Category Archives: Malaysia

Eastern & Oriental – a Malaysian Legacy

2016c The Eastern & Oriental

Eastern & Oriental Hotel
10 Lebuh Farquhar,
10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016 419 8238


Crossing Penang Bridge, we arrive after a long drive in George Town, Penang Island on the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. In 1786, during its occupation by the British East India Company, it was named Prince of Wales Island, and subsequently George Town after the reigning King George III. In 2008, George Town was formally included in UNESCO, recognized for its unique architectural and cultural heritage. Situated on the longest stretch of waterfront on the island, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel has been welcoming guests for over 130 years. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and steamship travel began to flourish, travelers looked to the East to satisfy their lust for the exotic. Answering the demands of these new adventurers, the Armenian Sarkies brothers established first the Eastern Hotel in 1884, and then the Oriental in 1885. When combined, the two hotels became the largest and most sought-after accommodations on the island. Throughout the decades, the brothers continued to enlarge and improve their hotel and their services, maintaining the E&O’s elevated place in the history of the city.

Arriving at the Eastern & Oriental is like stepping into a bygone era in terms of elegance and into a dream in terms of its jewel-like setting, positioned as it is along the seafront. We arrive just in time to savor a complimentary aperitif in the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of Planter’s Lounge. The décor is reminiscent of its British Colonial past and the savoury snacks are a blend of Eastern and Continental cuisines. The Lounge is in the Victory Annexe, the new extension built in 2013 on the site of its 1923 namesake – named after the British Victory in World War I. This new 15-story addition houses 122 suites, all facing the sea, each decorated in grand style. On the same floor is the rooftop swimming pool where the waters lead the eye directly to the waters of Andaman Sea, an infinity of blue. Sea and sky for as far as the eye can see. It would be hard to choose between this pool and the pool that graces the lush gardens between the hotel and the sea, offering a veritable oasis.

For a stroll through history, one needs only to meander through these gardens or the historic corridor to the 1885 Heritage Wing, where Moorish minarets and a lofty domed lobby speak of times past. Each of the 100 graceful suites are unique in design and include all the updated comforts of a first-class hotel, while still retaining their original colonial charm – including butler service!  Dining options abound from the 1885 Restaurant offering classical cuisine in a rich colonial setting, to casual far served on the terrace. We enjoy dinner at Sarkies, where an abundant local and international cuisine is offered buffet-style.

From the cool comfort of our room on this scorching afternoon, we have a panoramic view of the sea. Later from our balcony we watch the setting sun as it gilds the water with a dusting of Malaysian gold. Simply dazzling. Tomorrow we will explore the many treasures of this island town, but tonight we will do nothing but enjoy our surroundings.


Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my other books.

All content on, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.


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.

All content on, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.