Penang Cooking Class


One of the best parts about being in Singapore is… well, how easy it is to get out.  Singapore’s central location in Southeast Asia makes it the ultimate travel hub for quick weekend getaways.  My goal is to travel at least once a month and so far, I’m right on track!  I tend to choose my travel destinations the same way I would pick a restaurant — it’s really all about what I want to eat.  Last December was Thai and Balinese, January was Shanghainese, and February was Malaysian…

Recently, my Asia travel buddy suggested a weekend trip to Penang.  I didn’t know anything about this island, but after a quick internet search revealed Penang as the “food capital of Malaysia,” that was all I needed to know.  Penang is a small island of the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia.  Its capital George Town is a quaint and beautiful town with a well-preserved colonial core.  The inner city of George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with original shophouses dating from the 19th century to the 1930s still intact.

george town

Penang is noted for its amazing and cheap street “hawker food.”  Malaysian cuisine reflects its Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix, and it also has some Thai influence as well.  Two friends from Hong Kong joined for the weekend to indulge in a food-filled adventure, which was basically a 48 hour street food crawl through town.

street food crawl

My friend knew I loved taking cooking classes whilst traveling, and so she signed us up for the highly recommended Pickles & Spices Cooking Class.  A lovely local Malay woman named Nazlina runs this traditional cooking school, which offers classes four times a week.  The class starts at 7:30am and runs until about noon.  The class currently costs 135 MYR (approx $45) and includes a local breakfast, wet market and spice shop tour, and a very hands-on cooking class.  Nazlina is not only knowledgeable about cooking, but she is also a licensed city tour guide.  Thus we received a culinary + cultural + historical lesson all in one!  Plus, getting fed twice is very key.

roti canai

The class met at the corner of the Campbell Market for a delicious roti canai breakfast to start the day.  After breakfast, we headed to the local markets to pick up the vegetables, spices, and meat for our class.

penang market tour

The class size was about 15 people, which I originally thought was too many people.  But later I realized just how much prep work it was to make Malay food from scratch (grinding up every single spice and root into separate pastes), and thus I was quite glad we could divide the labor!

penang market

After we gathered all the ingredients we needed, we headed to Nazlina’s Spice Station to don our aprons and start cooking.  The lunch menu included Penang Achar, Tomato Rice, and Chicken Rendang.  Nazlina divvied the tasks and everyone went to their stations.

nazlina cooking class

The results culminated in our best meal in Penang, and we ate a LOT that weekend.  Perhaps it is because I will always prefer home-cooked food, but also knowing we made everything from scratch made everything taste that much more rewarding!

ready to cook

Click on each dish title or photo below to check out the individual recipes (courtesy of Nazlina).

For other travel cooking classes, also check out these posts: Chilean Cooking Class, Peruvian Cooking Class, Balinese Cooking Class

Penang Achar

Penang Achar

Tomato Rice

Tomato Rice

Chicken Rendang

chicken rendang

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