LaZat – a flavorful cooking class in Malaysia

a2LaZat Malaysian Cooking School
Malay House at Penchala Hills
Lot 3196, Jalan Seri Penchala
Kampong Sg. Penchala
60000 Kuala Lumpur
+6 019 238 1198

Ana 2


La Zat Cooking School is located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, in a tranquil country setting overlooking the lush Penchala Hills. The rustic 150-year old house, transferred from Melacca, is typical of a Nyonya Malay house, of wood construction joined by dowels, thus allowing it to be moved. The kitchen where our class is held, is open and overlooks a garden that offers a beautiful view and a fragrant profusion of herbs, many to be picked and used in the local dishes we are about to prepare.



cooks 1_modificato-1

Malaysian cuisine is a rich fusion of the culinary heritage of the cultures that have intersected here: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and many other Ethnic groups. This is unfamiliar territory for me, so I am pleased to be introduced to the cuisine in such a welcoming, relaxed way by Ana, the owner, and Loty, her assistant who will be teaching us today. Malaysians are known for their warm and friendly natures and these ladies are exemplary hostesses and teachers. To ease our transportation concerns, Ana arranged for a driver to bring us to the school and take us back to our hotel afterwards.

Our Malay Classic menu today: Kuih Cara Berlauk (savory meat-filled pastries), Nasi Lemak (rice in coconut milk), Sambal Udang (prawns in sambal sauce), and Sago Gula Melaka (sago pudding with palm sugar syrup). It would be easy enough for the class to be simply a demonstration with the overhead mirrors reflecting every step of the process, but this is a hands-on class with individual cooking stations. We don our aprons and begin. Because the pudding must set, we begin with the dessert. Sago, an ingredient I have never met before, is extracted from the starchy, spongy center of various tropical palm stems and looks like tiny white beads. These are rinsed, then placed in water brought to a boil, to be stirred regularly for 15 minutes. Then they are drained and rinsed in cold water to discard the starch. Because we are going to eat this dessert chilled on this steamy hot day, the pudding is placed in the refrigerator while we make the palm sugar syrup and the rest of the meal.

food 2Regarded as the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is on our menu and I am delighted to prepare and then taste what is such a staple dish in this part of the world. Loty and her assistants ease our way by thoughtfully setting up the necessary ingredients for each recipe on a tray so that our attention and time can be focused on the job at hand. To go with the rice cooked in coconut milk, we prepare the prawns and Sambal, a chili paste mixed with shallots and garlic. I go easy on the chili. We learn to use a mortar and pestle for grinding and a wok for frying. We are introduced to Lemon Grass and Pandan Leaves, both must-have ingredients and hence grown in most kitchen gardens throughout the country.

When our work is done, we sit together at a long table and spend time with Ana, whose delightful company adds flavor to our experience and as much sweetness as the palm sugar syrup that we have so generously ladled onto our pudding.

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