredients, besides the blanched โ€œcentralโ€ vegetable - beansprouts in this case - will be the sambal belacan, toasted grated coconut, shallots, lime juice and chives.

My lunch plate: a colorful, tasty mรฉlange of textures and flavours. Served with Thai red rice or โ€œKhao Daengโ€.

Dessert: Passionfruit Crรจme Diplomate - rich, tangy creme dessert, with passionfruit jelly and chocolate shards made from cocoa grown in Thai province, Nakhon Si Thammarat.

The 2021 Catena Malbec was a perfect complement to the fruity, crisp Thai-Nyonya dishes.

A truly amazing meal - better than most โ€œlocalโ€ meals one can find in Penang, and simply shows the versatility of Sue Chingโ€™s cooking, and her impeccable ability to find the right flavor combination when adapting local/Asian ingredients to her French cooking techniques.