Cooking with Nazlina in Penang, Malaysia

I haven’t written anything about my trip to Malaysia yet, partly because time is just wooshing by me and partly because I did so many things the task of sitting down to reflect on all of them seems overwhelming. But, that is the exact reason I started this blog, so that I could reflect and remember all the amazing experiences I am having here. But where to start? I guess I will start with my favourite part of the trip, the cooking class in Penang. Although this didn’t happen until our last day (best for last, right?) it was the most memorable and fun, and I felt I learned the most about Malay culture on that day. So, here is my experience with cooking in Penang!

We booked our cooking class through Pickles and Spices, which is the website of Nazlina, a Malay woman, and self-taught chef. She competes in competitions with her winning recipes, and we felt very fortunate to make some delicious dishes alongside her!

The class starts bright and early in the morning, with a quick Indian breakfast and Malay tea, before heading to the local market to pick up ingredients for the dishes we would prepare. At the market, Naz bought everything fresh and raw, there were no pre-prepared foods here. Everything from the raw spices to the literally just killed chicken, we were working with the freshest of ingredients.

spices at the market penang
Naz explaining the varieties of spices and which ones we would need.ingredients from the market penang
Learning about each ingredient in depth.chicken at the market penang
This was quite the sight in real life. Chickens killed right as you watch. Doesn’t get fresher than that…

After buying the ingredients it was back to her kitchen where we got started, each with a specific task that would combine into 3 different dishes.

crushing the onions
Each of us working away at our specific task. Here onions are being turned to mush.cooking class
Working away…katie cooking penang
Katie, and our new friends, cooking up a storm

It was amazing the amount of ingredients we used. Each of us worked non stop for a few hours, chopping, pealing, mushing, mixing, simmering, until each dish was finished. Our stomachs were grumbling ready to finally taste what we have been smelling for the last few hours.

ingredients cooking
Just a small portion of the ingredients we usedcooking
Putting it all together, nothing was wasted, as this broth used to cook the meat is added to the curry.cooking class penang
Taking in whatever I can from the chef herself.

In the end we had created 3 Malay dishes: Beef Rendang, Mee kari, and Asam Laska. They were without a doubt the most amazing thing I have ever or will have ever had a hand in making. Unfortunately, they will be near impossible for me to recreate without Nazlina’s expertise and the crew of eager-to-learn cooking newbies around me. I still have the recipes, so maybe sometime in the future, when I am a more experienced chef (and living in a country where I understand the language) I will attempt to recreate them. The experience was unforgettable and delicious, and I would definitely recommended it if you are ever in the Georgetown, Penang area.

cooking class georgetown
Thanks for the wonderful experience, Naz!

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Weekend Escape: Beppu Pt. 2

There is much more to do in Beppu besides visiting the aquarium! Beppu is perhaps best known for being compared to hell, and I would venture a guess that if there is one place on this earth most like hell, it’s Beppu! Visiting these hell-ish places make Beppu a popular tourist attraction, and I had to see them all for myself…

Beppu is known for its hot springs! Bubbling up from the middle of the earth all over town is hot water and steam. Although this may not be the best photo I took that weekend, it shows the steam spurting from the earth on what is otherwise a normal city street.

streets of beppu
Steam on the streets of Beppurachel in beppu
At one of the springs.

tourists in beppu at water
Here, the water builds up below the earth and only erupts naturally every 40 minutes. We made it just in time to see it burst from the earth.

People travel all over the city to see the famous springs. Although they are too hot to touch, many ryokans (Japanese traditional inns) and hotels add cold water so that you may enjoy the sulfur-y benefit this water has to offer.

Which brings me to my next point, onsens. I haven’t spoken about them but they are quite popular here in Japan. If you haven’t heard of them, I suggest you read the Wikipedia article by clicking here. One of Japan’s most famous onsens (and it’s oldest), Dogo Onsen, is located only minutes from my apartment. But if you want to know about the goings-on inside Dogo, I can’t tell you, as I’ve never been. I did, however, send dad off there when he was visiting!

Aside from visiting the onsen in the ryokan we stayed at, I also visited this private onsen, with a view of Beppu city at night. It was quite lovely!

onsen beppu Private onsen overlooking Beppu city.

The ryokan we stayed at was amazing. A lovely place with wonderful staff! We opted for a traditional Japanese experience and had dinner and breakfast in our room. It was amazing! And in true Japanese style I documented everything I ate.

ryokan in beppu
Here is our room with breakfast set up. At night, the staff clears away the table and lays out the futon.

dinner at the ryokan
Dinner at the ryokan

beppu pudding This pudding is made with the sulfur steam

That was Beppu! There’s always more to tell, but I’ll let my photos speak for themselves! See all the photos from my weekend trip to Beppu on my Flickr account by clicking here.