Yesterday, I took my first cooking class. IT was given by the San Leandro Adult School on Malaysian and Thai cooking. The class was four hours and consisted in learning to cook 3 dishes – two Malaysian and one Thai. The instructor, Jenny Sim, is a Chinese Malaysian who lived in Thailand for 20 years. She knows a lot about the cooking of all Southeast Asia (and India), and was able to answer questions and give us an overview of the foods of the area.
The first dish we made was Chicken Rendang. I’ve had beef rendang a bunch of time at different Indonesian restaurants, so I was happy to learn how to make it. It was more complicated than I thought, it involves making a paste with shallots, ginger, chillies and garlic, which is then fried before other ingredients are added. It also requires you to have galangal and tamarind paste (to make tamarind juice). It’s not a simple dish, but the results were amazing. The recipe works with meat as well, and I’m planning to make it soon. When I do, I’ll post it here.
The second dish was Gulai Lemak Nenas, a Malaysian pineapple shrimp dish with a soupy curry. This one also required some exotic ingredients, including fresh turmeric and shrimp paste, but also was delicious. Of course, I didn’t eat the shrimp, but the pineapple curry part was great with rice. I don’t think I’ll make it, as I’m not a shrimp eater, but was very happy to try it. If someone e-mails me asking for the recipe I’ll post it.
Finally, we made Larb, Spicy Beef with Mint Leaves. This is a northern Thai dish, often found in Thai restaurants, and I was surprised at how simple it was to make. It didn’t require any exotic ingredients, save for Thai chili powder, and it was very quick. Basically you fry the ground meat by itself and mix it with the other ingredients once cooked. You serve it with cabbage leaves and other raw or blanched veggies. I’m definitely planning to make this sometime.
All the dishes can be made at a variety of spiciness. A couple of us are not particularly fans of fiery foods, so Jenny reduced the amount of chili in her recipes – the results were perfect.
(Photos courtesy of Ken Paris, a proficient cook and classmate who also happens to be a reader of this blog 🙂 Thank you Ken!!!)
I also learned some general things about cooking:
-You can peel a shallot more easily by first banging it with the side of a knife.
-It’s better to snap the end of green beans than cut them.
-You make tamarind juice by buying tamarind paste and mixing it with water
-You make ground rice by browning regular rice and then grounding it
And probably other things I can’t recall now
Anyway, I’m taking the Southeast Asian cooking class next month (for my birthday) which will have an emphasis on noodles. The classes are only $30 (really) and include all the food – which you get to eat at the end of the class (there are vending machines for drinks just outside the classroom). The SEA class will take place on May 3rd from 9am – 1pm. You can register online but it’s a pain.
The only negative thing about the class is that it doesn’t take place in a kitchen. They just don’t seem to have kitchens at the cooking school, so it takes place at a regular classroom and the teacher has to bring all the equipment (including gas burners, an electric wok and an electric rice maker).
Anyway, I’m hoping they’ll have more of these classes during the summer and fall.