Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookery Magic - Of batik aprons and a Peranakan lesson

 It was meant to be a surprise (in our long weekend of many surprises). However when  found out it may have to be cancelled, he had to spill the beans. He was going to bring me to a cooking class! After ducking out of the room for a hush-hush phone call, he confirmed we still had our slot. However I still had no idea what exactly was involved (what kind of food? will we actually get to properly cook? etc). 

Except that we were heading East.

Tucked away in the landed estate of Kembangan is a little house with a front garden and about 5 cats. Ruqxana (how cool is that name?!) greets you and immediately makes you feel at home. We also met 2 travelers eager to learn about Singapore's local culture and cuisine - which is really a great way to immerse in a new country!

We were given a printed menu and recipes of what we would be preparing. I have to be honest.. when I first saw Kapitan Chicken Curry, Sambal Kangkong and Turmeric Rice, I was a tad disappointed because these are familiar Malay food which I wasn't toooo keen about. But then, as if by magic (!), when I put on the batik apron and stepped into kitchen at the back, I was excited and ready to make these dishes from scratch with my most favourite person in the world (hee) and with newfound friends.

Having had 10 years of experience running Cookery Magic, Ruqxana is very much at ease with talking us through the process and happily answers any questions at all. She explains things in a very simple and informative way, and really facilitates a hands-on learning approach.

 Yay cooking class!

 Prepping and cooking was fun! We sliced and pounded the living daylights out of a LOT of chilli (mmm), shallots, garlic, belacan. It was quite hard work but we would later enjoy the fruits of our labour :)

 Obviously no stranger to all these dishes, and having seen my maid and my dad cook them hundreds of times at home I was familiar with the ingredients and the methods. But from making the rempah from scratch with the mortar and pestle, to frying the choking spicy sambal with the kang kong by ourselves for the first time, I guess what I did gain was a new found respect that these simple dishes aren't that simple!

 A dining table was set up by the front door overlooking the garden. Although it was 4.30pm when we sat down (not quite dinner, not quite lunch), we dug into our homecooked meal and wiped the dishes almost-clean :)

 { Chicken Kapitan }
Malay / Indonesian curry with chilli, onion, lemongrass, belacan, candlenut
and copious amounts of coconut milk

{ Sambal Kangkong }

{ Nasi Kuning }
Pan fried rice with ghee, turmeric and spices, then finish in rice cooker
with more copious amounts of coconut milk
 I'm actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed the class: the cooking, and of course, the eating. I think it was the overall experience of meeting other people who are so enthusiastic about food and eager to learn about the local culture. Over the meal we also discussed Peranakan heritage and Ruqxana even showed us pictures of Peranakan architecture and influences. Personally it was a sort of re-education and therefore renewed appreciation for me, of something that I may have taken for granted.

 Attending one of Ruqxana's classes is definitely much more than 'learning how to cook with a recipe' - was an interesting day of anecdotes talking with her and other (usually tourist) students, cooking and knife tips, and I guess a lot of heritage re-education that even I as a Singaporean sometimes forget! While definitely a lot more interesting to tourists, even locals can get great fun out of these classes and I would highly recommend.

 Really looking forward to preparing Nasi Kuning again now! :) And seeing our new friends again in the hopefully-near future!.

 And of course the teacher herself Ruqxana!

Ruqxana's Cookery Magic home page :

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