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.



Passion on Paper


Bernadette and I just finished re-designing the website for my Rooms with a View project, celebrating the twelve years since its inception.  I am very proud of my work and very pleased with the great job she did to show it off.  Bernadette is my very talented, and generous daughter who gifted me with both her time and talent to create a website that reflects the vision I had twelve years ago, the dedication I put into making it a reality, and the final look of passion on paper.  Have a look and celebrate with me.




writer, photographer, book publisher, and teacher extraordinaire!

ITALY – the Beauty and the Feast

Italy - The Beauty and the Feast

To my friends and readers who love Italy as I do, I announce with great pleasure the publication of my newest book “ITALY – The Beauty and the Feast” along with a free shipping offer from Blurb.

“Has Italy captured your heart and your imagination? In this travel journal, Ginda Simpson captures the essence of the country, not through the usual highlights of a whirlwind tour of the peninsula, but through leisurely travels to the cities and countryside, often off the beaten path and during the quieter seasons. Festivals that ignite the imagination, banquets of tables laden with Italy’s abundant harvest, shepherds and farmers toiling their land, opera divas that sing in a way that almost breaks one heart – these are the experiences that inspired the title: Italy – the Beauty and the Feast. Ginda invites you to travel along with her. For your own planning purposes, she includes contact information for the various hotels, restaurants, and festivals mentioned in her stories. This is the sequel to her first collection of travel stories to be found in the book entitled: Italian Wanderlust.”


To order you copy today and get free shipping, click here:

The Siren’s Lure to Sorrento

2015c - Grand Hotel La Favorita

La Favorita Terrace – Original Watercolor – copyright Ginda Simpson





Grand Hotel La Favorita
Via Tasso angolo Piazza Vittorio Veneto
80067 Sorrento (Naples) Italy


Ristorante Bellavista aCould it be the ancient Siren’s song that eternally lures travellers to Sorrento or simply the sheer beauty of sea and sky that enchants us still? Popular for its wines and natural beauty, its sunlight and mild climate, its citrus groves and the friendly hospitality of the people, Sorrento has always enchanted – from the ancient Romans to the Romantic writers and poets of the 19th century to today’s tourists from all points of the globe.

In answer to the growing demand for luxury accommodations for these new travelers, many exquisite hotels were constructed with lofty views of the sea, surrounded by lush gardens, where lemon groves scented the salty air. We are staying at the Grand Hotel La Favorita, relatively new to the long list of prestigious hotels in Sorrento. It is an elegant historical building purchased and renovated into a first-class hotel not too many years ago. We invite friends to join us for drinks on its terrace, an oasis of tranquillity where majolica covered columns support a pergola of luscious greenery and citrus trees. Reminiscent of the grounds of the ancient Roman villas of the area, mosaic-covered walls and fountains adorn the gardens. Later, we siesta in our room, the curtains open to our balcony and the trickling music of the fountain in the garden below. Do I doze or just envision mermaids, sailors, rocky cliffs, and trees laden with bright yellow lemons? Dream or reality? It makes no difference.

We choose to go no farther than La Favorita’s Bellavista Restaurant on its upper terrace, where a panoramic view of the sea awaits us. Call me old-fashioned, but the soft music – old Italian favorites – is like a caress to our spirits, and the view of distant cliffs with their lights glimmering like gemstones is utter romance. The cuisine is purely Mediterranean and it’s not easy to choose from its offerings, especially those from the sea. Luigi, our Maitre D’, points us in the right direction when he suggests we try the Nido di Spaghetti, a nest of pasta in a pesto and clam sauce. For me, he has Chef Marco prepare Mezzi Paccheri with zucchini, shrimp and cherry tomatoes. For seconds we have fresh Grilled Tuna with Balsamic on a bed of arugula with fresh orange slices and Sea Bream in an olive oil and caper sauce. I won’t even confess to the dessert that followed. I’ll think about that tomorrow…

Hotel (9)

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.



Seafood at La Bussola in Ostia Antica

La BussolaLa Bussola
Via Attilio Profumo, 46
00119 Ostia Antica
Owner: Simone Marrocco

La Bussola menu smallTucked away on a little street in a residential area, like many good finds, you will discover La  Bussola, a gem of a restaurant specializing in seafood. After all, Ostia Antica is a stone’s throw away from the sea, while being convenient to the ruins of Ostia Antica and not too far from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Three good reasons to book a lunch, or dinner, at this unpretentious restaurant, where the atmosphere is casual and the food excellent.

We decide to lunch here and what a feast it turns out to be. An array of seafood appetizers does more than please the eye and tease our appetites. They manage to nearly fill us up BEFORE we venture into the even considering what to choose for primi e secondi. Our waitress, Corrine, brings us sparkling white dishes and platters of fresh anchovies, salmon, octopus carpaccio, steamed mussels, shrimp nestled in a bird’s nest of fried vermicelli… Have I forgotten anything?

Each bite satisfies and has us realizing that we must pace ourselves. So, we decide to share our first course – spaghetti alle vongole – with a twist in that the sauce is slightly thicker and dusted with Botargo, a salted delicacy of cured fish roe, typically of grey mullet – a unique departure from the traditional. We follow this by sharing stuffed bass presented on a bed of tempura-battered vegetable fries. Superb.

For the first time ever, I have no room for dessert. We simply finish our chilled sparkling white wine, local to the area, and perfect for sealing our memories of a beautiful afternoon in Ostia Antica.

Osteria dei Fiori – A Perfect Pranzo on a Sunday afternoon.

Osteria dei Fiori chefsOsteria dei Fiori
Via Lauro Rossi, 61
62100 Macerata

Iginia, Paolo and Letizia Carducci

ODF_modificato-1In a narrow street behind the grand Piazza Mazzini, we discover the most delightful restaurant, unpretentious and authentic. Three descriptive words that cover it, and the three reasons that make it so would be a team of two sisters and one brother, of the Carducci family, who have been working hard since 1980 to create a simple restaurant where the focus is local dishes that don’t stray far Macerata traditional cuisine. It is what it is – simply delicious.

While we wait for our meal beneath a canopy that shields us from the bright August sun, we are presented with a small glass bowl filled with chilled aromatic rice with finely chopped melon. It is a refreshing prelude to our chosen antipasto, a Panzanella, uniquely their creation. Unlike its Tuscan cousin, Iginia’s Panzanella is made by barely misting crusty bread with water and topping it with fresh mint macerated with olive oil, salt and garlic. It is accompanied by a few slices of local salami. Nothing could hit the mark more precisely when it comes to flavor.

Vincisgrassi is a baked pasta dish, similar to lasagne, that is one of the signature dishes of the Marche region. The meat sauce includes chicken giblets, which give it a very distinctive flavor. So naturally, we choose this as one of our primi. We also order “Tagliuli pelusi” al sugo finto, fine handmade noodles in a delicately flavored tomato sauce made with pork guanciale (jowl) and fava beans. Both dishes were superb and leave us no room for a meat course. So we move right on to desserts. A most satisfying pranzo on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Macerata.

Hotel Continental Saigon – a place of memories

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Hotel Continental Saigon
132 – 134 Dong Khoi St., Dist 1,
Ho Chi Minh City
(84.8) 38 299 201

Built in 1880 and named after the Hotel Continental in Paris, the Hotel Continental Saigon is considered one of the city’s architectural monuments, designed in the French style of the era, with thick walls, a tile roof, and spacious public areas for the French elite of the day to gather and relax after a long cruise to the new continent. The thick walls and high ceilings served to relieve the heat of the tropics by making use of the natural elements of wind and light. The exterior of this three-story building is painted the palest of butter yellow with white trim, lending an air of stately elegance, placing it in good company and perfect harmony with the nearby Opera House built in 1898. Refurbishments have been made over the years, but the essential architectural elements have been preserved. In the central courtyard, a large garden was planted with frangipani trees that still blossom today. Here one discovers a true refuge for the soul and a perfect place to have an afternoon tea and late evening aperitif.

During both the Indochina War and the Vietnam War, Hotel Continental became the meeting point for news correspondents, politicians, and businessmen. During the Vietnam War, Time and Newsweek Magazines each used the second floor of the hotel as their Saigon news bureaux. Hotel Continental has always attracted writers, artists, and the social elite as a place to stay or simply meet for cocktails. The hotel plays a prominent part in Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, and was used in the two film adaptations.

The rich history of this hotel and its unfailing beauty keep me company as I sit with my husband in this romantic garden all these years after this hotel was first conceived and built. Indeed, as we sip our coffees flavored with sweetened condensed milk, the staff is busily preparing for a wedding reception that will take place this evening. What a magical setting it will be for the 200 or so guests who will attend. We, however, feel fortunate enough to have this quiet moment to daydream before we head out on foot, to admire several of Ho Chi Minh’s renowned sights of the same period – Notre Dame Cathedral built in 1880 and the City Post Office built in 1891 and still in use today.

As we sat down to an enormously inviting breakfast buffet the following morning, we were amazed that the staff had not left a trace of last night’s wedding reception. The only thing that lingers is the memory of how beautiful the setting was as viewed from our bedroom above the courtyard.


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.