Buro Tries: Penang Nyonya Flavours Cooking Class at Tropical Spice Garden
First step to becoming a Masterchef
What's there to do in Penang besides eat? (For those of you who are interested, we answered that in our Buro City Guide: Penang) Yes, that's a common question and one that nobody feels need answering. But we wanted to try something different and besides having a day out at Escape Adventureplay theme park at Teluk Bahang, we decided to take up a cooking class, specifically Nyonya Flavours, at Tropical Spice Garden for a special edition of Buro Tries. The class starts off with a tour of the garden where the guide will introduce all the popular spices, which will then be useful to know in the class that follows with Nyonya Su Pei, and ends with a dinner at the pavilion. All in (half) a day's work.
Watch the video of the cooking class below and read on for the recipes and the team's testimonials for this month's Buro Tries.
Jasmine Leong, Senior Fashion Writer
Here's a confession; I can't cook to save my life. I have previously attempted to make a Thai dish - it was a success, yes, but not without the tremendous help from a friend. So when the opportunity to try out a cooking class at Tropical Spice Garden (TSG) during our #BuroRoadTrip came, I jumped at the chance because I figured it's time to expand my culinary repertoire (read: cooking Maggi noodles in a microwave). Thankfully, Su Pei the Nyonya chef was as helpful as my friend, if not more. As she guided us through the steps of making the sambal tumis udang with petai, Su Pei shared interesting histories of the Baba and Nyonya culture. She certainly wasn't kidding when she said we had to do everything from scratch and through the traditional way, such as crushing the ingredients into a fine paste with a mortar and pestle, and artfully tapping the mango with a knife for our kerabu salad. However, all was worth it as we enjoyed the foods of our labour later at The Pavilion. While I may not be the next Masterchef, it was certainly a delight to have a friend (thanks, Wei Yeen) giving my dishes a rave review. The next time I'm in Penang, I'd definitely go for another cooking adventure at TSG!
Rachel Au, Lifestyle Writer
I rarely cook nowadays; I used to do it more often while I was studying overseas so naturally, my 'skills' have been reduced to zero once more. Still, I was pretty excited to do the class. The tour of the spice garden was informative but fun as well (although as a city girl, it was a little too hot and there were mozzies). I was pretty pumped up to smell a certain leaf and instantly having an image of the dish. Nyonya Su Pei was quite a stern but witty instructor as she joked about our skills—this, however, reminded me of how learning from a family member would be like. It was my first time dealing with a mortar and pestle—and boy, what a workout that was for my arms—and also the first time chopping a mango while holding it in my palm—I was half worried I'd chop off part of my hand. But at the end of it, it was extremely rewarding to see the finished dishes on the plate and upon tasting it, I did feel a little sense of achievement. I'm not sure I'd be able to recreate them without Nyonya Su Pei's assistance though.
Alyssa Lee, Editorial Assistant
I doubt Nyonya Su Pei was impressed when three chatty KL girls stepped into her kitchen with the collective cooking expertise of half a child on Masterchef Junior. When the things that elicited the most eager squeals were the pretty aprons, I knew that we were in for an exciting afternoon. The grinding and pounding soon commenced and it was not a sexy sight. Unsexy in a good way, however, as we really got to get our hands dirty since everything was expected to be prepared from scratch by the students themselves. Recipe sheets were provided but tossed under the counters as Nyonya Su Pei was as involved as a tutor could be. Attentive, skilled and always helpful, her step-by-step demonstrations are what set a real-life cooking class apart from recipe books and how-to videos, making what I thought would be a challenging session much more enjoyable. It was a full sensory experience; the room was filled with mouth-watering aromas and the rhythmic clanging of spatulas against woks as we crafted our beautiful Nyonya dishes by hand. It was unbeatable in one sense though, the taste. Enough said.
Tropical Spice Garden is located at Lot 595 Mukim 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 George Town, Penang. For more information, check out their website.
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