Nov 11 27
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After a week of visiting Malaysian universities, I got a day off on the Saturday to do something more fun. Kuala Lumpur is rather a large city, and tricky to get out of, and the afternoon thunderstorms make outdoor adventures a damp experience, so instead I opted for a one day Malaysian cooking course run by Lazat, a cooking school in Petaling Jaya, close to Kuala Lumpur.

There were three of us – all New Zealanders, as it turned out – on my course, learning some Malaysian standards, while there were another ten taking a Thai cooking course. We learned to cook three courses, Beef Rendang, the Malaysian national dish, Char Kway Teow, a classic hawker-food dish, and Nasi Lemak, or “fat” rice, a staple dish at almost every meal. The instructor, Zai, was brilliant, keeping us entertained with various stories while at the same time showing us all the little triks to make the dishes easier to make.

"Chef" Richard.

"Chef" Richard.

It turns out that beef rendang is a very time-consuming dish to make – it took about three hours from start to finish, and that was without making the spice paste on which it is based. We got started with that, and then while it was slow cooking, made the other courses. Char Kway Teow is a fried noodle dish and is super fast once the preparation is done, but involves frying a chilli paste that reduced all of us, along with half the other class, to coughing and spluttering. Nasi Lemak is essentially rice cooked in coconut milk and is the perfect accompaniment to the spicy beef rendang. We had the noodles for a late brunch, and by the time we’d cooked the rice, the rendang was just about ready as well, so we had the two together for a delicious lunch.

Zai cutting an egg to decorate the meal.

Zai cutting an egg to decorate the meal.

Beef rendang and Nasi Lemak.

Beef rendang and Nasi Lemak.

The following day was Zai’s niece’s wedding, and she generously invited me to go along for part of the festivities. It was a spectacular occasion, with the groom accompanied by drummers, all the women in lovely dresses, but oddly, most of the men in jeans and t-shirts. Apparently Malay Muslim weddings are traditionally open houses, and anyone who wishes is welcome to attend, so I wasn’t too out of place appearing at a complete stranger’s wedding!

Drummers perform at the wedding.

Drummers perform at the wedding.

The bride and groom receive their guests.

The bride and groom receive their guests.

I’ve now made all the dishes I learned for Rachel. She seems satisfied with the quality of the teaching! Thanks to all the staff at Lazat – I had a great time and learned a lot!

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