Pulling a Jamie Oliver.

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: When we were young…

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I may be able to pull a fake British accent, but I am still an amateur when it comes to the kitchen department. Growing up in a house, where I have a mother who is more concerned of the floor being sparkling clean than putting awesome food on the table, I rarely have the opportunity to cook. Nonetheless, cooking is still a favourite past time I like to do on special occasions.

As many of you may know, November is the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival month. What better way to get into the spirit of things by, not only trying out the beautiful food all around, but trying to make them yourself.

Who would have known that hidden in the folds of suburbia is a humble abode to learn some traditional Malaysian dishes. I have never heard of LaZat before. In fact, I never knew there is a place that is not in a hotel or a fancy restaurant where we can learn to cook the simplest dishes. It can be easily passed off as an ordinary family next door, with its green picket fence and perfectly mowed lawn. There is no flashy signboards or a gourmet kitchen inside; just a normal setting you would usually come home to.

Along with me that day were three other ladies, who are all cooking enthusiasts: Elaine from Canada, Leigh Ann from Sydney and Janet from Los Angeles who is currently residing in Perth. Compared to them, I am like I was in Form 2’s HomeEc class, learning to cook long beans and curry chicken. Gulps.

LaZat has six menus that they rotate throughout the month, and we will learn to cook four dishes: an appertiser, two main courses and a dessert. I thought we would be cooking as they teach, but instead, before trying out every dish, there would be a demonstration every time at the counter up front. Ana, the hostess, would brief us on the ingredients as well as some tips on how to make the dishes taste better and more unique. While she was doing that, Saadiah, the chef, would do the demonstration. We were also given a recipe book each, in which we could make notes.

I have never been to a cooking class before, and honestly, I had trouble remembering the steps. The recipe book did not really do much help as the directions were quite vague, as it is with home cooking. So, I was constantly checking out the lady next to me to refresh my memory, as if a kid peeking during spelling tests. Heh.

The last time I cooked, and I mean really cooked, was at the beginning of the year in Brisbane, making my mom’s homemade prawns for Chinese New Year. So, as you can imagine, it has been quite a while. I was a little nervous, wondering if I would mess things up. But all the same, the excitement was there, like a captain anxious to head out to the football field for his first game.

Besides, Ana and Saadiah would walk around guiding us while we were cooking anyway, so we were not lost toally.

The first dish we made was Prawn Fritters (Cucur Udang).

It was a simple dish, where you throw everything into the mixing bowl and mix before chucking the pieces in the boiling oil to deep fry. I forgot to turn up the fire for my first batch as we should do, so the insides were still a little uncooked, but all the same, it was edible. It was nicer when dipped in their homemade sweet chilli sauce. Saadiah also taught us to make the decorations on the sides. However, with these unsteady hands, I did not manage to come up with the curvy shapes like she could. Yet, the more important thing was, my food was edible. Heh.

The second dish and the highlight on the menu was Beef Rendang.

It was probably the toughest dish to cook as well, what with the need to watch the pot so the sauce would be in the right moistness, and to make sure the beef is cooked thoroughly. Ana also gave us a tip on how to get the right taste out of it. The not-so-secret ingredient? Grated coconut, a.k.a kerisik, an ingredient commonly left out for foreign chefs making rendang in other countries. Yes, now you know.

It was funny how by at the end, everyone’s rendang came out looking differently. Leigh Ann’s got the more runny sauce, while Janet’s looked more dried up, and Elaine’s looked darker in texture. Mine was just right; not too dry, which I dislike, and not too watery, how it was not supposed to be. It was not too spicy too, so yes.

The Beef Rendang took a longer time to cook, as we needed to let the meat simmer in the pot. So while we were waiting, we made the third dish: Spicy Cucumber Salad (Acar Timun).

Once again, this was another simple dish to make, throwing everything in and cook. I just had a problem with what I should do first and next. And I had a problem at the mortar pounder, where I needed to mash out the dried shrimps. I am not exactly skilled with that, and I was more attentive towards keeping the ingredients from spilling out all over. Heh.

I am no veggie eater, but I enjoyed this dish, probably because it tasted a tad bit sour and it had cucumbers and carrots instead of leafy vegetables.

Last but not least, and probably the favourite dish to prepare out of the four for me was the Onde Onde, palm sugared glutinous balls.

Surprisingly, the others did not like the taste of it, but me, I loved it. I guess it has something to do with it being sweet to the core. Yum. And as surprising as that, it was quite easy to make as well: stuff blocks of palm sugar in the dough, roll them into balls, plop them into a pot of boiling water and then roll them out on the grated coconut. Voila.

After cooking every dish, we sat outside at the porch and enjoyed our own food, tried them out with slow mouthfuls and let them linger on the tongue to have a better feel of our hardwork well done. That day, the weather was cloudy and it was not humid to sit out there for lunch. No raging sunlight or depressing rain, just everything in between for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mmm, tasted just like home. Or at least, how our idea of home would be.

If you are up for some kitchenery mischief yourself, I would recommend stopping by LaZat to learn some Malaysian cuisine. The price is just right for a half-day class, and you have quite a selection of menus to choose and learn from. Ana and Saadiah are the most down-to-earth bunch as well, so it is the making of everything heartwarming, just like a home should feel like.

Also seen at VM @ Travel Talk.

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LaZat Cooking Class
584, Jalan 17/17
Section 17
46400 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Malaysia
T: +6 019 238 1198
E: enquiries@malaysia-klcookingclass.com
W: http://www.malaysia-klcookingclass.com

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