My last trip to Kuala Lumpur was intentionally an extremely indulgent foodie experience. I never really fell in love with the city on my first trip but there was one thing that did stand out- the food. I’m fascinated with the way that the multicultural make-up of Malaysia influences the food that is eaten there. Malaysian food is the most delicious fusion of Indian, Chinese and Malay cooking. To help me learn more about it, I knew that doing a cooking class in Kuala Lumpur needed to be a top priority.
Not many people know this about me, but cooking is one of my favourite hobbies. Most weeknights in Korea, I could be found in my shoebox apartment conjuring up all kinds of recipes in my pathetic excuse for a kitchen. However, I’ve never actually taken any formal cooking classes before. (Unless high school home economics counts?) I was excited to see if I could actually cook by other people’s standards, and of course to see if I could learn anything new. Here’s how the day panned out.
The day started bright and early with a tour around one of the markets most popular with KL locals. Most travellers head for KL Central Market due to its convenient location in the heart of Chinatown. However, most locals don’t actually shop there- these days, it’s more of a spectacle for tourists than anything else. Being shown around by a local market for local customers made for a really authentic experience. We were also able to sample a traditional South Indian breakfast of rotis and chai, which was, of course, amazing.
As part of the market tour, I saw so many unknown foods that are actually fundamental in Malaysian cooking. My mental checklist was getting overloaded with delicious new ingredients to look for at my local Asia Mart. We were told that a lot of the shops selling traditional Malaysian fruit and veg are dying out as the younger generations are starting to opt for more Western cuisine. A sad effect of globalisation- I wish we had so much fresh, exotic and affordable fruit in Scotland! (Or Korea, or wherever is actually home these days….)
The Cooking Class
When we had our ingredients for the day, we made way to LaZat Cooking School. Set on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, LaZat Cooking School is a beautiful property surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s actually hard to believe that one of the world’s tallest buildings is just a matter of miles down the road. The property has an open veranda looking out onto the jungles and you can even see monkeys climbing up banana trees while you cook!
We were greeted by Ana, the brains behind LaZat, when we arrived. She introduced us to Saadiah who would be our teacher for the day and were even given a recipe book to take home , a name badge and a pencil to take notes with. It felt like a proper first day of school!
By chance I ended up taking part in the vegetarian cooking day. This was great for me as I’m a bit of a “fairweather vegetarian” these days. I try not to eat meat but it can be inevitable living in South Korea, the land of galbi and samgyeopsal. The meals that we would be preparing were a salad with peanut dressing, pineapple curry, pumpkin and spinach cooked in coconut milk and bananas cooked in palm sugar and coconut milk.
If there is one thing that I learned in the class, it’s that I really need to invest in a pestle and mortar! I found the cooking a little bit more difficult than I expected- I’m very much a “throw it in the pot and see what happens” kind of person, so it was good to be reminded to slow down. Malaysian cooking is all about the technique and really taking care of the ingredients to release the flavours properly- Ana even described it as “giving them a little massage.” Something I definitely fail to do usually!
My favourite dishes of the day were the salad with the peanut dressing and the bananas cooked in coconut milk. The salad contained so many different textures that contrasted perfectly with the slightly sweet peanut dressing- I was in food heaven.
Since I have a (shamefully) sweet tooth, I made sure to leave enough room to eat the bananas cooked in palm sugar and coconut milk. I’d never had palm sugar before but it was extremely moreish- I would be scared to leave it in my fridge, actually. I’m sure it wouldn’t last long…..
The pineapple curry was cooked in a really fragrant curry sauce. I’ve never considered using pineapple in a curry before but it worked really well- Saadiah let us know that you can also substitute the pineapple for other veggies. Apparently, aubergine works really well, too. This will be much easier for me to try in the future since pineapples aren’t always the easiest fruit to find or prepare.
And, of course, the pumpkin and spinach cooked in coconut milk. This was actually similar to dishes that I tend to prepare at home. I love soup and I love curries so I often end up making soup-y curries. The recipe that we were taught in the cooking class was much better than anything I’ve ever made myself, though. This will definitely be a frequent feature on my midweek meal plan!
One thing that I really need to commend LaZat Cooking Class on is how friendly all of the staff were. Everyone made us feel right at home while we were there. We were even given cold, wet towels to put around our necks to stop us from getting too hot in the steamy kitchen.
Saadiah, the cooking teacher, had a great sense of humour and showed us all the little cheats that she uses in the kitchen. Laty, our guide, was really chatty and explained everything in a really engaging way as we went around the market and was always open to questions. And finally, Ana, the school owner, is extremely passionate about what she does. Chatting to her over dinner and listening to her stories about how she started her business was so inspiring. She is currently writing a book about Malaysian cooking and I’ll be purchasing a copy as soon as it’s released!
If you’re in Kuala Lumpur and hoping to learn more about Malaysian cooking, I would thoroughly recommend LaZat Cooking School. They have a different menu every day and cover all the bases from traditional Malay to Malay Chinese, and even Thai. To check out what classes are running while you’re there, check their website here.
Looking for more travel inspiration for Kuala Lumpur? Look no further!
- Art and Dreams at Paper Plane Hostel in Kuala Lumpur
- Exploring the Street Food of Kuala Lumpur
- Learning to Love Kuala Lumpur
Disclaimer: I was a guest of LaZat Cooking School but, as always, all opinions are my own.