Sunday, October 06, 2013

Cooking class @ Tropical Spice Garden, Penang

Over the past week Andrew and I travelled around Malaysia on a 'flavours of Malaysia' culinary tour, tasting and learning about the foods of various regions. On the final day we participated in a cooking class at the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang ... it was fabulous! The day started with a walking tour around the fragrant gardens led by an entertaining and knowledgeable guide named Danny, and a cup of cat's whiskers tea, claimed to have all sorts of medicinal properties. Our class consisted of five couples, four from Australia and one from Bangladesh, and was taught by the delightful Pearly Kee, who describes herself as a fifth generation Penang Nyonya.

The class made a range of spicy dishes, and Pearly guided us step by step through everything, offering valuable tips and tricks along the way. Up till now, all the Malaysian recipes I'd made had been from recipe books, so it was great to have some guidance on how to do things properly and more efficiently.

We worked in a shiny new kitchen with all mod cons

Sizzling sambal!

I really must stop monopolising the kitchen at
home.  Andrew did a great job, and seemed to enjoy cooking

Six members of the class made seafood dishes, while the other four (not fans of seafood) made a potato rendang and a chicken sambal. We all made simple salads to serve alongside the curries, and Pearly provided pandan-scented coconut rice and a yummy dessert based on wheat pearls, coconut and palm sugar. After several hours of cooking we all sat down around a long table to enjoy the fruits of our labours. The food was delicious and we ate every morsel! Definitely worth doing if you find yourself in Penang.

Overall the six day foodie tour was interesting and enjoyable, but a bit overwhelming. We're not normally big eaters, and the tour included two substantial meals per day, so we started feeling stuffed pretty early. By day four we were asking our guide for something 'very light' for lunch; by day five we wanted to skip entire meals as we felt uncomfortably full! Something else I didn't take into account and should have  we rarely eat meat at home (for a whole bunch of reasons) and all of the lunches and dinners planned for the tour were heavily based on meat or fish. I finished the tour feeling a desperate need to eat more vegetables and fewer dead creatures. Would we recommend such a tour to others? Yes ... but if you have a small appetite or particular food intolerances or preferences it may not suit.

We're now in Singapore for a few days before heading back to Australia. Good night!

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