Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. But teach a man how to cook up that fish Malay style and he's got himself a dinner party! - Ancient Chinese Proverb (paraphrased)
This is a version of the bread roti. The batter is simple to make and not nearly as messy as chapati batters I've attempted to make. The great things about Roti Jala is that instead of rolling out the dough, you pour it from a Roti Jala Maker (a cup with holes). You make circular patterns and the result is a pancake that looks like lace! I never really caught on to the method for this, but mine still came out cute and tasty!
Today I got schooled in the proper technique to cook Malaysian cuisine. I know, I know I keep insisting that no one here cooks. Well, that may not be entirely true. People taking cooking classes do!
Two American friends and I attended that LaZat home cookery school in Petaling Jaya (PJ) which is located just outside of KL. The classes cost RM 180 and last from 10am-2pm. Each day, Chef Ana rotates through a different menu which includes classes in Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian food.
The class is held in a leafy, residential neighborhood. Chef Ana's house has been converted into a giant kitchen. There's a large prep space in the back. In the front is her demo kitchen and individual work stations for all budding cooks. An outdoor patio serves as a dining room, and a spot to catch a breeze when the gas hobs leave you overheated.
Let me start by saying that even though I find it challenging to cook and follow a new recipe at the same time (much like walking and drinking, which I won't even do) all of my dishes tasted GREAT. I know I made some mistakes, but this was still the best food I've tasted since I've been in KL. It's largely due to the fresh ingredients. Plus, Chef Ana's friendly staff who generally caught my mistakes before they negatively affected the taste of my creation.
What was on the menu you ask?
Otak-Otak: Marinated Fish in Banana Leaves
This recipe uses sliced white fish which is combined with coconut milk, curry powder, spice paste, and one kafir lime leaf. We spooned the mixture onto a kaduk leave, wrapped it in a banana leaf (which was run over a gas flame to make it pliable), and steamed it for ten minutes.
My fish didn't look great, in fact, I think it could have used another 2-3 minues on the steamer, but the taste was explosive. The spice paste contained lemongrass, chilies, and shallots and these flavors really stood out. It tasted fresh and slightly citrusy.
Char Koay Teow
This is a seafood fried noodle dish that is considered Malaysian comfort food. It is from Penang and looks similar to Pad Thai, but it doesn't have the same sweetness. I'd ordered this in a restaurant once and the result was a little bland. However, the way I cooked it was the way Char Koay Teow was meant to be cooked!
Kari Ayam - Chicken Curry
Malaysian curries are quite different from Indian curries. They use a spice combination of cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, and star anise blended with coconut milk that gives the dish a flavor that is much sweeter than it's spicy Indian cousin. I left the star anise out of my dish because I'm not partial to that black licorice flavor. My curry was tender, flavorful, and not at all oily.
Roti Jala - Lacy Pancake
For anyone who has ever stepped foot in a cooking class, I think you'll agree that this is the best part of the day. Eating!
We made SO much food during this class that Chef Ana packed up the excess and sent it home with us to share with our loved ones. Unfortunately, my loved one won't eat fish, chicken, or seafood. But he loved the Roti Jala. And I loved the leftovers!